By People Staff
March 10, 2003 12:00 PM

Willie Nelson (Sugar Hill)

Long before Willie Nelson became country’s grand ol’ hippie, he was just a songwriter who used demos to pitch his tunes to vocalists. The centerpiece of this compilation of recordings made in the early ’60s is “Crazy,” the Nelson composition that became Patsy Cline’s signature song and one of the greatest American pop tunes. Among the 18 cuts—some of which include masterful studio musicians on accompaniment—are such lesser-known Nelson gems as “Permanent Lonely,” “I Gotta Get Drunk” and “What Do You Think of Her Now.” Eight tracks feature just Nelson himself singing and playing acoustic guitar, revealing a brilliant raw talent in the rough.

BOTTOM LINE: Dandy demos