Decades into career, Nelson still busy

References to the outlaw, activist and red-headed stranger Willie Nelson almost always insist that his career peaked in the '70s.

Technically true, perhaps, but the Texas-born country singer-songwriter, author, poet, actor and activist has never slowed down.

And not even an arrest last November for marijuana possession is keeping him from returning to Wichita next week for a concert at the Cotillion.

Nelson will perform Thursday with his six-member band and opening act Corey Crowder.

Here's a look at Nelson and his storied career:

1 The iconic writer and performer tours year-round with his guitar, Trigger, a beat up Martin acoustic. His 50-plus years of hits include "Whiskey River," "Good-Hearted Woman," "Georgia on My Mind," "On the Road Again," "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys," "Always On My Mind" and many more.

2 Nelson has recorded more than 100 albums (including his most recent, 2010's "Country Music"), performed in nearly three dozen movies, written four books and won almost very award thinkable, including his most recent Grammy, for 2008's "Lost Highway" with Ray Price.

3 He's performed with top-tier artists such as Ray Charles, Wynton Marsalis, Dave Matthews, Norah Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Toby Keith, Carole King, Lee Ann Womack, Lucinda Williams, Al Green, Kid Rock, Keith Richards, Rickie Lee Jones, Shelby Lynne, Emmylou Harris and Sheryl Crow.

4 Nelson has been hailed for his work as an activist, including for his Farm Aid concerts, agricultural initiatives, saving wild horses, promotion of alternative fuels and support of world peace.

5 His drug charge in November wasn't his first. In 2006 he was arrested with 1 1/2 pounds of marijuana and three ounces of hallucinogenic mushrooms. He was later given six months' probation. The most recent charge is a misdemeanor violation.

6 Nelson is known for opening his concerts with "Whiskey River," and he's done so on his most recent performances across the country. Wearing a red bandanna and occasionally tossing it into the crowd (and replacing it with another), he sings a stream of hits with very few comments in between songs.

7 Nelson began his music career in the mid-1950s in his native Texas performing in local clubs. He moved to Nashville and in 1961 two songs he wrote —"Hello Walls" recorded by Faron Young and "Crazy" recorded by Patsy Cline — became country classics.

8 Nelson hasn't limited himself to country music. "Stardust," a collection of pop standards, topped the charts in 1978.

9 Now 77, the rebel tussled with the IRS in the early '90s when it was revealed he owed millions of dollars in back taxes. His solution was to release a double album called "The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories?" with all profits going to the IRS.

10 Nelson's schedule is as busy as ever. In May, he's slated to perform at the 2011 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and on May 27 he will launch Willie Nelson's Country Throwdown Tour, starting in Philadelphia and touring the country through July 4. The tour will feature Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser, Lee Brice, and other artists.

If you go

willie nelson

Where: Cotillion, 11120 W. Kellogg

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

How much: Tickets $44-$51, available at Select-A-Seat outlets and the Cotillion. Credit card orders, 316-722-4201 or www.thecotillion.com.