In 1971, Willie Nelson released the concept album Yesterday's Wine. Although a very fine album, it was too unconventional and eccentric to be accepted by mainstream Nashville. Frustrated by the album's lukewarm reception and a general lack of direction in his career, Willie quit the music business and headed home to Texas. Fortunately, the retirement was only temporary and within a year Willie was back in the recording studio, ready for another go with a newly formed band, The Family. The ensuing album, Shotgun Willie, is among the best of Nelson's career. Having switched from RCA to Atlantic, he was given greater artistic freedom, and this album represents the "birth" of Willie Nelson as most people know him. It's among the first outlaw country records ever recorded.
The unmistakable funk vibe of the opening title track leaves no doubt that a new Willie has emerged. Backed by nontraditional country instruments like a horn and trumpet, the lyrics feature Willie humorously opining on the state of his career and seem to include a bizarre but interesting reference to the Ku Klux Klan buying sheets in bulk. Elsewhere, the wildly entertaining travelogue "Devil in a Sleeping Bag" has Willie relating several anecdotes from his life on the road as a touring musician, including the whole band catching pneumonia, the tour bus beginning to fall apart, and Willie (jokingly) becoming infatuated with Rita Coolidge after seeing her and her husband Kris Kristofferson perform at the Philharmonic Hall.