Robert Earl Keen’s Car Caught Fire at Willie’s Fourth of July Picnic

Singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen is a giant of the Americana music genre, a member of the generation of Texas songwriters—see Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, Nanci Griffith—that followed in the wake of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. He’s also been an ardent student of Willie’s ever since he first picked up a guitar in high school, and his considered essay “Willie Nelson, Songwriter” was one of the centerpieces of the all-Willie special issue that Texas Monthly published last summer.



On this episode of One by Willie, Keen examines “Mr. Record Man,” a song he first heard in the late sixties as a preteen Houston kid who’d just raided his older brother’s record collection. It’s another deep cut off Willie’s 1962 debut album, and it makes Keen think of a dance-floor mishap at the first Willie show he ever attended, the time his car caught fire in the parking lot at Willie’s Fourth of July Picnic, and that uncanny, everyman quality that is such a big part of Willie’s appeal.

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