Few Americans are as beloved as country singer, songwriter, icon and marijuana enthusiast Willie Nelson. We know a lot about Nelson -- with more than 200 albums and five decades in the music industry, you tend to leave a trail of stories and accolades behind you. But Willie Nelson's 80th birthday is as good a time as any to learn a few lesser-known things about the man who shows no sign of slowing down in his ninth decade.
1. He has a black belt in kung fu.
While it's hard for us to image Nelson harshing anyone's mellow with a kung fu chop, it's true. Willie Nelson was an avid athlete growing up -- competing in his school's track, football and baseball team -- and discovering kung fu and taekwondo when he lived in Nashville. At 78 Nelson became a second degree black belt in kung fu. "I think it's very important to learn from your own body," he told the Telegraph. "It doesn't lie to you. If it feels good, do it. If it don't feel good, don't do it."
2. He has a temper.
It's part of the reason why Nelson enjoys smoking pot, he explained to the New York Times in 2012. "You’ve heard that people with red hair have high tempers? It’s true in this case," Nelson said. "My temper has always been something I’ve had to guard against. To smoke a little pot, it might be a little easier to control."
3. He raised pigs.
Hogs, to be exact. In his 2012 memoir "Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die," Nelson wrote of his time raising hogs in Tennessee to support himself during a year-long break to focus on songwriting. It's no great loss to the hog farming world that Nelson moved on to become the country music icon that he is today: he wasn't particularly good at this job, saying he lost a "minor fortune" due to hogs running away and rupturing from too much food and not enough exercise.
4. Marijuana wasn't always his main way of relaxing.
The country singer had a pretty heavy smoking habit, going through up to two or three packs a day, he told NPR.
"My lungs were bothering me and I'd had pneumonia two or three times. I was also smoking pot, and I decided, well, one of them's gotta go. So I took a pack of Chesterfields and took all the Chesterfields out, rolled up 20 big fat ones and put [them] in there, and I haven't smoked a cigarette since then."
5. He fought bumble bees as a kid in Abbott, Texas.
We're just as confused as you are, but this apparently was a favorite pastime of a young Willie Nelson, he told the New York Times. He and his friends would go into the fields and fight swarms of bees, getting stung so much their eyes would swell shut. "That shows how bored you can get in Abbott," he said.
6. A strand of his hair is considered one of "America's Lost Treasures."
Fans were beside themselves when Willie Nelson cut his signature braided pigtails in 2010. Maybe that's why one fan has a single strand of Nelson's hair encased in glass. The item made an appearance on the premier episode of National Geographic Channel's "America's Lost Treasures," a show where people vie for a chance to have their favorite "treasures" included in the National Geographic Museum and win $10,000.
7. His famous guitar, Trigger, was named after Roy Roger's horse.
Nelson received his first guitar when he was 6 years old, and has since accumulated a collection of 15 guitars. His Martin acoustic guitar, Trigger, is the one he plays the most on tour. Showing off his sense of humor, Nelson explains why he named his guitar Trigger: "Roy Rogers had a horse named Trigger. I figured: "This is my horse!"
8. His touring schedule makes him one of the hardest working performers out there.
Ok, so this may not be a little-known fact, but the numbers behind it may be. He put on 138 shows last year and traveled 49,126 miles last year, according to Songkick, a site that tracks concert dates. Out of the list of 20 hardest working bands and performers, Nelson comes in at number nine, a spot he's held ever since the site began compiling data on this in 2010. He also has the distinction of being the oldest performer on the list by a couple of decades.