My favorite Willie Nelson story is of the young harmonica player who wanted to be in Nelson’s band so much that he’d drive to shows just for the chance to sit in on stage.

Nelson liked the guy’s soulful sound and figured the leader of their struggling group had hired the harmonica player. After a few nights, he asked what the harp player was being paid. When the bandleader said, “Nothing,” Nelson declared, “Double his salary!”

The musician was Mickey Raphael, who’s been at Nelson’s side for nearly 35 years, as much a fixture in their live show as the Texas flag that unfurls each night — and the story tells a lot about the good-natured, carefree approach that has helped make the singer-songwriter a widely beloved figure. He turns 75 on April 29.

more from the LA Times here.