Bobbie Nelson, Willie Nelson’s sister and the pianist in the original lineup of his Willie Nelson and Family Band, died this morning. “Her elegance, grace, beauty and talent made this world a better place,” a statement from the Nelson family reads. “She was the first member of Willie’s band, as his pianist and singer. Our hearts are broken and she will be deeply missed. But we are so lucky to have had her in our lives. Please keep her family in your thoughts and give them the privacy they need at this time.” She was 91.
Bobbie Nelson was raised in Abbot, Texas. She learned to play the piano as a child and started playing local honky-tonks with members of her family as a teenager. She worked odd jobs as a musician before her brother Willie invited her to join his band in 1972 shortly after he’d signed with Atlantic Records. She became a staple of his live shows and appeared on many of his classic albums including Red Headed Stranger, Shotgun Willie, Stardust, To Lefty From Willie, and more.
Her debut solo album Audiobiography was released in 2007. In the past two years, she and Willie released two books that they wrote together: the memoir Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of The Family Band in 2020 and their 2021 children’s book Sister, Brother, Family: An American Childhood in Music.