Willie Nelson is one of the most iconic country musicians in the history of the genre, but he was just another promising young newcomer when he made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry on Nov. 28, 1964.

Nelson had already made a name for himself as a songwriter for other artists with cuts including Patsy Cline's "Crazy," Faron Young's "Hello Walls" and "Night Life" for Ray Price, and he'd already released some solo material as well by the time he made his Opry debut. Nelson signed a new deal with RCA in 1964 at the urging of Chet Atkins. The label head and producer took Nelson into the studio at RCA Studio B, where he recorded his first song for the new label, "Pretty Paper."

Nelson's debut on the hallowed stage of the Grand Ole Opry took place just two weeks later, and he became a regular performer on the Opry after his performance was well-received. Those early appearances were very different from the raucous live shows Nelson would eventually become known for, as he was still trying to fit into the Nashville establishment's idea of what a country star should look and sound like.

"He was stylish," Loretta Lynn recalls to Rolling Stone (quote via the Boot). "He was working in suits. His hair was cut every little bit, he had brass eyes, and his hair was the same color. He was really handsome!"

Nelson would grow more and more dissatisfied with the restrictive Music City machine over the next few years, and in 1972 he moved from Nashville to the more laid-back Austin, where he transitioned into the long-haired progenitor of the Outlaw Country movement that he came to dominate. The country legend has not performed on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in many years.

See Pictures of Willie Nelson Through the Years

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