MUSIC: Q&A with Mickey Raphael of Willie Nelson and the Family

by Megan Waldrep

Mickey Raphael has been Willie Nelson’s right hand harmonica man for almost three decades. “When I joined Willie’s band, I really didn’t know anything about country music. I’d never really listened to it at all. I was a folk blues player. I just wanted to play in a country band and ride around in a bus.” Mickey’s wish came true and then some. See Mickey and the rest of the Willie Nelson family band at the Santa Barbara Bowl with openers Jerry Joseph and Alison Krauss & Union Station on July 22, 7 pm.

Have you ever been to Santa Barbara?

Oh yeah! We played the SB County Bowl when it was just a flat slab of cement with no roof. I love Santa Barbara. If I could retire anywhere, it would be one of my top two choices and I don’t even know what the other one would be.

How does Willie differ from other acts you’ve played with?

He’s the only one that won’t tell me to go away! He’s a mentor, father, brother, teacher…he’s so many things to me. And I’m a fan. To be able to play every night next to him, I’ve got the best seat in the house! He’s doesn’t change bands every tour, which a lot of people do and that works for some, but with us, it’s like a family.

And it shows on stage for sure! The crowd can see it clear as day!

Thanks!  We have fun together. 

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Learn to weld.

Why is that?

Learn a trade. I’m kidding but the most important thing I can tell anybody is learn to listen and less is more. It’s the quality, not quantity.

Megan Waldrep is a freelance writer and columnist for the Santa Barbara Sentinel. She also writes under the pen name Elizabeth Rose for a dating column called I Heart.

See more interviews and check out her column here: