Texas State has its own piece of a rock ’n’ roll country outlaw.
The Wittliff Collection at Alkek Library purchased a complete assortment of Willie Nelson memorabilia last semester and has recently made it available to the public. Joel Minor, Wittliff archivist said the Collection already had Willie Nelson relics and the decision to purchase the new material was made to enhance the old array.
Minor said Bill Wittliff, founder of the Wittliff Collections, had directed movies in which Nelson was cast.
“We have extensive archives of those films, as well as other items that Willie himself donated,” Minor said. “This new collection was really a good fit for us.”
The entire Willie Nelson recording collection spans from 1954 to present and includes his first record. In addition to the 877 recordings, the collection boasts photographs, song lyrics, screenplays, tour itineraries and other items of interest.
Minor said the materials cannot be found in other collections.
According to the Wittliff Collections website, Willie Nelson first discovered his musical interests at a young age in Abbott.
Nelson first began playing with local bands at 10 years old. After high school, he moved to Nashville but soon returned to Texas when his house burned. Nelson became successful in Texas during the 1970s and went on to establish his famous 4th of July picnics and record songs that helped achieve nationwide popularity. Nelson has become famous for his work with Farm Aid and troubles with the IRS. Nelson has since earned multiple Grammy Awards, played roles in feature films and written books.
Deric Garza, disc jockey and social media director at KNBT-FM New Braunfels, spoke to students at Mass Communication Week this year about the jobs involved with the radio industry. Garza has worked with local bands and said the impact of Nelson’s music is incredible.
“Without Willie Nelson, there is no Texas music,” Garza said. “Due to his multiple facets along the road of his career, he ultimately cleared the path for all future Texas artists — country to cosmic.”
Garza said Nelson is not only a musical icon, but a Texas historical symbol as well.
Jonathan Schaefer, studio art sophomore, said the Nelson archives available at the Wittliff Collection could be beneficial to aspiring musicians like himself.
“Anyone who’s trying to do anything with music first needs to go back and look at who came before them,” Schaefer said. “You have to go to the roots, and you need a solid foundation. Those who blindly attempt to replicate a sound often fail, because they don’t know where it came from.”
Minor said the Willie Nelson collection has brought in a lot of attention from outside Texas State in addition to campus life. Minor said plans are underway to showcase the exhibit, and staff members would love to have an event to commemorate it.
“I have personally talked with students using the Collection for research,” Minor said. “We have unique materials that help make the Wittliff Collection a central place for research, and we are happy to have them.”