Willie Nelson has a personal connection to the community of West, Texas, where a Wednesday night (April 17) explosion at a fertilizer plant killed several people and injured dozens more. The community is approximately six miles south of Abbott, Texas, where the Country Music Hall of Fame member was born and raised.
"West is like our backyard," Nelson said Thursday morning (April 18) in Nashville during an interview with CMT Hot 20 Countdown's Terry Bumgarner. "It's where I grew up. I road my bike from Abbott to West and back all the time on that road where all this stuff happened. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those folks there in West."
Emergency crews continue to search for survivors after the explosion in the town located 80 miles south of Dallas. According to USA Today, as many as 35 people are believed to have been killed, including five members of the West Volunteer Fire Department, four EMS workers and an off-duty Dallas firefighter who pitched in to help. Others killed include those who lived near the West Fertilizer Co., which stored anhydrous ammonia and sold it to farmers.
Nelson, who turns 80 on April 30, was planning to celebrate with an April 28 show at the Backyard at Bee Cave, a concert venue near Austin. He's turning the show into a benefit for the West Fire Department.
"I'll be there, and my son Lukas, my son Micah and daughters Paula and Amy," Nelson said. "We'll all be there doing a benefit show now. Until today, it was set up as a birthday show. But since the West tragedy happened, we decided to start a benefit there and let other people join in. If they want to donate to the West Volunteer Fire Department, they can do so. That's where our proceeds are going to go on that day."