How cool, being able to interview one of my longtime musical heroes. Willie Nelson was in South Florida for a concert on May 26, 2005 with Bob Dylan at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. Much of that tour was playing in old minor league baseball parks around the country, which Willie told me was Bob’s idea. As I mentioned during the interview, they were also playing later in the tour at Ray Winder Field in my hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas, which would be closed the following year and eventually torn down.
At the time, I was working for Miami NPR station WLRN, which was partnered with daily newspaper The Miami Herald. It was a surprise assignment from morning anchor Rhonda Victor Sibilia, so I have to say THANK YOU! I already had tickets to that night’s concert, but she noticed while going through the newspaper’s planning for the day that the business section was preparing a story about Willie Nelson’s push for more use of biodiesel fuel.
So I joined print reporter Patrick Danner and photographer Candace West to produce a radio version of the story. We met him as he was refueling one of his tour buses that ran on biodiesel. Nelson owned a truck stop in Texas selling what he called BioWillie and promoted the fuel, which is made from products like soybean oil. As he explained in the interview, which you can hear below, it’s a source of revenue for farmers, is better for the environment and can help reduce the U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
AUDIO: Talking with Willie Nelson about his use of biodiesel fuel, as he was refueling his tour bus in Plantation, Florida. We also discussed the tour he was then on with Bob Dylan, playing mostly in old minor league ballparks.
As Willie tours the country, he has to find people along the way to refuel his buses. In this case it was Jim Robertson of Fort Lauderdale’s BioFuels America. Jim drove a pickup truck with a large tank in the back to the hotel where Nelson and his entourage were staying in Plantation, Florida. He filled the three leased buses with about 200 gallons of biodiesel fuel.
I had always heard that Willie was a nice guy, but I was amazed just how cool he was. Many times when you meet people you admire, it can be a let down when they’re jerks or just don’t live up to your expectations. But after meeting Willie and spending about a half-hour talking with him, I became an even bigger fan. After finishing the interview and shutting off my recorder, I figured he would leave. But instead he just dug his hands deeper into his pockets and starting talking about how nice the weather was and that he was looking forward to playing golf that afternoon. I thought to myself, wow, I’m here making polite conversation with Willie Nelson about the weather.
As a kid, I remember during family trips my mom would break out her Willie Nelson 8-track tapes. At that age I didn’t really appreciate his music, but albums like Red Headed Stranger and Stardust would later become favorites of mine.
Thanks to Miami Herald photographer Candace West who shot these photos and let me use them.