“Trigger” – Willie Nelson’s Famous Guitar

Willie Nelson's guitar "Trigger" on stage and ready for the show.

Willie Nelson’s guitar “Trigger” on stage and ready for the show.

Nothing embodies the Willie Nelson sound more than his classic Martin N-20 guitar – Trigger (except his voice, of course).
Trigger is probably the most famous and recognizable musical instrument in existence. When asked why his guitar is named Trigger, Willie explains: “Roy Rogers had a horse named Trigger. I figured: “This is my horse!”

Share stories and photos of Willie Nelson's guitar named Trigger.Willie Nelson bought his first Martin guitar sight unseen in 1969. He’s remarked about how he remembers the circumstances of that first purchase. The Baldwin company gave him a Baldwin amp and classical electric guitar with a special three-cord stereo pickup. He busted that guitar pretty badly so he sent it to Shot Jackson in Nashville to get it fixed.

Shot called Willie back and said, ‘I can’t fix it. It’s broke too bad.’ So Willie asked what else he had around? Shot said he had a Martin up on the shelf for $750. Willie asked him if he could put that same Baldwin pickup in the Martin. Shot said he could and that’s how Willie got it, unseen and right off the shelf.

Willie's famous guitar "Trigger" in the very early days!

Willie’s famous guitar “Trigger” in the very early days!

When Willie got it he said he knew he had gotten something special. He just enjoyed sitting around in a room and playing it, writing on it, and most importantly, he just liked the sound of it.

Photographs taken throughout Willie’s career show the gradual evolution of Trigger from its original pristine condition to its current, shall we say, well worn look! Trigger has been played so much over the years that a sizable hole that’s worn right through the top and he won’t have it repaired. Besides, wouldn’t that be like fixing the crack in the Liberty Bell….

Willie Nelson's guitar Trigger as it looks today.

Willie Nelson’s guitar Trigger as it looks today.

Trigger is so special that the Martin Guitar Company announced in July of 1998 they would manufacture a Limited Edition Signature Model N-20WN guitar. This guitar was a collaboration with Willie. The N-20WN is a replica of Willie Nelson’s beloved guitar. Take a look at the photo to see what Trigger looked like “out of the box”.

A special edition Martin guitar replica Trigger.

A special edition Martin guitar replica Trigger.

The replica guitar was only sold through authorized Martin dealers and distributors. C. F. Martin & Co. announced at the time they would make up to but not exceeding 100 of the Willie Nelson N-20WN Limited Edition Signature Models.

In addition, Willie estimates that he has 100 signatures on his Martin including those of Leon Russell, Roger Miller, Kris Kristofferson, Gene Autry, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, lawyers, football coaches, and other friends and associates.

During his well publicized “discussions” with the Internal Revenue Service, Willie was so concerned that they might try to take Trigger away from him that he hid it at his manager’s house for safe keeping. And we’re all glad he did!

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Watch and listen to Willie and others tell the store of Trigger during a Rolling Stone magazine interview.

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