Willie Nelson Was Banned From Teaching Sunday School Because He Was Performing In Honky Tonks

Music

Religion was a major part of most American households in the 1950’s, especially in the Bible Belt.

But also brewing throughout the country was an uprising of music that fully manifested itself in the rock and roll explosion which captured the country and ushered in a new phase of American culture.

Willie Nelson was born in Abbott, Texas in 1933 and experienced these two worlds come to be in his formative early years. He’d been playing music himself since he was only 6 years old and his first performances were at his local church. At just nine, he wound up playing with a local band called Bohemian Polka.

But by age 13, Willie had to start contributing for the family and didn’t much like picking cotton, so he began performing for cash at dance halls and honky tonks, thus beginning his long commercial career.

Though he picked up more than a few odd jobs over the years to pay the bills, his goal was always to make it in country music.

While we could skip to the part where he became a huge star, there’s a story from one of those odd jobs that exemplifies that rift in society between the ultra-religious and free spirited music lovers.

Willie was living in Fort Worth and started teaching Sunday school to make a couple extra dollars, but while he was teaching about the Lord on Sunday mornings, at night he was playing any honky tonk or bar that would let him on stage to try and get somewhere in the music industry.

Eventually, word got around to the Baptist Church’s leaders and the fact didn’t sit too well with them. Sure, he wasn’t playing that devilish rock and roll, but how far off was it to play any type of music for a drunken, rowdy crowd?

The preacher gave Willie an ultimatum: Stop playing in bars or stop teaching Sunday school.

This situation was chronicled in a 1998 edition of Texas Monthly:

“Raised as a staunch Methodist, Willie was taught that if he drank or smoked or went dancing, he was doomed to hellfire. He never bought this doctrine: Willie’s God was always willing to give a guy another chance.

An incident in the fifties, when he was teaching Sunday school at the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Fort Worth, reinforced this conviction. His preacher gave him an ultimatum—stop playing in beer joints or stop teaching Sunday school—and Willie quit the church for good, disillusioned with a policy that summarily condemned people like him.”

He didn’t just stop teaching, he quit the church for good all because they didn’t want him playing “Crazy” and “Hello Walls,” which, I may add, are pretty vanilla songs.

Fortunately there’s a lot more acceptance of country music and music as a whole from church communities today, but it had to be at least a bit tough for Willie to turn from an institution that, to that point, had been such a mainstay in his life. Even if he didn’t feel guilt about it, I’m sure breaking the news to his parents wouldn’t have gone over smoothly.

If there’s only one thing that Willie proved over his life, it’s that he’ll only do it his way. Fortunately for us, his way involved putting out some of the best country music of all-time for us to enjoy.

Read original source here.

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