Acclaimed country music crooner and innovator Bobbie Lee Nelson, Willie Nelson’s beloved sister, has passed away at the age of 91. The Nelson family announced her passing on Instagram.
The Nelson Family announced that she passed away peacefully with her family by her side, but her cause of death was not revealed by the family.
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Bobbie Lee Nelson was the very first person to join her younger brother’s band, performing as a singer and pianist for her brother Willie Nelson.
She was brought up in Texas along with her brother by their grandparents who were big fans of gospel music. Their parents has a lot of trouble with their marriage, and both abandoned the poor siblings while they were still very young, abandoning them to their paternal grandparents.
While they were poor and didn’t have anything, they stayed together and as said by brother Willie in his memoir, “They were rich in love”.
Willie Nelson praised her sister in his 2015 autobiography, IT’S A LONG STORY, claiming that Bobbie was superior him in musical skills from young age, and still was even at that age.
She was able to play music with great flair in any style she wanted. She was also known among county music circles as genuinely talented person in playing the piano.
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When she just aged 16, Bobbie Lee Nelson fell in love and married a man named Bud Fletcher, who was one of the first persons to recognize both Bobbie and Willie’s musical talent.
Fletcher set up a band called Bud Fletcher and The Texans featuring Bobbie, Willie and their father who played guitar (he returned to the siblings’ lives after abandoning them).
This was when Bobbie Nelson was able to sneak into bars, where the band was usually performing, to play herself.
As country music was widely seen to be an industry for men aside from a few exceptions, she was widely derided and shamed for it.
Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t last long and the band disbanded soon after. Even worse, custody of Bobbie’s three sons was given to her husband’s parents – due to her singing career, Bobbie was seen in an unsympathetic light, and she was banned from playing in bars.
Bobbie Lee Nelson said in a 2008 interview that that was the hardest part of her life due to the loss of her children and career. However, the enterprising woman never gave up.
In response to these challenges, in order to regain custody of her children, she remarried and began working at a TV repair-shop .
The kind-hearted owner of the repair shop also rented a piano for her to play as a form of therapy for her as she recovers from the traumatic divorce and loss of career.
Bobbie then went to business school and then got a job with Hammond Organ Company where she demonstrated the use of musical instruments.
By that time, her brother. who had become a successful songwriter in Nashville by writing musical hits for famous singers like Patsy Cline, traveled to New York in 1973 to become a singer of his own and record his own album.
Bobbie accepted her brother’s call to collaborate with him on their musical project which became known as SHOTGUN WILLIE. The rest was history.
Willie Nelson’s Instagram
She performed alongside her brother for many years, also contributing to his albums throughout his long career.
In 2020, the siblings wrote a memoir together called Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of the Family Band. In it, Willie Nelson paid tribute to her sister: “I’ve written a few autobiographies before, but there was one that was missed by me. Probably because there is this heroine who is too humble to demand credit and attention. She is my sister, Bobbie. She’s got the best story in the whole family. Without her, I’d never be where I am today. I have always needed her in my life.”