Conroe Man Could Have Bought Willie Nelson's "Crazy" For $10

butler and willie jan19.jpg
larrybutlertexas.com
Willie Nelson and Larry Butler at Willie's Place, May 2009
One day in 1960, Larry Butler was rehearsing his band at the Esquire Ballroom on Hempstead Highway when the manager approached and said a man at the front door wanted to talk to him.

"So I told her to just show the fellow in and sit him at the table by the bandstand and I'd talk to him when we took a break," recalls Butler from his home in Cut and Shoot. "And I told her if he wanted something to just put it on my tab."

When Butler took a break, he sauntered to the table and introduced himself. The stranger stuck out his hand and said, "I'm Willie Nelson, and I'd like to sell you some songs."

A songwriter himself, Butler had several regional hits at the time, including "Just Walked Out" and "Exactly Like You."

crazyLP jan19.jpg
"I was getting airplay on KIKK and all the other stations, so Willie had heard me on the radio and thought maybe I would buy some of his songs. I told Willie that I didn't really buy other people's songs, but I let him play them for me," Butler recalls.

"He had 'I Gotta Get Drunk,' 'Night Life,' 'The Party's Over' and 'Crazy.' I asked him how much he wanted for them, and he said ten dollars apiece."

"So I told him, 'Mr. Nelson, I'm not gonna buy your songs,' and he said, 'What's the matter, no good?'"

"I told him they were actually too good and that he needed to keep them, because if he could write like that he was going to be a star himself one day."

"Well, Willie said, 'I'm broke and I need money right now, and I can always write some more songs.'"

"Anyway, we talked and then we went outside, and he had his three kids in the car and I could see the man needed some help. So we talked and my wife found them a room nearby, and got them some groceries and I put Willie to work in my band that night.

"Back in those days most of that stuff was union scale, so sidemen got $12.50 a night and the leader got $25. So I went to the club owner and told him I had one more man in the band, and he said he couldn't pay for another man. So I ended up splitting my $25 a night with Willie for a while."

And did Nelson put anything on Butler's tab the day of that first fateful meeting?

"Yeah, a pack of cigarettes and a Coke."

Check back with us over the coming two weeks as we reveal more of Larry Butler's remembrances of Willie and others.


Willie Nelson plays Verizon Wireless Theater Friday, February 4. Butler plays at Tut's in downtown Conroe Saturday, January 29.

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15 comments
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wms
wms

Look, there's a picture of Larry Butler -- Willie's old friend Larry Butler -- above. The blog plainly states that Butler lives in Cut and Shoot. So I don't think there's much doubt about which Larry Butler....

Patrick
Patrick

There are TWO Larry Butlers. Ten to one that this Larry is not the great Nashville hitmaker of the 1970's.

Pbutler
Pbutler

No he is the Larry Butler from Texas

wms
wms

2 to 4 to 7.5 to 38 says you could be right... wow....

Jtrim
Jtrim

After knowing Larry for about 20 years or longer, this story is just one of many examples of his giving nature. He has played more benefits than anyone I know. Him & Pat are the best of the best with kind hearts, always giving. I know Larry has had a rough road health wise lately and hope he is doing better.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Nice to hear a good story from the music industry. So many of the people in it are just out to make a buck. This is a stark contrast to a story of greed, like how Michael Jackson bought the rights to all The Beatles songs.

Twmartin
Twmartin

Very interesting story, please keep more comming, this is good to read about, Its a mystery to how some of these artist get their start. Glad you are doing this story, would like to read more. Willie and Larry Butler have a long life history together. These are two great icons of country music.

Rick
Rick

What a great story. Great job tracking it down and bringing it to us. Wow!

Lise
Lise

this is too cool...

bmoore
bmoore

purty sure that the original title and lyric of this song was 'stupid'. someone told him it wouldn't work, so it was changed

Jessedayton
Jessedayton

moving, emotional, everything a legendary story should be!

Debbie
Debbie

Larry Butler is such a treasure. He is such a sweet man. I am personally proud to know Larry and his wife, Pat.

Louis Nelson
Louis Nelson

The world needs more of folks with Willie Nelson's talent and Larry Butler's kindness. Great story, Mike.

wms
wms

btw, just to elaborate on the significance of this act of kindness, "Crazy" is the most played song in jukebox history. That's significant mailbox money....

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