Eight-foot-tall statue of Willie Nelson unveiled downtown
There was something in the air Friday afternoon as the "Red Headed Stranger" took the stage at the bottom of the steps to Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater downtown. Willie Nelson was standing next to an 8-foot-tall bronze likeness of himself unveiled just moments before.
"What time is it?" Nelson, 78, asked the crowd of hundreds that had gathered at the intersection of Second Street (also known as Willie Nelson Boulevard) and Lavaca Street.
Mayor Lee Leffingwell, City Manager Marc Ott and members of the Austin City Council sat in the front row.
It was just after 4:20 p.m. April 20 — a counterculture holiday closely tied to marijuana use. That was when the nonprofit Capital Area Statues Inc. decided to present its latest statue to the city, and the timing was lost on nobody.
"Who knew it would be on 4/20?" Austin-based journalist Lawrence Wright, who is also the president of Capital Area Statues, asked before the unveiling, insisting it was a "complete and utter coincidence."
The statue — near the home of Austin City Limits, the 1974 pilot that featured Nelson — is the third the group has given the city. Philosopher's Rock at Barton Springs and the Angelina Eberly statue at Sixth Street and Congress Avenue were also donated by the group.
Created by Philadelphia-based artist Clete Shields, the sculpture shows a smiling Nelson leaning over his guitar.
Shields recalled when, after three years of work and a dozen versions in clay, he met Nelson in the flesh.
" ‘I'll bet you're sick of me,' " Shields remembered Nelson saying.
Shields said he hoped to capture that humor and humility.
Nelson said he thought Shields did a "pretty darn good job."
Singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson also addressed the crowd.
"I think I'm dreaming," he said. "I was wondering if y'all were going to have somebody to keep the birds away."
To cap off the event, Nelson played two songs: "On the Road Again" and a new tune, "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die."
Contact Benjamin Wermund at 246-1150