Willie Nelson Statue Unveiled at 4:20 on 4/20, Also Pot


Cindy Casares Portrait

I just got back from the dedication of a statue of Willie Nelson from non-profit Capital Area Statues to the City of Austin. The Theme was “4/20.” For the uninitiated, the numbers four and 20 when put together are, for reasons known only to Cheech & Chong, a reference to marijuana smoking. When people say, “It’s 4:20,” they mean it’s time to smoke pot. April 20, or “4/20,” is unofficial Marijuana Appreciation Day. So, Willie Nelson being the cannabis aficionado that he is, the city of Austin chose to unveil his statue on April 20 at 4:20. We get it Austin. You’re so weird.

The crowd of about 100 people gathered to watch the unveiling, on Willie Nelson Boulevard, a patch of road on 2nd Street in downtown Austin, was jubilant. And they were probably mostly high.

Though I am not a pot person, I must confess that I have been known to call Willie Nelson my fantasy grandpa as well as my spiritual guru. I have several of Willie’s books on philosophy and dirty jokes on a shelf at home and have seen him perform at baseball fields and arenas alike across this great land. So I, though not high, was jubilant, too.

After all, there was a baldheaded baby in the crowd wearing red pigtails and a bandana.

Kris Kristofferson showed up, too, seeming a little out of it. We may have disturbed his nap.

Suddenly an odor came wafting through the air, where I was standing mere feet from the Austin Police Department. I looked at my phone. Exactly 4:20 on the dot. For potheads, these guys were pretty on the ball.

Of course, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell was on the stage at 4:20 and the statue was not, as had been promised, being unveiled. The crowd became restless. “Willie! Willie! Willie!” they chanted. I felt sorry for the mayor, but he didn’t seem to notice. He didn’t get off the stage until 4:21. Magic time be damned.

Several famous people I didn’t recognize got up on stage and pulled off the tarp. There it was. I managed to snap a photo of Willie first laying eyes on it. He went straight to Trigger. The guitar. What a musician’s musician.

The eight-foot-tall, one-ton bronze cast, created by sculptor Clete Shields of Philadelphia captured Willie’s depth of spirit. And the depth in Trigger’s trademark hole. I’m glad we’ll have it long after (bite my tongue) Willie is gone.

“Anybody know what time it is?” Willie playfully asked the crowd. Cheers from the potheads.

Sorry, Willie. At this point, it’s like 4:25. Not too late for you to play a song, though.

Which he did. “On the Road Again” with harmonica player Mickey Raphael and his son (I think) on back up. Then he dedicated one to the crowd, “Roll Me Up & Smoke Me When I Die.” I will leave that to the hardcores. I will more likely just visit the statue.