Willie Nelson Recognized as Oldest Recording & Touring Musician

Since pretty much every living soul on the planet right now was born, raised, and is living at a time when Willie Nelson was not just making music, but was a relevant artist and a revered character throughout popular culture, it’s easy to overlook or take for granted just how remarkable this achievement is.

At 90 years old, Willie Nelson isn’t just continuing to perform upon occasion, or to release a song or two here or there for sentimentality. He’s still playing dozens of shows a year, and releasing albums at a two-per-year clip. And those albums aren’t just also-rans. Willie Nelson is still writing original songs, and his 2022 album A Beautiful Time won the Grammy Award for Best Country Album, and deserved it.

Willie Nelson’s most recent album Bluegrass is up for a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album in 2024. He’s considered a top contender for the award to be handed out on Sunday, February 4th.

Sure, if you go see Willie Nelson in concert, you have to go into it knowing that he’ll be sitting on a chair, that he might struggle to make it through certain phrases before losing his breath, and it may take him a bit to warm up. But guess what folks, HE’S 90 YEARS OLD. For his age, Willie Nelson isn’t just doing remarkable things, he’s doing things that are unprecedented in music.

In a recent rundown by Codigolibre, Willie Nelson was named the oldest musician “still touring, recording, and kicking.” This puts a country legend at the top of the heap. Here is their Top 10:

Willie Nelson – Age 90 – April 29th, 1933
John Mayall – Age 90 – November 29th, 1933
Frankie Valli – Age 89 – May 3rd, 1934
Herb Alpert – Age 88 – March 31st, 1935
Buddy Guy – Age 87 – July 30th, 1936
Smokey Robinson – Age 83 – February 19th, 1940
Tom Jones – Age 83 – June 7th, 1940
Ringo Starr – Age 83 – July 7th, 1940
Cliff Richard – Age 83 – October 14th, 1940
Dionne Warwick – Age 83 – December 12th, 1940

In country music specifically, there are a few entertainers still around older than Willie. Leroy Van Dyke is 94 years old (DOB 10/4/1929), but is not currently touring or recording. Perhaps the oldest living and touring performer in country music is Buck White of The Whites at 93 (DOB 12/13/1930). He continues to appear with the singing trio on The Grand Ole Opry, along with appearances at Kentucky Thunder shows backing Ricky Skaggs. But The Whites have not released new music since 2005’s Give a Little Back.

But one important artist overlooked on the now viral list of oldest musicians is Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. At age 92 (DOB 8/1/1931), he even has Willie Nelson beat. And yes, Ramblin’ Jack still tours (four dates on the calendar of 2024 so far), and he released an album of Woody Guthrie songs in 2023. He might not be as prolific or as well-known as Willie, but Ramblin’ Jack definitely deserves a mention.

To see the most recent run down of country music’s oldest living performers, CLICK HERE.

There is probably some older local legends or obscure artists out there still playing shows and recording music too, and hats off to them! But when it comes to universally recognized performers, Willie Nelson is at the top.

As a youngster, Willie played in Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys, and was performing in bars and honky tonks at the age of 13. He wrote songs like “Crazy” for Patsy Cline, and “Hello Walls” for Faron Young in the ’60s. Willie Nelson later played bass for Ray Price in the Cherokee Cowboys before launching his own career. Though Willie was involved in music from an early age, he was a late bloomer in many respects, and didn’t see major success until he was in his 40s. But here 50 years later, he’s still at it.

Let’s all take a step back and appreciate this achievement, and consider ourselves thankful we’ve been able to spend our lives with Willie Nelson … and knock on wood that we’ll still have many more years to share with this man on earth.

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Willie Nelson Tour Dates:

Feb. 7 – Seminole Casino – Immokalee, FL
Feb. 9 – Pompano Beach Amphitheatre – Pompano Beach, FL
Feb. 10 – The Sound at Coachman Park – Clearwater, FL
Feb. 12 – Coffee Butler Amphitheater – Key West, FL
Feb. 14 – St Augustine Amphitheatre – St. Augustine, FL
Feb. 15 – St. Augustine Amphitheatre – St. Augustine, FL
Feb. 17 – Apopka Amphitheater – Apopka, FL
Feb. 18 – Cocoa Riverfront Park – Cocoa, FL
April 17 – Cooks Garage – Lubbock, TX
April 19 – Mesa Amphitheatre – Mesa, AZ
April 20 – Harrahs Rio Vista Outdoor Amphitheater – Laughlin, NV
April 22 – The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park – San Diego, CA
April 24 – Greek Theatre – Berkeley, CA
April 25 – Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA
April 26-28 – Stagecoach Music Festival
May 10 – Whitewater On The Horseshoe – New Braunfels, TX
May 11 – Whitewater On The Horseshoe – New Braunfels, TX
May 15 – Pinewood Bowl Theater – Lincoln, NE
May 17 – Breese Stevens Field – Madison, WI
May 18 – BMO Harris Pavilion – Milwaukee, WI
May 20 – Bluestem Center for the Arts – Moorhead, MN
May 21 – Bluestem Center for the Arts – Moorhead, MN
May 23 – Bayfront Festival Park – Duluth, MN
May 25 – Lauridsen Amphitheater – Des Moines, IA
May 26 – Ozarks Amphitheater – Camdenton, MO
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