To say the story of Willie Nelson is a long one would be an understatement, the country music icon has become a legend in his own lifetime. His professional recording career has spanned over sixty years, and now at the age of 84 he is still performing with the energy of a man half his age. Willie’s status as one of the most influential and inspirational musicians of the 20th century has been created not only through his prolific musical outpourings, but also through the event filled and unusual life that he has lived. Willie’s commercial success has now in 2018 left him with a sizeable fortune, yet his financial status hasn’t always been quite so comfortable. But how much is the grandfather of country music, or Shotgun Willie as he’s occasionally known, worth now in 2018? And how does the critically acclaimed musician spend his money? Read on to find out.
Willie Nelson Net Worth 2018 – $26 Million
How Did Willie Nelson Make His Money & Wealth?
Willie Hugh Nelson was born in Abbott, Texas on April 29th 1933. It was during the great depression and times were hard. Willie’s mother left not long after he was born and his father later married again which left Willie and his sister Bobbie to be brought up by their grandparents, who had previously taught music in Arkansas. They bought Willie his first guitar when he was six and he began to perform at the local church with his sister, singing gospel songs. He began writing his own songs the following year and by the age of nine Willie was playing with a local band called ‘Bohemian Polka’. By the time he was 13 Willie was earning money by singing in taverns and dance halls, a useful source of income that he continued with throughout his time in high school.
Willie went to Abbott High School, where he was on the football team as a halfback, and he also played as a guard in the school basketball team as well as playing a shortstop in the baseball team. He joined a band that his sister’s husband had formed, ‘The Texans’ and the group played a regular Sunday morning slot at the country music radio station KHBR in Houston. After High School Willie had several jobs until in 1950 he joined the Air Force, but within a year he had been discharged for health reasons due to a problem with his back.
Willie married Martha Mathews that years and he began studying agriculture at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, but after he managed to get a job as a disk jockey at religiously themed radio station KBOP, these days known as KWMF. He began using the radio stations equipment to make his first recordings and sent them to a local label, but he was unable to raise any interest in his music from them. Willie worked for several radio stations during the next few years and had occasional appearances on television, as his music career began to take off he dropped out of Baylor University and continued to make recordings, eventually cutting his first record in 1956. Unfortunately big commercial success still eluded him and for a while Willie, now the father of three young children worked as a door-to-door salesman selling vacuum cleaners and bibles.
Willie moved his family to Houston in 1958 and worked as a guitar teacher while also writing a few songs that he managed to sell. One of his songs, ‘Family Bible’ was a hit for Claude Gray in 1960, but Willie only received $150 as he had sold all rights to it. His marriage to Martha ended in 1962 after a tumultuous decade in which Willie had suffered at the hands of his occasionally volatile and violent wife but professionally things improved for the struggling musician, he sold several more songs which became hits for other artists, most notably ‘Crazy’ which Patsy Cline took to number two in the country charts in 1961 and he was signed up by Liberty Records. In 1962 Willie released his first two successful singles, firstly ‘Willingly’, a duet that he performed with Shirley Collie, who would shortly after become his second wife, followed not long afterwards by ‘Touch Me’. Both records became top ten country hits and Willie released his first album ‘…And Then I Wrote’ on the back of his chart success.
In 1963 Willie married Shirley and the next year he signed a contract with RCA Victor worth $10,000 a year, the equivalent of $80,000 annually today, and he also enjoyed significant royalty checks from a string of successful singles during the rest of the decade. Although there were no huge hits for Willie during the 1960’s, his records consistently achieved a ranking of top 25 in the country music charts. Willie bought a ranch in Tennessee and invested heavily in a series of tours. The 1970’s would bring Willie new heights of success and recognition, but the early years of the decade also brought a series of upheavals to Willie’s financial status and his personal life.
Willie Nelson and Outlaw Country Success
In 1970 Willie and Shirley Collie divorced and in December of that year his ranch was destroyed by fire, the tours he had invested in were not producing significant profits. Willie bought another ranch in Texas and married for a third time, to Connie Koepke. After contract negotiation difficulties with RCA and disappointing sales of his final two albums with the company Willie decided to retire from music, but it wasn’t long before he changed his mind, and met with incredible success upon his return.
Willie promoted the PBS network’s country music program ‘Austin City Limits’ alongside Waylon Jennings, which was a success, both artists were forging the new genre of outlaw country, named as such because their style did not conform to the standard Nashville arrangement fans were accustomed to. He managed to buy his way out of his RCA contract and produced the album ‘Shotgun Willie’ in 1973, it was critically acclaimed almost unanimously by critics and fans alike and marked Willie’s new musical direction into the outlaw country genre.
Willie moved to Columbia Records in 1975 and recorded the hugely successful and equally well received ‘Red Headed Stranger’.Willie’s dominance of the outlaw country genre continued throughout the next decade, he collaborated with fellow country music superstars Waylon Jennings, Tompall Glaser and Jessi Coulter on the album ‘Wanted! The Outlaws’, which achieved the distinction of becoming the first platinum album for country music. Willie’s success went from strength to strength, the albums ‘The Sound in Your Mind’ and ‘Troublemaker’ both achieved a gold certification. During the late 70’s Willie topped the country charts with a series of hits, including ‘If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time’, ‘Uncloudy Day’ and ‘Good Hearted Woman’.
Willie collaborated with Waylon Jennins on two big hits during the early 1980’s, ‘WWII’ and ‘Take it to the Limit’ and he later teamed up with Waylon and fellow country superstars Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson to form the country supergroup ‘The Highwaymen’. Willie was riding high, often quite literally, a long time supporter of the legalization of marijuana, he was a frequent visitor to the White House, and according to Joe Patoski’s biography ‘Willie Nelson : An Epic Life’ Willie once smoked his beloved weed on the roof of the President’s Home.
Willie Nelson, the IRS and Bankruptcy.
Willie’s success came crashing down in 1990, the IRS claimed $32 million in unpaid taxes, a situation created by fishy investment in an off-shore tax shelter scheme that had subsequently been ruled illegal. All of Willie’s assets were seized, with the exception of his beloved guitar ‘Trigger’ that Willie had left safely with his daughter in anticipation of the IRS raid. Willie’s friends rallied round him and bought his ranch back for him, and Willie’s enormous earning potential and superstar status allowed him to make a unique deal with the IRS.
They agreed that Willie could repay some of his tax bill from the proceeds of a new compilation album, named ‘The IRS Tapes : Who’ll Buy My Memories?’. A small percentage of the profits were put by to fund Willie’s legal case against investment company Price Waterhouse, who had set up the illegal investment scheme, and eventually they settled out of court with Willie for an undisclosed sum. After the settlement was awarded in 1993 Willie managed to clear the $32 million tax debt fully. Willie Nelson’s personal wealth today in 2017 is $26 Million, a fortune that has been earned since the mid 1990’s. He toured extensively throughout the late 1990’s and the early years of the new millennium and has become an iconic symbol for country music famous throughout the World.
Willie Nelson’s Personal Life & FAQ’s
Is Willie Nelson married?
Willie has been married four times, he and his current wife Annie D’Angelo tied the knot in 1991 after his divorce from Connie Koepke. The couple have had two children together, sons Lukas Autry and Jacob Micah and Willie has fathered seven children in total across all of his marriages. His oldest son, Billy Hugh Jr, born in 1958 during his troubled first marriage to Martha Matthews, committed suicide in 1991.
Willie Nelson’s Salary & Annual Earnings in 2017
Willie’s huge back catalogue of classic country music earns him approximately half a million dollars annually through royalties, but he has also invested in property extensively in recent years. His iconic status as perhaps the greatest country musician of all time, and certainly the most successful over such a long period has seen his wealth grow by over a million per year since his problems with the IRS in the mid 1990’s, and you can be sure that Willie these days makes sure that he’s paying every cent of tax that’s due on his earnings.
Where Does Willie Nelson Live?
Willie Nelson is a strong advocate of environmentally friendly issues, and his main residence these days is a community in Maui, Hawaii that promotes and encourages an environmentally friendly attitude. The community, where Willie’s neighbors include such celebrities such as Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson and fellow former Highwayman Kris Krittofferson is largely self-sufficient and all the homes there use solely Solar power.
Willie Nelson’s Legacy and Accomplishments
Willie Nelson is known Worldwide as an icon of the country music scene. He entered the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993 and five years later he received the Kennedy Center Honor for his lifetime contribution to American culture. He received the prestigious Gershwin Prize in 2015 from the Library of Congress, and his work in support of Farmers and the charity Farm Aid saw him inducted into the National Agricultural Hall of Fame the same year. He has also received a ‘Feed the Peace’ award from The Nobelity Project for his positive stance on World Peace and Rolling Stone has included Willie on their list of the 100 Greatest Singers and Guitarists several times.
Willie has been included in the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry and Austin, Texas honored his life in 2010 by renaming second street to Willie Nelson Boulevard, along with a life-sized statue that the city erected outside the recording studios of Austin City Limits.
Willie has appeared in more than thirty TV shows and films over his career and he wrote a best-selling book about his life, ‘Willie : An Autobiography’, that was published in 1988, he has also authored eight other books, in support of Farm Aid, other memoirs from his long and eventful life, and in support of the legalization of marijuana. Even at the age of 84, Willie now in 2018 shows no signs of retiring and he is still as popular as he’s ever been. Earlier this year Willie appeared in neighbor Woody Harrelson’s comedy movie ‘Lost in London’, the first movie ever broadcast completely live as it was being filmed, and he also released the album ‘God’s Problem Child’, which instantly shot to the top of the Country music album chart and achieved a top ten placing on the Billboard 200 Chart.