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Willie’s Kids: New Generation of Country Music Embraces Marijuana

Because of Willie Nelson, the acceptance of cannabis among country music fans and artists will forever be connected to his decision to go public about smoking pot.

By Patrick Hall

When I hear the name Willie Nelson, I instantly think about big sticky buds. Willie and weed go together like Lone Star Beer and Texas.

As the story goes, back in the early ’70s, Nelson decided to kick his cigarette habit by smoking joints he hid in his Chesterfield pack. Because of his desire to knock nicotine and go public about smoking marijuana, Nelson’s name is now synonymous with the green leafy substance. Little did he know his decision would forever intertwine cannabis and country music, and eventually influence a new generation of singers to support the cannabis cause.

Willie Nelson might have popularized the country music trend of smoking pot, but his misfit friends Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings—who along with Nelson recorded three albums as The Highwaymen—were already publicly known for snorting, popping and drinking whatever they could get their hands on.

In 1979, Nelson cohort Hank Williams Jr. sang on the title track from his album Family Tradition, “If I get stoned and sing all night long, it’s a family tradition.” The song skyrocketed to No. 1 on the country charts, and the only son of Hank Williams continued to carry the torch through the ’80s and ’90s by including lyrics about marijuana and other drugs in his songs, such as “Stoned at the Jukebox,” “In the Arms of Cocaine,” “OD’d in Denver” and the cult classic “Dinosaur.” His son, Hank 3, is also maintaining the Williams family tradition by writing songs about his favorite seven-leaf plant, including “Whiskey, Weed, & Women,” “Smoke & Wine,” “Stoned & Alone” and “Marijuana Blues.”

Shooter Jennings has carried on his dad’s legacy, as well. In 2005, his first album, Put the O Back in Country, included the song “Busted in Baylor County,” a true tale of the singer getting arrested for pot in Texas.

In the late ’90s and early ’00s, the now-defunct Cross Canadian Ragweed band from Yukon, Oklahoma took the underground country music world by storm. The band was very public about their love of cannabis, and put marijuana leaves on various Ragweed products. From “Dimebag” on Garage to “Smoke Another” on Mission California, to their crowd favorite “Boys From Oklahoma” on Live and Loud at the Wormy Dog Saloon, CCR presaged the modern era of pot-smoking country stars.

In the 21st century, there have been more and more songs on country radio that mention weed, from conservative performers like Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown, Billy Currington and Florida Georgia Line to outlaws like Jamey Johnson—whose single “High Cost of Living” mentions smoking pot in a church parking lot. Chesney’s 2014 single “American Kids” finishes with “Blowing that smoke on Saturday night/A little messed up, but we’re all alright.” On Brown’s 2012 song “Toes,” he visits an island where people are “laying in the hot sun, and roll a big fat one.” Georgia-born Billy Currington teams up with Willie Nelson on “Hard to Be a Hippie” from 2013’s We Are Tonight. Most recently, Florida Georgia Line dropped the high tune “Sun Daze,” which features the lyrics, “All I wanna do today is wear my favorite shades and get stoned.”

It’s not just about the cowboy-hatted stoner dudes of country—many female performers are embracing the kind herb, too. Ashley Monroe talks of toking “out behind the red barn” on the Pistol Annies 2013 radio release “Hush Hush,” and sings about “Weed Instead of Roses” on her album Like a Rose. The song, cowritten by Vince Gill, speaks of a housewife who’s sick and tired of going unnoticed in the bedroom. Her solution? Spice things up with “weed instead of roses, and let’s see where it goes.” The song topped the country charts, just like Kacey Musgraves’ 2014 CMA Song of the Year, “Follow Your Arrow.” The first two choruses on the latter ask, “Roll up a joint, or don’t,” but by the final refrain, the 26-year-old Texan suggests, “Roll up a joint, I would.” Musgraves teamed up with fellow smoker and songwriter Brandy Clark to pen the lyrics.

Clark has a cannabis track of her own on her Grammy-nominated debut album, 12 Stories. Released last October, it includes “Get High,” a brassy ode to marijuana. The women portrayed in the song want “a couple of tokes” so their “troubles don’t seem all that tall.” The song also includes the lyrics, “Sometimes the only way to get by is to get high,” and “When the to-dos have all been done/She sits down at the kitchen table and rolls herself a fat one.”
Back on the male side, there’s Eric Church, a cross between Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. His last album, The Outsider, was one of just four country discs to go platinum in 2014, with sales topping a million. Church likes his Jack black and his herb green. On his 2010 tune “Smoke a Little Smoke,” the North Carolina native advises: “Drink a little drink, smoke a little smoke/Dig down deep, find my stash/Light it up, memory crash.”

Read the full article in Freedom Leaf Magazine digital edition here