The mood was festive Friday afternoon as Willie Nelson’s tour bus eased to a halt in front of Austin City Limits Live at Moody Theater.
An adoring crowd (which included a woman on horseback, babies in Willie onesies, and plenty of braids, beards, and bandanas), had assembled at the corner of Second Street (a.k.a Willie Nelson Boulevard) and Lavaca for the unveiling of an 8-foot tall bronze statue of the musician.
“No one has done more to make Austin the Live Music Capital of the World,” said Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who also joked that he looked forward to singing a duet dedicated “to all the women they’d loved before,” with Nelson.
The sculpture, which shows a smiling Nelson casually embracing his guitar, stands at the stairs that ascend into Moody Theater. Nelson was featured on Austin City Limit’s pilot almost 40 years ago, and he was the first musician to christen the show’s new multi-million dollar venue.
Philadelphia-based artist Clete Shields (above) created the statue. The artist said he hoped his work captured the musician’s “humor and humility. “Nelson seemed to approve, and said that he thought Shields did a “pretty darn good job.”
The work was commissioned by nonprofit Capital Area Statues Inc. The statues “Philosopher’s Rock” at Barton Springs, and the Angelina Eberly statue at Sixth Street and Congress Avenue were also donated by the group.
Nelson’s long time friend, singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson also spoke at the event, saying, “I was wondering if y’all were going to have somebody to keep the birds away.”
“The red headed stranger” had the last word at the event when he reached for his guitar and serenaded the crowd with “On The Road Again.”
By Paula Disbrowe