“He’s a hero to all of us,” Lambert told PEOPLE as he entered the photo booth from Willie Nelson.
“There’s only one time that Willie Nelson turns 90, and you can’t have a discussion about country music that doesn’t include Willie Nelson, you can’t really tell the whole story about American music as a whole without Willie Nelson,” Crockett told PEOPLE. That’s why it’s a cultural event,” he said.
“The great thing about Willie is that he loves playing with people and that’s the most fun thing to do,” Jones told PEOPLE. “I always love to see him and it’s always special to be on stage, but he’s sweet and kind and funny and a good person.”
“I had some very good, intimate moments with Willie,” Johnson told PEOPLE. “When I have the opportunity to sit and talk to him on the bus or in a room, I love being able to hear his stories and just share memories. And I feel so lucky to have these moments.”
“From blushing on the bus to driving home to Hawaii for Thanksgiving to sitting around the table and playing jokes,” says Margo Price of her favorite Willie Nelson memories. “I’m so happy that he’s in my life and recorded my songs, and it’s just a dream.”
Johnny Knoxville and Tony Sizemore (aka Willie’s Driver)
“The first time I saw Willie, he came to Las Vegas to do a show, and Elvis was still there back then. Sinatra, we’ve all been there and it was pretty flashy. You go on stage, you wear a suit. It’s kind of like I am right now,” Jones recalled to PEOPLE. “But Willie came in there looking just like he does now with his hat and hair and guitar and I thought that was great. He didn’t try to change it or make it shine in any way. He was just that. He’s real.”
“I played the 60th birthday special, 70th, 85th and now 90th birthday,” Lovett told PEOPLE. “Whenever I work with him, he is such a generous person and performer. Willie shines a light on all the people in his group, in his family. Willie makes his life shine on everyone and he is so generous in spirit.”
“I never thought I’d be on his radar,” Rateliff told PEOPLE. “Even my mom and my family say, ‘I can’t believe you’re singing with Willie.’ And that’s how it always felt for me.”