Willie Nelson Wrangler Jeans TV Commercial

Wrangler Jeans

Willie/Wrangler '85 TV spot

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Of all the syndicated and network radio series I produced, one of my favorites was "Lee Arnold on a Country Road." Lee had the distinction of bringing the country music format to New York City in the mid-'60s as the program director and top air personality at WJRZ, across the river in New Jersey. Later, as the mid-morning man at Manhattan's WHN, he ruled his time slot. In his decades in New York, Lee befriended every recording star in the business and, perhaps most notably, he championed Willie Nelson's recording career a solid decade before the rest of the world caught on. Consequently, Willie was always very loyal to Lee and whenever we needed him for a show, he was always there for us.

In 1985, Willie signed a tour sponsorship deal with Wrangler Jeans and as part of the promotion, Wrangler wanted a three-hour Willie Nelson radio special as part of their marketing campaign. God bless him, Willie tossed the production deal to Lee and I, and we traveled to Willie's home and studio just outside of Austin, Texas --along the Pedernales River-- to do the interview.

In one of those wonderful instances that just keeps mushrooming, Wrangler needed a quick, simple TV spot to complete the package of commercials they had produced for their ongoing campaign. Could we help? Of course, how tough could it be? And perhaps for the only time in history, it actually wasn't. Wrangler wanted something minimalist and inexpensive-- something trumpeting Willie's role as an American icon. And as you'll see, it doesn't get more blatant than this.

By the way, I'd love to tell you that we went buzzing around the Statue of Liberty's crown at night by helicopter, but this was some stock footage we licensed from a clearing house. The funny part of the story is that when the concert footage of Willie and his band was shot, we had him intentionally raise his arm and finger in the air to mimic Lady Liberty as we toggled back and forth between the two images. Willie never pulls that cliched, rock star kind of gesturing in concert. So, in protest, when he would make eye contact with us while that performance was being taped, he'd subtly replaced his forefinger with the one in the middle!

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