Willie Nelson’s guitar, Trigger, is possibly more famous than the Red Headed Stranger himself. Don’t believe me? Check this out from RollingStone.com: “Before Willie Nelson hits the stage every night, there’s a commotion in the audience when his longtime guitar tech, Tunin’ Tom Hawkins, brings out the country legend’s famous guitar, Trigger, placing it at the center of the stage. “The whole front row will come up photographing for several minutes before the show starts,” says Hawkins. That’s the power of Trigger.”
The article goes on to tell the story of how Trigger, a beat-up, autograph-covered Martin N-20 acoustic, and Willie came together. Nelson discovered Trigger at a crossroads in his career. By 1969, he had spent nearly a decade trying to become a clean-cut solo success in Nashville. After a drunk destroyed his Guild acoustic, he decided to look for a new guitar with a sound similar to his gypsy-jazz hero Django Reinhardt (“I think he was the best guitar player ever,” Nelson says). His buddy Shot Jackson suggested the Martin classical “gut-string” guitar; Nelson bought it sight-unseen and gave it a name. “I named my guitar Trigger because it’s kind of my horse,” he explains. “Roy Rogers had a horse called Trigger.”
There was a documentary out last February called “Mastering the Craft,” a series by Rolling Stone Films and presented by Patrón, MaggieVision Productions, where director David Chamberlin interview Nelson, his band and crew. They also interview friends Jerry Jeff Walker, music journalist Joe Nick Patoski and fans like Woody Harrelson, who provides the documentary’s voiceover — to tell the story of how this instrument helped change music history. In the movie, Patoski says, “My God! How do they keep that thing together?! I mean, it shouldn’t be playable.” Willie’s response? “I don’t want to put a guard over it,” he smiles. “I need a place to put my fingers.”
Gotta love Willie!