Willie Nelson Was Caught Flat-Footed by Hospital Bill That Later Destroyed His 2nd Marriage

Willie Nelson is one of the world’s most accomplished musicians. He is known for his outlaw country songs with hit singles like “Crazy” and “On the Road Again.”

Though an accomplished musician, he has never admitted to being the perfect husband. A year after he and his first wife split, the country legend married another country singer, Shirley Collie, in 1963.

However, their marriage quickly turned sour when Collie discovered a bill from the hospital that changed everything. This revelation drove the couple apart, and their divorce was finalized in 1971.

Willie Nelson speaking on Jimmy Fallon show (left), Willie Nelson performing with Shirley Collie on December 13, 1962, in Arizona (right) | Photo: Youtube.com/The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Getty Images

Besides being a musician, Nelson is also an author and an actor. There is no genre of music he has not explored since the beginning of his successful career in the 1960s.

There is always an element of originality present in his music. Over the past decades, his music has become one of the most iconic American pop icons.

Born Willie Hugh Nelson in 1933, Nelson developed his passion for music at a young age. His grandparents, who had a musical background, encouraged him and his sister to play and learn.

He got his first guitar at six and started writing poetry and early musical compositions not too long after. At ten, he had his first professional gig with a local polka band.

In 1947, he joined the gospel group Bud Fletcher and the Texans, and they played locally for years. After graduating from high school in 1950, he joined the United States Air Force but was medically discharged nine months later.

His next steps found him at Baylor University, where he enrolled in a farming program but never gave up his love for music. He pursued his passion by working as a disc jockey on radio stations.

For the next few years, Nelson continued playing local gigs while improving on his songwriting. In 1960 his life finally turned when he moved to Nashville and signed his first contract with Pamper Music as a songwriter.

In 1962, his single “Touch Me” reached the country Top 10, but his debut and second albums did not make the chart. In 1970, after his house got burnt, and he returned to Texas.

Once he had settled down, he became an important part of the city’s country music scene. In 1973, he began hosting his now-legendary Fourth of July picnics.

In 1975, to honor his contributions, the Texas State Senate declared July 4 as Willie Nelson Day. In the same year, he had his first real taste of success when his album “Red Headed Stranger” topped the country charts and made it to Pop Top 40.

The album, which had a cover of Fred Rose’s 1945 song “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” earned him his first No. 1 country hit and his first Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance.

In 1978, he teamed with Waylon Jennings and won another Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance By a Duo or Group with the single “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”

His “Stardust” album in 1978, which observers had predicted would fail, went platinum the same year and lingered on the country charts for a decade.

In 1979, he went into movies and made his first appearance in “The Electric Horseman.” In 1980, he starred in the movie “Honeysuckle Rose,” which featured “On the Road Again.”

The song earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song and won another Grammy Award for Best Country Song.

Portrait of Willie Nelson circa 1987 | Photo: Getty Images

Never giving up his passion for farming and animal activism, in 1985, he organized the first Farm Aid concert. He executed the event with the help of fellow rockers Neil Young and John Mellencamp.

Even as he grew older, he never stopped collaborating with artists to prove his versatility. In 2008, he collaborated with Snoop Dogg, and in 2016 with Cyndi Lauper.

Not resting on his laurels, he won another Grammy for Best Country Solo Performance for his 2019 album “Ride Me Back Home.” The country legend will release another album, “The Willie Nelson Family,” with his family on November 19, 2021.

After his first marriage ended in 1962, Nelson found love with the Actress turned Country Singer Shirley Collie. They sang, recorded, and traveled together.

The couple had met in 1962 when they recorded a duet, “Willingly” together. The track took Nelson to the Billboard Charts for the first time, and by 1963, the couple was married.

However, their marriage would not last as Collie discovered a hospital bill that proved that Nelson was cheating on her. The bill was from the maternity ward for the birth of a baby girl.

Willie Nelson and Shirley Collie perform the song “Willingly” onstage in 1961 | Photo: Getty Images

After receiving the bill, she confronted him over it, and he tried to play it off as if it was no big deal. He initially lied by saying that he had needed to go to the hospital in Houston for something minor.

She pointed out that the bill’s details were for the birth of Paula Carlene to Mrs. Connie Nelson and demanded to know who the woman was.

Portrait of Willie Nelson circa 1967 | Photo: Getty Images

He finally confessed because he had been caught and couldn’t lie at this point. He said:

“Was caught flatfooted. Had to get the words out of my mouth. ‘Connie’s my girlfriend, and Paula’s our daughter.'” 

After his confession, they tried to make things work, but their relationship was beyond repair. One day, in 1969, Collie packed her things and left.

Paula Nelson at the Hard Rock International’s Wille Nelson Artist Spotlight Benefit Concert on June 6, 2013, in New York | Photo: Getty Images


After Collie left, Connie Koepke, Nelson’s young girlfriend, moved in with him. Once his divorce from Collie was finalized in 1971, he and Koepke got married.

His daughter with Koepke, grew up going on tours with him. At 16, she started using drugs, went to rehab, and eventually became a counselor. Like her father, Carlene has also released plenty of music.

Besides singing, she’s also a DJ and hosts shows on Sirius XM and Sun Radio. She holds a black belt in Taekwondo, is interested in car racing, and has been a stunt driver for “Friday Night Lights.”

Willie Nelson and Annie D’Angelo at the Hard Rock International’s Wille Nelson Artist Spotlight Benefit Concert on June 6, 2013, in New York | Photo: Getty Image

His marriage to Koepkpe did not last as the couple got divorced in 1988. He didn’t remarry until 1991, when he tied the knot with his current and fourth wife, Annie D’Angelo.

The couple met while D’Angelo worked as a makeup artist in one of his films in 1986. Nelson believes she’s the real deal as she has been with him through thick and thin.

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