Willie Nelson Lived In the Apartment Above Another Grammy-Winning Artist

Willie Nelson has been a music icon for decades. The Grammy-winning singer and songwriter has worked with some of the best in the business throughout his career — and in some cases, lived in close quarters with them.

Actor/singer-songwriter Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson | Rick Kern/Getty Images for Shock Ink

Willie Nelson lived in the same building as Booker T. Jones

Willie Nelson first rose to prominence in the 1960s and early 1970s. He often sang at the Grand Ole Opry, where he met one of his longtime friends, fellow singer Waylon Jennings. Eventually, he (and Jennings) grew frustrated of traditional Nashville music and began creating “outlaw country” music.

In the late 1970s, Nelson was spending some time in California when he crossed paths with another prominent musician: Booker T. Jones of Booker T. and the M.G.’s. Jones reflected on the time in the 2021 Netflix docuseries This Is Pop.

“I had rented an apartment on the beach in Malibu and had just moved in,” he remembered. “I saw a guy running down the beach who, to me, looked like Willie Nelson. He looked up at me and waved and I said, ‘Oh my God, that is Willie Nelson!'”

Jones then learned that Nelson was living in the apartment underneath him. They quickly became friends — and soon enough, collaborators.

Musician Willie Nelson performs during the Georgetown to Austin March for Democracy rally
Willie Nelson | Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Willie Nelson and Booker T. Jones played music together in their apartment building

Jones looked back fondly on the nights he and Nelson spent playing music outside their respective apartments.

“We ended up jamming at night, just the two of us, on our decks, on different songs we played as boys,” he recalled. “‘Stardust’ [by Hoagy Carmichael] and ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street’ [by Jimmy McHugh] [and] ‘Blue Skies’ [by Irving Berlin] and Willie suggested, ‘Why don’t we go in the studio and record these songs rather than sitting out here on the deck?'”

They got to work, and recorded Nelson’s album Stardust in late 1977, with Jones serving as producer of the album.

Singer-songwriter Willie Nelson performs
Willie Nelson | Rick Kern/WireImage for Shock Ink

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Willie Nelson and Booker T. Jones recorded ‘Stardust’ together

Nelson’s decision to record an album of covers of popular songs was an uncommon one at the time for country music stars, especially since he was already popular for his country and rock sounds. He — along with three of his good friends — even created country music’s first platinum record, 1976’s Wanted! The Outlaws.

“Willie had made a nice little reputation for himself there in Nashville with his friends [Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser] and they were The Outlaws, so when we came in with a record that was pop music standards, the concept was just not something that seemed plausible at all,” Jones admitted.

Jones believed that, more than anything, Nelson was following his heart and his musical instinct. “I think he just didn’t care what the genre was. If it felt good to him, he wanted to do it. But it was just not something that was done in those days in Nashville. It just wasn’t traditional.”