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HiTunes: Are People Actually Afraid of Smoking with Willie Nelson?

Celebrities often return from Nelson’s tour bus with harrowing tales that don’t suggest an easygoing sesh. Why exactly have so many musicians warned others about smoking with the pot icon?

by Patrick Lyons

In our series, "HiTunes," we investigate various marijuana lore throughout music history, debunking myths and sifting through hazy rumors for the blunt truth. What came first, Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" or the purple haze strain? Why have multiple artists written songs warning others about smoking with Willie Nelson? Is Redman's song "How to Roll a Blunt" actually an effective instructional guide? We'll explore these urban legends and more, and you can revisit the first installment of the series here.

The Legend: Willie Nelson has the pot tolerance of 100 Cypress Hills and if you smoke with him, he'll also gamble you out of a few thousand dollars while you're in a catatonic daze.

Willie's a stoner icon. No one will tell you differently. He's been busted for possession enough times to lend legitimacy to his status as an outlaw country artist, advocated for legalization as a co-chair of the NORML advisory board, and even smoked an "Austin Torpedo" on the roof of the White House. Have you smoked on the roof of the White House?

However, there's a bit of a discrepancy in the way Nelson's viewed by Joe Q. Stoner and those who have actually puffed and passed with him. In the public eye, Willie seems like a supremely chill, grandfatherly hero. His voice is gentle, his political views righteous, and his musical legacy rebellious-but-unaggressive in its skirting of Nashville traditionalism. He's one of the most visible marijuana-loving musicians in the world, and unlike heavy bands with names like Bongripper and Weedeater, or rappers who boast of blunt-after-blunt habits, he doesn't appear at all intimidating. You'd be a fool to turn down a chance to toke up with Willie, and I doubt that many smokers would.

However, this image of Willie as a benevolent patron saint of pot has been challenged on multiple occasions. Musicians and celebrities often return from Nelson's tour bus with tales that involve a little more than your average easygoing sesh. Below are three in particular that will make you reconsider if Willie ever extends the invite your way.

Exhibit A: Toby Keith

Alright, Toby's admittedly not the chillest, coolest bro in the world. And though he's still apparently Trump's homeboy, Mr. Keith recently came out in favor of legalization after the release of his song "Wacky Tobaccy," telling News OK, "If you drink liquor, you ought to be able to smoke weed." Sound logic, by Toby's standards. What's more, he also revealed his favorite strain to be something he calls "Redhead Sensimilla" in the song in question. Toby has indeed smoked more weed than I thought he'd have, but tolerance-wise, he's still probably on the lower end of the totem pole (can't smoke too much if you want to keep pounding down that Budweiser).

But why we're here is Toby's famous 2003 song, "Weed With Willie." Included on his multi-platinum album Shock'n Y'all, the song tells of Keith's inability to hang with Willie during multiple sessions, his intake dwindling each time until he settles for a "grin on [his] face and a great contact high" on the last go-round. Before that, Keith passes through hell, getting a visit from "the grim creeper" after one puff, and ending up "In the fetal position with drool on [his] chin." He concludes, "I'll never smoke weed with Willie again," and even shared the full story in a later interview.

Let this be a lesson: if you're the type who prefers drinking to smoking, and consider yourself a bit of a novice, don't even think of toking up with Nelson.

Exhibit B: Jack Johnson

This chill acoustic strummer may not scream "ten blunts a day," but his perpetual five o'clock shadow and love of reggae certainly suggest a more robust habit than our previous contestant. Dude's a surfer from Hawaii who got his big break opening for Sublime and wrote a munchies song about pancakes — 'nuff said.

Johnson's fateful encounter with Willie Nelson came a few years before he performed at Farm Aid (a charity concert co-founded by Willie) in 2015, where he debuted a song that's similar to Toby's. "Willie Got Me Stoned and Stole All My Money," as it's called, is more lighthearted than the title suggests, but Johnson does recount a pot-fueled poker game during which Willie cleans up and everyone else has trouble with their motor skills.

In fact, Nelson does have quite the reputation as a hustler who uses his potent stash as an accomplice. Legends of Willie-hosted, weed-heavy, high-stakes poker games attended by high-profile celebrities abound. One particularly juicy recounting of one such event appeared in an Interview Magazine conversation between Nelson and longtime pal Woody Harrelson (another noted cannabis aficionado), in which Harrelson joke that he's "Proud of building the Woody wing on [Nelson's] house" after losing so much money to the country star.

Exhibit C: Snoop Dogg

Not even Woody can hold a candle to Snoop, the man who transformed Dr. Dre from a misinformed nonsmoker into Mr. Chronic, who once claimed to smoke 81 blunts a day. If there was a weed hall of fame, Snoop would be in it, unquestionably. Mere mortals cannot match his intake.

And yet, of all the famous pot smokers Snoop's shared a puff with, Willie's the only one to make him tap out, he says. In an interview with B-Real of Cypress Hill (see below), Snoop says of Willie, "That's the only person that's ever smoked me under the table." He elaborated:

"I'm like, 'This old motherfucker's gonna try to out-do me.' And he really did. It got to the point where I was like, 'You know what? Ay Willie, let's take a break and play some dominoes, because I think we need to do something else right now.'"

Obviously, Willie kicked his ass in dominoes, too.

Unless you've spent your whole life honing your tolerance and card skills, the evidence suggests that you're better off admiring Willie's gifts from afar.

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Patrick Lyons is a music writer based in Portland who is equally enthralled by black metal and Southern rap-- catch him making maddeningly eclectic choices on the aux cord.



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