In 1957, Mrs. Myrle Nelson tended bar at the Goble Tavern in Goble, Oregon. The tavern and the grange hall were aging remnants from the small community’s timber industry past. Across the Columbia River, in Vancouver, Washington, radio KVAN employed Meryl’s son, a 24-year-old aspiring country singer-songwriter who went by the on-air name of “Wee Willie Nelson.”
Willie already had a songbook started and probably played for the tavern’s patrons. Kathy Dalton Showalter, whose parents owned the Goble at the time, says, “everyone played in those days . . . and it was just the employee’s son, you know? . . . Nobody would have paid attention.” Current Goble resident Harvey Meyers lets the cat out of the bag with a story from his father, Rusty Meyers, who led “the best Western swing band in the Northwest” and was also a disc jockey at KVAN. Willie approached Rusty to sit in with his band. Rusty refused because he “just couldn’t stand Willie’s voice,” which he described as “whiney” and likened to a “stuck hog.”
But 1957 turned out to be the start of something big for Nelson. He cut his first single under the “Willie Nelson Records” label. Side A presented “No Place For Me.” Side B offered “Lumber Jack,” a “lumberjack-theme . . . pandering to Oregonian pride.” It went exactly nowhere.
Not so with Willie. The man who arrived in the Northwest to “cadge money from his mother,” went “on the road again” for Texas and the big time. Patsy Cline recorded “Crazy” in 1961, which climbed to No. 2 on the country music charts in 1962. Willie also released his first album that year, “. . . And Then I Wrote.”