Finally Meeting Willie Nelson (sort of)

 On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter –  September 18, 2020

by Columnist Tom Blake

Part One – Finally meeting Wille Nelson (sort of)

Some of you know that I worked with Johnny Cash for two years in the 1970s. One of Johnny’s best buddies was Willie Nelson. And while I met some of Johnny’s buddies, such as Carl Perkins (Blue Suede Shoes),” Larry Gatlin, John Denver, Roger Miller, and Glen Campbell, I never met Willie Nelson.

I promised myself that if I ever meet Willie, I would share with Willie how highly Johnny spoke of him. I’ve tried a few times at Willie’s concerts to meet him but haven’t been successful. Willie’s 87 now, so my chances of meeting him face-to-face, are slim to none, especially during the pandemic.

However, on September 25, I hope to meet “True Willie” at an unusual concert event. Who the heck is “True Willie?” His real name is Roger Hegyi. For years, Roger has fronted a band called “The True Willie Band.” They are considered the most authentic Willie Nelson tribute band in America. Roger’s role is Willie. He lives in nearby Laguna Niguel.

True Willie and the Boys are outstanding. They also perform “The Highwaymen” songs and Kris Kristofferson songs. Greta and I saw them perform four years ago at an outdoor concert at the historical Mission San Juan Capistrano. We were amazed how much Roger looks like and sounds like, the real Willie Nelson.

Link to True Willie website:

True Willie Band at Willie Nelson sculpture in Austin Texas 
                                                                   Photo courtesy True Willie

On Friday, September 25, the City of Irvine (California), in partnership with the Irvine Barclay Theatre, is hosting a drive-in format concert at the Orange County Great Park. That’s right, people watch a live concert from their cars, as they would watch a drive-in movie. For Champs living in Southern California, who would like to experience this unique event, tickets are on sale at

Tickets are $25 per car. Available tickets are limited. Greta and I bought our ticket on Tuesday.

Why do I think I might meet “True Willie” on that Friday night? Because my Stand Up Paddle Boarding pal, Russell Kerr, is a friend of Roger, aka True Willie. Russell says if I ease up and allow him to paddle faster than I paddle, for even just one day, he “might introduce me to True Willie.” And since I likely won’t meet the real Willie Nelson, Roger would be the perfect anecdote to my having the never-met-Willie-Nelson issue.

Tom’s note: (I’m only joking about paddling faster than Russell. We usually paddle at the same speed, but, when Russell wants to turn on the after-burners, he can leave me far behind in his wake.)

A drive-in “live” concert sounds like a fun option during this restricted time when most concerts are canceled. Greta and I will be packing a picnic lunch and heading for the Great Park. I’ll report on the concert and experience in early October.

Updated note from Tom: Greta and I did go to the concert last night. It was awesome. Details next week. And yes, I did meet True Willie, albeit briefly. I gave him an autographed copy of my book “Prime Rib & Boxcars. Whatever Happened to Victoria Station?” which features Johnny Cash and me on the cover.

                           Part 2 Positive news from Champ Ken

Champ Ken wrote, “Add to the challenges of dating during the pandemic, from your article last week, these thoughts: ‘Those of us who have actually HAD the Covid and now are still forced to meet all the rules. Mine was nine weeks ago, like a bad head cold for three days and a mild fever. Antibody test says I had it. I’m 62 and in good health with no other conditions, so I had no real issues.”

      Part 3 – Tom was taken to task for not following Covid guidelines

Champ Althea emailed, “I was shocked to see that picture of you standing next to Dave. You were not six feet apart and neither of you wore a mask. Why not? You don’t live with him, you met for lunch, you said you sat four-feet apart–should be six–and wore masks upon arriving and departing. So why not in the photo where you’re standing right next to each other?

“And about Champs ‘dating’ in this COVID-19 year. I ask, why do we need to date? Why do we need to meet strangers now? We can’t touch, hug, kiss, or even stand closer than six feet to a date, and we must meet with masks on, which, in itself is a turnoff.

“I say forget outside dating until 2021, and then see where things are with the virus. Being lonely for companionship is not worth the risk of getting sick or dying, especially for us Champs over 65.  

“If you’re lonely, then chat online, talk on the phone – that old-fashioned thing that used to work so well – talk to each other through Skype or on the other video chats, Facebook and even Zoom.

“Most online dating sites seem pointless because you have to pay money to be able to meet people (POF is free, but on that site, there are way too many scammers). Scammers are on all sites. Pay to only be able to chat online or through a video call? Why bother?” 

Tom’s response to Althea. You are right with your concerns. We took our masks off for the photo. And we dined outdoors. I don’t agree, however, with waiting to date until 2001. I do say, do it with extreme caution. 

Also, I think it was important to get my friend Dave out of the house and just chat. To have him stay at home after 23 years of caring for his wife, where he wasn’t able to make many new friends, could harm him almost as much as the virus. Social interaction for him is important. And social interaction is important for Greta and me, we haven’t been out much either. 

So, yes, we stretched the guidelines a bit. But, we were still careful. 

Another point, if Dave and I had been wearing masks during the picture, a plethora of women Champs would have said, “By Dave wearing a mask, how do we know what he looks like?” It was a no-win situation.

      Part 4 – Senior dating encounter & face-mask suggestion

Champ Linda emailed, “Thanks for a great truthful eNewsletter! I was introduced to a gentleman last week by a friend and we all wore masks. It was a brief encounter, at a grocery store, but hopefully, I’ll see him again. Maybe we’ll recognize each other by our voices.

“I wore a small straw hat with a band I had put on, so the hat should be one-of-a-kind. I could wear it whenever I go shopping there.

“Also, we could start a new fad by having masks made that look like us, or maybe Julia Roberts?

“Or, wear a name tag with our picture and first name? I hope you get other suggestions too.”

       Part 5 – Breadcrumb dating on the rise during the pandemic?

I received an email this week that stated, “Have you ever been on an amazing first date, just to have the person fall off the face of the earth only to reappear months later as if nothing had happened? That’s breadcrumbing. 

“The dating phenomena now referred to as ‘breadcrumbing,’ has spiked due to COVID-19, with more and more singles reporting they’re receiving messages from their on-and-off exes.

“Exes are going back to one another because they are unable to form new bonds due to the lockdown order. The problem here is that these individuals have unhealthy attachment styles and will disappear once they feel that the commitment is becoming too much, leaving the other person heartbroken and confused all over again,” a relationship expert, Tracy Crossley, who claims responsibility for coining the ‘breadcrumbing’ term, stated.

Tom’s comment: I’m uncertain how Ms. Crossley knows that ‘more and more singles’ are being breadcrumbed during the pandemic. It does make sense, however. How about you Champs? Have you been breadcrumed in the last six months? Have any former bread-crumbers (those dirty dogs) tried to enter your life? Let us know.

Author: Tom Blake

Tom Blake is a newspaper columnist in south Orange County, California. He has published five books. His primary topic is finding love after 50 and beyond, sometimes far beyond, for people 80 and older as well. He also blogs about travel at

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