Country music legend Willie Nelson walked off a California stage just after starting a Saturday show, then postponed or canceled several other upcoming dates, according to several outlets. According to the San Diego Union Tribune, Nelson had barely launched into his opener “Whiskey River” before leaving the stage, “coughing and apparently experiencing some difficulty breathing.”
Shortly after, Nelson cancelled a Monday night performance at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, California, according to the Desert Sun. His publicist informed the Union Tribune that Nelson, 84, had either “a bad cold or the flu” and was heading home to Texas to recuperate. Shows Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and a Sunday date at the Edgewater Hotel Casino in Laughlin, Nev. have also been cancelled.
Mitch Gershenfeld, president and CEO of the McCallum, told the Desert Sun that they are attempting to reschedule the performance, but a date has yet to be set. Fans have the option to hold their tickets pending a new date being determined, or have them refunded. Ticketholders for the other cancelled performances will be refunded at the point of purchase.
The next scheduled date for Nelson is February 7th in Georgia.
Nelson rose to fame in the 1970s as one of the key figures of the “outlaw country” scene and became a prominent voice in both the pro-agricultural world (FarmAid being the most prominent fixture associated with Nelson) as well as the marijuana legalization movement. He made his name as a “road dog,” often performing 100s of shows each year, as well as making his way into the film world, guesting in films like “Wag the Dog” and “The Dukes of Hazzard,” among others.
He has maintained an active touring schedule into his mid-80s, performing shows with friends and family members (two of his sons served as opening acts at his NYE show) as well as making frequent appearances at benefits – such as the September “Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas” benefit after the hurricane devastated parts of the Gulf coast. He performed as recently as New Years Eve in Austin, performing with his family.
This is not the first time Nelson has had to postpone performances due to illness in recent memory. The singer moved three dates in February of 2017 – also scheduled for California – due to another undisclosed illness.