When Willie Nelson Smoked a Joint at Jimmy Carter’s White House

Willie Prefers an "Austin Torpedo"

Willie Prefers an "Austin Torpedo"

President CarterOn This Date In History: It’s just an odd coincidence that former presidential press secretary Jody Powell died a year ago today some 33 years after a rather interesting footnote to history that revolves around his old boss. Remember during the 1976 Presidential election how Jimmy Carter used his stellar integrity as a campaign club? Remember the famous “adultery in my heart” comment to Playboy magazine and the focus on his Southern Baptist upbringing? President Carter was extremely bright. He served honorably in the United States Navy as a Lieutenant directly under the command of Admiral Hyman Rickover aka the “father of the nuclear navy”. President Carter was known as a peanut farmer in campaign literature but the truth is he was a nuclear engineer of great ability. He and President Herbert Hoover are the only academically trained engineers to serve as President…you can draw your own conclusions. Anyway, all of this makes what happened in the middle of September 1980 all that more remarkable.

On this date in 1980, the old Red Headed Stranger was probably feeling pretty good about himself.  On the night of  September 13, 1980 President Carter hosted a concert by none other than Willie Nelson at the White House. Willie Nelson of “Whiskey River” and “Outlaw” fame. Willie Nelson on his 3rd marriage at the time. Later Nelson went on to run up an interesting rap sheet of marijuana arrests and was convicted of failure to pay his income taxes. Not one to be kept down, Willie made a new record called The IRS Tapes: Will You Buy My Dreams? A lot of people did because Willie paid back the hundreds of thousands, if not millions(I can’t remember how much it was) in back taxes.

Willie Nelson

But, I suppose to forgive is Divine, especially if you are forgiving a country music star with some good tunes. Seems President Carter liked to listen to Nelson’s music while pondering policy and other items associated with the pressures of being President. Carter told Rolling Stone magazine, “All the good things I did as president, all the mistakes I made — you can blame half of that on Willie.” Nelson, who was a public supporter of NORMAL (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws) exercised his protest right, I suppose, by lighting up what he called “a big fat Austin torpedo” while on the White House roof.   That would be a giant joint for all of you lacking in the hip verbiage of the day. According to a recent biography, Nelson has been smokin’ weed since he was 10.   Most likely, Willie did the tokin’ just prior to or after midnight which means that on this date in 1980, like in Luckenbach, Texas he was feelin’ no pain.  Carter said he never knew about it but Nelson claims the Secret Service kept a sharp eye on him while he sparked up on the Carter White House roof. Nelson has traced his lineage to the American Revolution. Perhaps he was doing his version of the Boston Tea Party as he toked away on top of the Presidential residence. As it turns out, apparently Willie wasn’t the only entertainer to spark up at the White House. Here is a list of 5 who make the claim to smoking doobs at the Executive Mansion.

Weather Bottom Line:  Through Wednesday we will be similar to what we had on Monday which is a high lurking around 90 and overnight low around 60.  Front on Thursday will try to make some rain but it better bring its own moisture because we are so dry that it won’t have much to work with. 

5 Responses

  1. What? Hurricane Ike’s anniversary gets bumped by Willie? Actually, it seems just fine to me – I didn’t post a thing about it either, and these stories are pretty entertaining. Do you suppose Mr. Carter secretly envied that old guitar-playing reprobate?

    I’ve always liked Willie, actually, and got to see him once in Luckenbach, long ago. Yes, Waylon was there, too – and the boys 😉 I sure was sorry when he cut that braid recently – it was like marking the end of an era.

  2. I used to see him up close and personal around Austin all the time. He always had a silly grin and a blank stare in his eyes. I saw him in Louisville a few years ago…he broke into “Whiskey River” about 5 times. “Old Goat” seems like a good description. You may be right about Jimmy. What a dynamic duo.

  3. We got a couple of re-runs but that’s OK. You’re a busy man these days, I suppose. I can just see ‘ol Willie bragging to his stoner buds about lighting up a doobie on the roof of the White House. Pretty disgraceful but I guess it was pretty much in keeping with the entire Carter presidency. I used to think Carter was an alright guy but a lousy president. Lately, he seems to have closed that gap though. His comment about the opposition to Obama’s policies being racially motivated was the last straw. I have lost what little respect that I had for President Carter. I guess Willie’s White House toke is just the icing on the cake.

  4. “The I.R.S. Tapes–Who’ll Buy My Memories?” is the correct album title. Willie and Jimmy did their famous toke on the roof of the White House in 1979, not 1980…your history is faulty! What you been smoking, pal? And by the way let’s not forget that Willie Nelson was also Ronald Reagan’s favorite singer. Rumor is, Willie toked up with the “respectable” Nancy Reagan! HA!

  5. While you are correct that I messed up the name of the album, I think you are in error regarding the date. I did a quick check and History.com has my date in 1980. Less reliable is Wikipedia which also cites 1980. Either way, the date is not relevant to the story.

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