CMT Rewind: Willie Nelson Hits The Top Of The Country Charts With “If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time”

The "Red Headed Stranger's 1976 chart-topper aided greatly in defining his artistic legacy

By 1976, Willie Nelson was already an icon. However, he arguably had yet to truly discover himself as an artist capable of crafting a legacy. Nineteen albums into his career, he’d finally found success at Columbia Records by merging his Austin, Texas-honed outlaw ways with a songwriting pen that just fifteen years prior had written Patsy Cline’s timeless country ballad “Crazy.” Finally, however, an unexpected cover tune that reached the top of Billboard’s Hit Country charts in September 1976 allowed Nelson the ability to begin the process of ascending to his legendary status.

Following up Red Headed Stranger — his debut concept album about a fugitive on the run from the law after killing his wife and her lover — would be no easy task. His breakout hit on the album was a cover of Roy Acuff’s 1947 classic “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain,” which spurred the album on to Billboard Top Country Album chart-topping, and eventually, double-platinum selling success a decade later. However, pop-country — the lane wherein Nelson now resided due to his success — was, in that era, a mish-mash of discofied countrypolitan sounds, hard-rocking and whiskey-drenched soulful rock, plus ballads featuring soaring vocal performances that erred in the direction of seemingly unrepentant sorrow and heavenly joy. For a veteran, unexpected country star whose appeal laid far outside of mainstream expectations, discovering the best way through seems an impossible task.

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