Bobbie Nelson, older sister of Willie Nelson and the Texas musician’s piano player for more than 50 years, passed away at the age of 91 “peacefully and surrounded by family,” the family said in a release to news media.
The Austin American-Statesman newspaper reported the news and quoted the Nelson family statement.
“There’s just no way to explain how lucky I am to have a good musician in the family,” it reportedly said. “Whenever I needed a piano player, I’ve had sister Bobbie right there … Her elegance, grace, beauty, and talent made this world a better place. She was the first member of Willie’s band as his pianist and singer. Our hearts are broken and she will be deeply missed.”
Musicians offered tributes to Bobbie Nelson on their Twitter feeds.
Margo Price tweeted, “Nobody played piano like Bobbie Nelson and nobody ever will. She was the epitome of class, grace, and style and I’m sure gonna miss seeing her on stage next to @WillieNelon …”
Amanda Shires pinned a tweet that says, “Bobbie Nelson was one of the first women musicians that I ever saw on stage. She was the first example I had of a woman playing music while also having a family. I’m honored to have known her.”
Waylon Payne tweeted, “I will always remember you like this- what a smile. I will miss our visits on you(r) piano bench. And your kindness healed my heart.”
Bobbie first appeared on Willie Nelson’s debut album for Atlantic Records and 20th overall, 1972’s The Troublemaker, notable because the album marked Willie’s move from Nashville to Austin, Texas, and the beginning of his outlaw public persona. Bobbie’s last stage appearance with Willie and The Family Band was at Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels, Texas on October 9, 2021.
Bobbie’s first solo album didn’t come until 2008 when she released an album of piano instrumentals, Autobiography.
Bobbie is survived by Willie, her son, Freddy, and eight nieces and nephews.