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Willie Nelson: An Epic Life Hardcover – Large Print, April 21, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 944 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; Lrg edition (April 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316030236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316030236
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,693,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This impressive, entertaining chronicle of Willie Nelson's life is replete with exactly what you'd expect-honky-tonk, long nights on the open road, whiskey, womanizing and weed-but Texas writer Patoski (Stevie Ray Vaughan: Caught in the Crossfire, Texas Mountains) looks beyond country music trappings to find the funny, talented, determined man who became an unlikely icon. Raised in Abbott, Texas, by impoverished grandparents, Nelson was writing songs about "love, betrayal and cheating" by the age of seven, but was told throughout his life that he couldn't sing, play or keep a beat. As an adult, Nelson worked odd jobs-encyclopedia salesman among them-while selling songs in Nashville; he had an early hit in 1961 with Patsy Cline's "Crazy," and soon began recording for RCA. Fourteen albums later, "with not much to show," Nelson fled to Austin, Texas, a move many viewed as career suicide; instead, it was a launching pad to stardom, propelled by the up-and-coming hippie movement and the strength of his groundbreaking album Red Headed Stranger. Patoski conducted over a hundred interviews for this thorough, well-noted "epic," peopling it with "pickers, gypsies, pirates, vagabonds, wanderers and carneys," including fellow performers like Kris Kristofferson, Kinky Friedman and Leona Williams. Writing with an affectionate country twang, Patoski gives his subject the consideration he deserves in a fine, fluid piece of storytelling that any Nelson fan will appreciate. 8 pages b&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Country singer-songwriter Nelson’s performing life turned 50, so to speak, at least a decade back and has been so closely coterminous with his biological being that Patoski’s biography basically just chronicles gig after gig and session after session. Spaces between professional musicmaking are filled mostly by driving between them, deal-making, collecting performance fees, and jamming with confreres. The ordinaries of most people’s adult lives—marriage and family, householding—receive the least attention, apparently because they always got the short end of Nelson’s stick. He has been happiest on the road, as he admits, and those who went with him, blood-related or not, came to be his family. As Patoski relates it, Nelson’s way is harder on everyone else than it is on him. They succumb to the booze, drugs, bad food, sleep deprivation, and violence of the road. Nelson breezes along, the calm center of a ceaseless storm. Those who cherish his voice will tell you that’s how he sounds, too; since such are legion, this book will immediately grab a sizable readership. Those who know only his name may be bored by Patoski’s naming of every person who ever impinged on Willie, every country music club in every Texas town Willie has played, every track Willie has laid down—but evoking precious few of them. --Ray Olson --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Joe Nick Patoski has been writing about Texas and Texans for four decades. A former cab driver and staff writer for Texas Monthly magazine and one-time reporter at the Austin American-Statesman, he has authored and co-authored biographies of Selena and Stevie Ray Vaughan, collaborated with photographer Laurence Parent on books about the Texas Mountains, the Texas Coast, and Big Bend National Park, all published by University of Texas Press, in addition to writing Generations on the Land: A Conservation Legacy (Texas A&M Press) and Texas High High School Football: More Than the Game (Texas Historical Commission).

His 2008 book Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, published by Little, Brown, was recognized by The Friends of the TCU Library in 2009 with the Texas Book Award for the best book about Texas written in 2007-8. His most recent book for Little, Brown is The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America.

His most recent books were Generations on the Land, published by Texas A&M in January 2011, profiles nine families across the western United States who have been recognized for outstanding stewardship in practicing sustainable farming, ranching, logging, and wine-grape growing; and Texas High School Football: More Than The Game, a catalog of the exhibit he curated for the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in 2011.

Patoski's new book is The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America, published by Little, Brown in October 2012. The expansive eight hundred page book explains how and why a 1960 expansion franchise in the National Football League became America's Team and the most valuable franchise in sports.

Patoski's byline has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, TimeOut New York, Garden and Gun, and No Depression magazine, for whom he is a contributing editor. He also recorded the oral histories of B.B. King, Clarence Fountain of the Blind Boys of Alabama, Memphis musician and producer Jim Dickinson, Tejano superstar Little Joe Hernandez, and 15 other subjects for the Voice of Civil Rights oral history project sponsored by AARP and the Library of Congress, some of which appeared in the book My Soul Looks Back in Wonder by Juan Williams, published by Sterling in 2004.

Patoski writes about water, land, nature and parks for a number of publications including Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine, the Texas Observer, and National Geographic magazine, where his story about the Transboundary Megacorridor of southwest Texas and northern Coahuila and Chihuahua was published in February 2007. He also wrote a four-part series about water fights throughout the Guadalupe River basin for the San Antonio Current.

He lives near the village of Wimberley in the Texas Hill Country where he swims and paddles in the Blanco River.

Customer Reviews

This book is so well researched, well written, and entertaining.
Linda Lee
Country music scholars and hard-core Willie fans will love this book!
James L. Desper Jr.
This is one of the finest written books I have read in a long time.
Davud Banta

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Edmund O. Ward on April 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
If someone had asked me who would be the best person to write a biography of Willie Nelson, I would have said Joe Nick Patoski without any hesitation. He's been "on the story" for years, as a journalist and as a fan. (I have too, in fact, but Nick got there before I did!)

What fascinated me about this book was how well he negotiated the huge cast of characters -- and I mean "characters," a term used in the Texas underworld for small-time criminals, as well as dramatis personae. Willie has never been able to say no to anyone, resulting in a "family" the size of a small town, and it looks like Patoski has interviewed all of them.

And although I've been covering Willie since his 1973 Atlantic sessions, and have interviewed him numerous times, I was astonished at how much new stuff I learned from reading An Epic Life. It's great to have all this information in one place, and for serious fans, or, indeed, anyone interested in Texas music, the history of country music, or what it's like to be a superstar today, this will very likely be the definitive book on the life and work of Willie Nelson for some years to come.

At which point, I don't doubt Patoski will get back on the case and update this one.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By StevieRay on April 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"Willie Nelson: An Epic Life", written by acclaimed Texan Joe Nick Patoski, is a meticulously researched and very readable documentation of the life and career of the legendary Willie Nelson. Combining insightful observations about Willie along with exclusive interviews of Nelson and the people that have been closest to him in his personal and professional life, this official biography has a very engaging and fluid style that makes it an entertaining and enlightening read for those either new to the story of Willie Nelson or for the long-time fan.

From the Blackland cotton patches of Willie's boyhood home in Abbott, Texas, through his musical "coming-of-age" in the rough and tumble, blood and guts honky-tonks of Fort Worth, his trials, tribulations and ultimate successes in the music business of Nashville, Nelson's return to his roots in Texas and to Austin, then on to the heights of The White House and his well-deserved legendary status worldwide, Patoski wonderfully leads the reader on the road of Willie Nelson's life.

This well-written, flowing " page-turner " is a joy to read.

Jim Yanaway
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Linda Lee on April 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
No matter how many stories you have heard about Willie Nelson, or what you know about him -- I promise that you will learn new things about him when you read Joe Nick Patoski's book, 'Willie Nelson: An Epic Life."

I have been reading Joe Nick's articles about Willie Nelson for years. It's always like I'm sitting down listening him to tell a story. You can kind of hear his southern accent in your head while you're reading :)) Joe Nick doesn't ask the same questions of Willie, and he always gets new answers. This book is so well researched, well written, and entertaining. Joe Nick tells the stories behind the stories. He is a Willie Nelson fan, and you can feel when you read it that this book was a labor of love.

The book is about Willie Nelson, but it is also tells the history of music in Texas, and the characters and musicians. There are several books written about Willie Nelson, and I've read them all. This one is the best!

Thank you, Joe Nick, for writing this book!
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Julie Neal VINE VOICE on April 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Willie Nelson's craggy profile on this book's cover looks like it was carved out of granite. He appears like a man who has lived a rough life, one who has not taken particularly good care of himself. An Epic Life explores the reasons why Willie's face looks like that, and does a pretty good job explaining things.

Author Joe Nick Patoski gives you all the down-and-dirty details of the fighting, drinking, womanizing, alleged tax cheating and drugs, as well as all the stories behind Willie's timeless songs. Patoski conducted hundreds of interviews with Nelson and his family and friends over 35 years of research, and it shows. He's crafted a true insider's view of an icon that's also a comprehensive biography, an interesting read filled with many personal glimpses, with the bonus of some fascinating profiles of other folks both known and unknown.

A section of glossy pages in the middle has 26 black and white photos. They range in time from 1929 to 2007, from a vintage shot of Nelson's parents to a portrait of Willie and his sister Bobbie Lee from last year.

Here's the chapter list:

1. Somewhere in America, 2007
2. Abbott, 1938
3. East of Western Grove on Pindall Ridge, 1925
4. Abbott, 1933
5. Waco, 1952
6. San Antonio, 1954
7. Fort Worth, 1955
8. Vancouver, Washington, 1956
9. Fort Worth Again, 1958
10. Houston, 1959
11. Nashville, 1960
12. Los Angeles, 1961
13. Ridgetop, Tennessee, 1964
14. Tennessee to Texas, 1965
15. Coast-to-Coast, Border-to-Border, 1967
16. Lost Valley, 1971
17. Austin, 1972
18. Orange to El Paso, Dalhart to Brownsville, 1973
19. Garland to Hollywood, 1975
20. The Hill, 1979
21. The World, 1986
22. The Valley, 1991
23. The New World, 1993
24. Paradise, 2004
25. Home, 2006
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