Image Credit: Suzanne Cordeiro/Shutterstock
Willie Nelson & Family looks back on the musician’s personal ups and downs. From extramarital affairs to alcoholism and more, Willie’s family members help him tell his story in the new docuseries. For a full recap of Willie’s biggest bombshells from the doc, keep reading.
Violent Marital Issues
At one point in the Paramount+ doc, Willie recalled his marriage to first wife Martha Matthews. The two married when he was 19 years old and she was just 16. While they fell madly in love at first, their relationship became volatile and physically violent, Willie pointed out.
“We had a lot of fun together, but we fought, and we both were drinking a lot in those days,” he explained. “One morning, we got in this argument, and she picked up this fork and threw it across the table, and it stuck in my side. It sounded like a tuning fork.”
After divorcing his first wife, Willie wed his second wife, Shirley Collie. However, the “Hello Walls” singer had an affair with Connie Koepke, who later became his third wife. During his marriage to Shirley, Connie became pregnant with her and Willie’s daughter, Paula Carlene, and Shirley only found out the bombshell news after the hospital sent her and Willie the bill from Paula’s birth.
“Shirley wanted to know who in the hell was Connie Nelson,” Willie noted. “The truth is Connie had been my girlfriend for several years before becoming pregnant.”
Willie’s daughter Lana elaborated that Shirley “had no idea there was a Connie” and “had no idea there was a baby until she got the hospital bill.” Lana then added, “That’s how she found out about Connie. That’s how I found out about Connie.”
In the 1990s, Willie found himself in huge debt to the IRS, owing $32 million. The government proceeded to seize his property and even shut down his studio. The financial trouble dated back to the 1970s when Willie’s former business manager, Neil Reshen, didn’t pay any taxes.
By the 1980s, the singer-songwriter owed several million dollars but sought an accountant, who apparently claimed that writing a check for $200,000 would eliminate the debt. After being advised to file for bankruptcy, Willie refused.
“I never intended and never will do a bankruptcy where the people I owe get screwed out of their money,” Willie pointed out. “It’s very important to think positive. More important probably is knowing that a negative thought will release poison into your system and will eventually kill you if you keep doing it.”
While he was still married to Martha in the 1960s, Willie’s heavy drinking became a huge problem — especially since the former pair had become parents to kids Lana, susie and Billy.
“She and I were fighting worse than ever, and I started drinking more than ever,” Willie admitted in the docuseries. “I would get drunk every night and go home with someone different every night. [I was] slowly self-destructing. I really didn’t care.”
Willie later admitted that he was suicidal upon falling deeper into his drinking habits.
“Back in my drinking days, I tried to commit suicide a couple of times,” he said. “One time, in the dead of winter, I was so down on myself, I laid down in the middle of the street hoping a car would run over me. No such luck. I had to get up off my ass and kept on trying to figure out how to make a living.”
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
View Related Gallery
Willie Nelson appears on NBC's "Today" show on in New York Ke$ha on Today Show, New York, USA – 20 Nov 2012
Willie Nelson arrives at the 46th Annual Country Music Awards at the Bridgestone Arena, in Nashville, Tenn Country Music Awards – Arrivals, Nashville, USA