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Baylor University Cancels Willie Nelson Concert - Interview with Eugene Baker (1988)

Jim Ruddy

Sound | 1988

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  •  Ruddy attempts to get specifics from Baker on what influenced the administration’s decision to cancel the concert 
  •  Ruddy addresses the reaction of the public to the university refusing Nelson’s charitable efforts 
  •  “Nelson has not availed himself of opportunities to be a positive influence, in our estimation, on the public . . .” 
  •  Ruddy asks how Nelson could be a positive influence 
  •  Baker discusses Nelson’s relationship with Baylor 
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In this footage, Eugene Baker, then a spokesperson for Baylor University and Executive Assistant to University President Herbert H. Reynolds, defends Baylor’s decision to cancel a Willie Nelson concert. Originally scheduled to be held at the Ferrell Center on the Baylor campus, the concert was to benefit the residents of Leroy, Texas, a small town near Waco that suffered a severe setback when its local bank failed in 1987 and the majority of its residents lost all of their savings. Although Baker remains fairly ambiguous about Baylor’s reasons for canceling the concert in this interview with Dallas-based reporter Jim Ruddy, President Reynolds cited elsewhere his “concern for the health and well-being of the American people,” believing that Nelson, a native of Abbot, Texas and a former Baylor student, had not done what he could to “strengthen the moral fiber of our nation.” Eventually, the concert was moved to the Heart O’ Texas Coliseum in Waco.
Willie Nelson was born in Abbot, Texas on April 29, 1933.  He is a world renowned country music singer and musician, as well as an actor, activist, and author.   His most famous country albums include Shotgun Willie (1973), Red Headed Stranger (1975) and Stardust (1978).  Nelson popularized the “outlaw country” subgenre along with Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings, and has written some of the most famous country music songs recorded, including Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” which he wrote at the ripe age of 19, “On the Road Again,” and “Pancho and Lefty.”  His primary musical collaboration is with Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Waylon Jennings, performing as the Highwaymen, among many others.  Nelson was named the honorary chairman of the advisory board of the official music charity of the state of Texas, the Texas Music Project, for his philanthropic work in and outside the music community.  He was also inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993 and received a 1998 Kennedy Center Honor. 
Nelson has also advocated for marijuana legalization, biodiesel alternative fuel, and is a supporter of democratic campaigns, such as Dennis Kuchinich’s 2004 run.  He also founded the annual fundraiser Farm Aid, which benefits the local, American, small farmer, and has featured multitudes of musicians of different genres.