Bobbie Lee Nelson (born January 1, 1931) is an American pianist and singer, sister of Willie Nelson and a member of his band The Family. Her grandmother taught her to play the piano at age five with a pump organ, and after successful appearances at gospel conventions held in Hillsboro, Texas, her grandfather bought her a piano.
She started singing in school acts and in church with her brother. At age sixteen she married Bud Fletcher, who formed his own band, The Texans. She joined on the piano, while her brother joined on vocals and guitar. The band was dissembled in 1955 after she divorced Bud Fletcher. In 1961, after suffering a breakdown for the death of Bud Fletcher and the custody of her children was given to Fletcher's parents, she moved to Fort Worth, Texas where she worked for the Hammond Organ Company. After recovering her children, she moved to Austin, Texas.
In 1965 she moved to Nashville, Tennessee after her third marriage failed. She played in restaurants and different venues until she was called by her brother from New York in 1973 for a session. She joined Willie Nelson on the piano during his sessions with Atlantic Records, that produced The Troublemaker, Shotgun Willie, Phases and Stages and Red Headed Stranger. The same year she joined The Family full time and began touring with her brother.
1 Early life,
2 Music career,
Bobbie Nelson was born in Abbott, Texas, on January 1, 1931, to Myrle Marie (née Greenhaw) and Ira Doyle Nelson. Her parents divorced and her mother moved to Portland, Oregon, soon after her brother Willie was born in 1933 (although after reaching adulthood Willie was able to locate their mother), and her father remarried and also moved away, leaving them be raised by their paternal grandparents. The Nelsons, who taught singing back in Arkansas, started their grandchildren in music. Her grandmother started instructing her to play piano on a pump organ at the age of five. Her grandfather took her to singing gospel conventions that were held on the courthouse in Hillsboro, Texas, where she did her first performance in front of an estimated of 1,000 people. Impressed by her potential talent, her grandfather bought her a piano for US$35 when she was six. Three years later, she started playing with her brother Willie, and with her grandmother singing in the house. She began playing in functions on Abbott Highschool and in church with her brother. When she was fourteen, she began traveling with evangelists around Austin and through Texas.
At age sixteen Bobbie met Bud Fletcher and they married. Although Fletcher did not have musical abilities, he formed his own band, Bud Fletcher and the Texans, limiting his participation to directing it. Bobbie joined on the piano, while her brother sang and played guitar. The band was dissembled in 1955 when she divorced Bud Fletcher, who was sick. She lost custody of her sons Randy, Michael, and Freddy for playing in honky-tonks and custody was given to her ex-husband's parents. When Fletcher died in a car accident in 1961, Bobbie suffered a breakdown and was admitted to a hospital in Fort Worth. To retrieve custody of their children, she married again and started working in a television repair shop in town. The owner of the store rented a piano to comfort her as she recovered. She began working for the Hammond Organ Company, demonstrating and selling their products. Bobbie retrieved the custody of her sons and moved to Austin, Texas. In 1965, after her third marriage failed, she went to Nashville, where her brother was working in his music career. She played in different restaurants and other venues until her brother called her from New York in 1973, where he was recording with Atlantic Records. Bobbie joined Willie on piano for the recordings, which eventually included the albums The Troublemaker, Shotgun Willie, Phases and Stages and the legendary concept album Red Headed Stranger. She joined Willie Nelson's newly formed band, The Family full time and started touring with him. In 2008, she released her solo debut album, Audiobiography.