Click to return to Dave’s Music Database home page.

Released: July 26, 1975

Rating: 4.750 (average of 4 ratings)

Genre: country

Quotable: “the album could well be attributed to launching the outlaw country movement” – Josh Tyrangiel and Alan Light, Time Magazine

Album Tracks:

  1. Time of the Preacher
  2. I Couldn’t Believe It Was True
  3. Time of the Preacher (Theme)
  4. Medley: Blue Rock Montana/ Red Headed Stranger
  5. Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain
  6. Red Headed Stranger
  7. Time of the Preacher (Theme)
  8. Just As I Am
  9. Denver
  10. O’er the Waves
  11. Down Yonder
  12. Can I Sleep in Your Arms?
  13. Remember Me (When the Candlelights Are Gleaming)
  14. Hands on the Wheel
  15. Bandera

Total Running Time: 33:30


sales in U.S. only 2 million
sales in U.K. only - estimated --
sales in all of Europe as determined by IFPI – click here to go to their site. --
sales worldwide - estimated 2 million


peak on U.S. Billboard album chart 28
peak on U.K. album chart --

Singles/Hit Songs:

  • Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain (7/19/75) #21 US, #1 CW, #12 AC
  • Remember Me When the Candlelights Are Gleaming (1/3/76) #67 US, #2 CW

Notes: The 2000 CD reissue added “Bach Minuet in G,” “Can’t Help It if I’m Still in Love with You,” “A Maiden’s Prayer,” and “Bonaparte’s Retreat.”


Rated one of the top 1000 albums of all time by Dave’s Music Database. Click to learn more. One of Blender’s 100 Greatest American Albums One of Time Magazine’s All-TIME 100 Albums.

Red Headed Stranger
Willie Nelson
“In the early Seventies, Willie Nelson was a songwriter legend, with such classics as ‘Crazy’ and ‘Hello Walls’ behind him, but wasn't a major-league artist on his own. When his Nashville home burned down, he hightailed it back to Texas” (Tyrangiel/ Light) and “introduced a new sense of ambition and possibility to the genre” (Tyrangiel/ Light) by “remaking himself as a country music outlaw, as he and such kindred, independent spirits as Waylon Jennings became known” (Tyrangiel/ Light). “Nelson’s somber voice and lurching guitar and sister Bobbie’s exquisite piano shaped a dark and dense masterwork having nothing to do with Nashville” (Blender).

Red Headed Stranger is “a self-produced (heresy to the Nashville establishment) concept album” (Tyrangiel/ Light) that “perhaps is the strangest blockbuster country produced” (Erlewine). It is an “outlaw landmark – not a yee-ha! on it” (Blender). “Red Headed Stranger tells the story of a renegade “preacher on the run after murdering his departed wife and her new lover” (Erlewine). The story is “told entirely with brief song-poems and utterly minimal backing. It's defiantly anticommercial and it demands intense concentration – all reasons why nobody thought it would be a hit, a story related in Chet Flippo's liner notes to the 2000 reissue” (Erlewine).

“It was a phenomenal blockbuster, though” (Erlewine); “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain was a Number One [country] single” (Tyrangiel/ Light). The success of the album helped in “establishing Nelson as a superstar recording artist in its own right” (Erlewine).

“For all its success, it still remains a prickly, difficult album, though, making the interspersed concept of Phases and Stages sound shiny in comparison. It’s difficult because it’s old-fashioned, sounding like a tale told around a cowboy campfire. Now, this all reads well on paper, and there’s much to admire in Nelson’s intimate gamble, but it’s really elusive, as the themes get a little muddled and the tunes themselves are a bit bare. It’s undoubtedly distinctive – and it sounds more distinctive with each passing year – but it’s strictly an intellectual triumph and, after a pair of albums that were musically and intellectually sound, it’s a bit of a letdown, no matter how successful it was” (Erlewine).

Regardless, the album could well be attributed to launching the outlaw country movement – “when Stranger was followed up with the breakthrough collection Wanted! The Outlaws (with Jennings, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser), country music had entered a new era – and Willie Nelson was an international superstar” (Tyrangiel/ Light).

Review Source(s):
  • Blender Magazine’s 100 Greatest American Albums (10/08)
  • Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide
  • Josh Tyrangiel and Alan Light, Time Magazine’s “All-TIME 100 Albums” (11/13/06)

Last updated November 2, 2008.