Willie Nelson likely celebrated Thanksgiving Day with family and friends, along with tasty goodies and some great tunes. The difference for 84-year-old, Willie Nelson, is that all the best of his family festivities take place on his tour bus, Honeysuckle Rose. Music has always been a family affair for the Nelson clan, for blood relations and those bonded by history. Most of his band members have been onstage with Nelson for 40+ years, and older sister, Bobbie still plays piano with the band. Music has truly always been “in the blood” for Willie Nelson, sons, Lukas and Micah, and daughters, Paula and Amy.

Al Roker climbed aboard the bus for a visit with Willie Nelson as a Thanksgiving treat, and there are many musical dishes cranking in the works for all the Nelson clan.

New albums are out from Lukas and Micah, each inspired by his own muse and direction. A Frank Sinatra homage is in progress, and no one plans on parking the bus anytime soon.

The music still matters most

Willie Nelson was being interviewed as part of the “Living Legends” series, and while the artist humbly accepts his honors, across several genres of music, for his lifetime of contribution to that art, he approaches music with the same freshness of his boyhood. He recalls writing songs “since I could string two words together,” and the joy of creating songs that join people together with a memorable refrain that “hits in the soul,” still produces the same euphoria as it did when Willie’s braids had darker red hues.

Al Roker paid his own tribute to Willie Nelson at the traditional “Today” Halloween celebration.

The weather broadcaster so famous for detailing climate “in your neck of the woods” stepped out from a smoke-filled tour bus in braids to join Matt Lauer as Dolly Parton, and other “country greats” portrayed by the morning show team. Let's just say that while Al deserves an “A” for effort, he doesn't wear the braids nearly as stylishly as the “Red Headed Stranger.” Even twining hair is part of the tradition that the songwriter grew up with as a child, braiding his grandmother’s hair with his sister. No wonder Roker is “jealous” of the long locks.

Last month, Willie Nelson and his sons released “Willie Nelson and the Boys: Willie’s Stash.” The kindred collaboration features songs that the groundbreaking dad played for his sons growing up. Songs by Hank Cochran, Hank Snow, Hank Williams, and Hank Locklin all take their place, along with standards Willie has covered before, like “Stardust.” Willie insists that “they get a kick out of it," when describing his sons’ response to playing the old songs.

The legacy also gives both talented artists a sonic foundation from which to build.

Old songs and new fans

Willie Nelson declares that every time he and his sons play an older, respected song, a new fan is won over to great music. Playing classics doesn't stop either son from forging his own path ahead. Micah Nelson pursues psychedelic folk with Insects vs. Robots and Particle Kid, and he just released a new album. Lukas Nelson and "Promise of the Real" just released their first album on Fantasy Records and have an upcoming showcase on CBS.

Micah emblemized his dad's “Red Headed Stranger” as an ultimate “punk record,” because it broke all the boundaries of country music which, at the time, was filled with sparkling rhinestone costumes and blatant overproduction. He tells us that his father was “fearlessly doing his own thing,” against the grain in every sense, and he sees fearlessly following his own artistic path as the best way to honor “my dad's legacy.” Willie Nelson has another legacy project of his own to his favorite singer, Frank Sinatra, fully underway.

Lukas Nelson said he never imagined anything but music as his life path, calling his father a constant “inspiration.” The progeny always assumed, “if my dad can do it, I can do it. It’s in my blood.” That family heritage is only part of the creative energy that has cultivated a loyal following for Lukas and his band. His passion and talents in writing and performing are palpable from any stage, his own or with the clan.

Willie owns up to not being there for much of his children's childhood, because being in the business of country music, and being on the road, always called. No one in the family is wasting time on regrets since there's so much good lasting music, and loving memories to be made now. “I’ve made a thousand mistakes,” the artist admits, but he is not sure he would change one. Every step and misstep of life is part of coming to the present.

The past and the present merge to a future for Willie Nelson and his next generation. He playfully jokes “He wouldn’t listen,” to whatever advice the elder Nelson could give to the one at 24. He and the boys only know that they have another show booked down the road.