Roughstock.com

A Man and his Guitar: Willie Nelson and Trigger

By: Matt Bjorke

Last Updated: April 10, 2009 12:04 PM

When the average fan takes a look at Willie Nelson’s guitar they’re sure to wonder why he even bothers playing something that looks as worn out and ragged as it does.  What those people are missing is the fact that “Trigger,” named after Roy Rogers’ trusty horse and sidekick “Trigger,” is that the guitar hasn’t left Willie Nelson’s stage since buying the guitar nearly 40 years ago.  While the guitar wasn’t there when Willie wrote the first hits of his career, it has been by his side since he’s been an icon of Country music.

Trigger is a 1969 Martin N-20 guitar that looks as weathered as Willie and perhaps that’s why Willie loves it so much. Aside from being the best friend that Willie has had, the guitar is also as identifiable as its owners vocals as Willie’s velvety guitar playing is like his voice, smooth like an aged bottle of single malt scotch.  Trigger has become so iconic and trusted by Willie that he’s spent more money fixing trigger (keeping it playable) than other people can possibly fathom.  Trigger is Willie, Willie is Trigger.  Without Trigger gliding along a song, Willie Nelson, as we know him, wouldn’t sound the same. 

The guitar has been engraved by numerous friends and songwriters over the years but it first started out as a you sign mine, I’ll sign yours autograph swap with Leon Russell who stated that he wanted Willie to “engrave” his name so that the guitar would be more valuable since the autograph wouldn’t fade with time.  Time may have changed Trigger from a shiny, new guitar into something guitar purists would call a ‘piece of trash’ but to Willie Nelson, working without his trusted friend would likely feel like working without a dear old friend.

This story of Trigger was written to celebrate the ‘un-produced’ “Naked Willie” album. Willie Nelson’s long-time friend and harmonica player Mickey Raphael came up with the concept and removed all the strings and things that were the norm back in the “Nashville sound days” in the 1960s to leave these songs in a style that ha become Willie Nelson’s norm, real, earthy productions. Roughstock has teamed up with Legacy Records to give two fans the chance to enter into a contest to win a copy of this new ‘old’ “Naked Willie” album.

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