Bobbie Nelson, musician sister of Willie Nelson, dies at 91
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Bobbie Nelson, 91, died peacefully on Thursday morning, according to a statement from Willie Nelson’s publicist. She was a pianist and singer who performed with her brother for over five decades.
Bobbie was an original member of the Willie Nelson and Family Band and helped create his brother’s unmistakable sound. While she spent most of her time behind the piano mingling with other musicians, she sometimes led the band and wowed crowds with her skillful playing.
Bobbie was around two years old than her baby brother, and the couple were raised by their grandparents in Abbot, Texas.
“My grandfather told me when I was learning to play the piano, you know, if you really work in this field, you could make a living playing music one day,” Bobbie said in the statement provided. . “And I never forgot that.”
The siblings were teenagers when they started playing honky-tonks alongside Bobbie’s husband, Bud Fletcher, and their guitar-playing father, Ira Nelson. Bud died in a car accident, and Bobbie left the band to care for their three sons and attend trade school. When she graduated, the Hammond Organ Company hired Bobbie to help in the office and demonstrate the company’s instruments. With her children older and her feet wet again as a performer, Bobbie returned to playing shows and could eventually make a living as a pianist in Austin and Nashville.
“It was a fabulous thing because I was really playing music again, not just demonstrating and selling organs,” she explained. “I was very happy to be able to sit down and play with my heart and soul.”
Willie invited Bobbie to join his band in 1972 when he signed his recording contract with Atlantic Records.
“I was so happy to be playing music with Willie again,” she said.
Bobbie released her debut album “Audiobiography” in 2007, and two of the 12 songs featured Willie singing and performing with her.
She was recently featured on “The Willie Nelson Family” (2021, Legacy Recordings), a collection of gospel-flavored country songs performed by Willie’s Family Band.
Willie and Bobbie have also written two books together which have been published in the past two years – the memoir “Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of The Family Band” and “Sister, Brother, Family: An American Childhood in Music”.