How Willie Nelson's Daughter Rescued His Famous Guitar From The IRS

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How Willie Nelson's Daughter Rescued His Famous Guitar From The IRS


With 12 Grammy awards and legions of devoted fans around the world, it's hard to name a country star bigger than Willie Nelson.

The singer-songwriter who gave us classics like "Red Headed Stranger" and "Always On My Mind" is still impressing crowds at 84, but the country legend's career nearly ended for good in 1990.

That was the year Nelson's famous guitar, Trigger, was almost taken away from him.

Nelson and his guitar, Trigger.Sonic Vista Studios

Nelson has been performing with his iconic Martin acoustic guitar since 1969. The singer named the famous instrument after cowboy Roy Rogers's horse, and credits the guitar with creating his iconic sound.

Nelson once even ran into a burning building to pull out his beloved guitar. So when the IRS came knocking on his door in 1990, the musician went to extreme lengths to protect his instrument.

The tax agency had put a $16 million lien on Nelson's property over unpaid taxes, and was preparing to auction off his property to the highest bidder.

The IRS auction of Nelson's property.Texas Monthly

Nelson blamed his accountants for the tax mix-up, but even after the IRS negotiated his bill down to $6 million, it was still too high for him to pay.

The singer vowed that he would give up on show business if his guitar was auctioned, saying, "When Trigger goes, I'll quit."

Thankfully, Nelson's daughter Lana stepped in to rescue the guitar.

As IRS agents were just beginning to seize Nelson's property, the singer placed a call to his daughter, asking her to grab Trigger from his home.

Nelson's daughter Lana, and his granddaughter Rachel.StillsStillMoving

Lana, Nelson's oldest daughter, managed to sneak Trigger out of the musician's Texas home and shipped it to Hawaii in disguise. There, the instrument was kept at Nelson's manager's house like a fugitive, until the singer's tax problems were sorted out.

Nelson wound up losing just about everything he owned, as his properties, recording studio, and even his gold and platinum records were auctioned to the highest bidder.

Watch Nelson make light of his tax troubles in this 2003 commercial:

Even Nelson's Texas ranch was sold, but thankfully a grateful fan was the new owner. He gave the home right back to Nelson, to thank the singer for supporting the Farm Aid charity.

Despite losing almost everything, keeping Trigger helped Nelson stay upbeat during the personal crisis. "As long as I got my guitar, I'll be fine," he said at the time.

Nelson released a special album to pay back the IRS.Wikimedia

To pay back his tax bill, Nelson eventually released an album called The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories, and shared the profits with the tax agency.

What a wild story! I'm just glad Nelson kept his guitar!

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