KALAMAZOO, MI — A framed, blurry picture of Kalamazoo’s Chris Nelsen and a shirtless Willie Nelson jogging down a Detroit-area sidewalk gives a glimpse into a musical obsession that spans decades.
Nelsen has closely followed the legendary country musician since 1979. He’s attended more than 225 concerts along the way and amassed a staggering amount of Willie Nelson memorabilia. Prior to Nelson’s 1987 concert at Pine Knob Music Theater near Detroit, Chris Nelsen caught up to the country star outside of his hotel as he prepared for an afternoon jog. A shirtless Nelson, decked out in a sunglasses and hair tucked into his hat, set out on what would be a three-mile run. He let his super fan tag along.
“I’m was not a (jogger) at the time and it damn near killed me, but then I really got into it and I ran for five or six years,” Nelsen said.
The grainy image sits in one of three rooms dedicated to Willie Nelson’s career in the basement of Nelsen’s Kalamazoo home. Nelson later signed it: “To Chris, On the Road Again. Love, Willie Nelson.”