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What Happened After Willie Nelson’s Angry Ex-Wife Tied Him to the Bed With a Clothesline?

Willie Nelson has been married four times, and he's seemingly had mixed luck. For instance, one of his wives tied him to the bed with a clothesline while angry, and what she did after that might come as a surprise. What did Nelson say about what happened? And what might have led to her anger?

As an 88-year-old living legend of country music, Willie Nelson has plenty of stories to tell — and he’s shared some of them through his writing. When it comes to marriage, Nelson has seemingly had good and bad luck, with his fourth marriage lasting since 1991. But one ex-wife wasn’t so keen on sticking around, and she let Nelson know how unhappy she was with a furious display.

What did he say happened after his second wife “tied [his] drunk ass to the bed with a clothesline and woke [him] up”?

Willie Nelson plays his guitar, wearing sunglasses and a headband c. 1978
Willie Nelson | Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis/Getty Images

Willie Nelson’s second wife, Shirley, tied him up and beat him – but he said he might have had it coming

According to Nelson’s The Tao of Willie: A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart, it’s never good to hold on to anger. “Instead of letting your thoughts think you into a corner, why not just let them go?” he asks. He even provides a personal example of a time he decided to not choose anger.

“I could have gotten all pissed off thirty-something years ago when my wife Shirley tied my drunk ass to the bed with a clothesline and woke me up by beating me with a mop handle, but instead I figured I probably had it coming,” Nelson wrote. “Thinking back on it now, I realize I definitely had it coming.”

Shirley Collie Nelson was his second wife, and while physical violence is a crime, perhaps that beating Nelson felt he had coming had something to do with how their marriage ended.

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In a joint memoir with his sister titled Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of the Family Band, Nelson shares some details about the end of his second marriage in 1971. As reported by People, after marrying Shirley Nelson in 1963, he said she caught him “flatfooted” in a big lie.

“Shirley saw a bill from a Houston hospital,” the famous songwriter reveals. “I tried to play it off as no big deal. I told her that I had to go to the hospital for something minor.”

But Nelson shares she “wasn’t buying that for one simple reason.” He writes, “The bill said the charges were for the birth of a baby girl, Paula Carlene, born to a Mrs. Connie Nelson.”

“Connie’s my girlfriend and Paula’s our daughter,” he recalls finally telling her. He wed third wife Connie Kopeke the same year as his divorce from Shirley, who died in 2010.

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The third time wasn’t the charm when it came to Nelson’s marriages. He writes in Me and Sister Bobbie, “I messed up another marriage. My wandering ways were too much for any woman to put up with. I’ll always love Connie.”

And not just Connie. “I’ll always love all my wives,” Dolly Parton’s dear friend shares. “I’ve always said that there’s no such thing as a ‘former’ wife. Once in your life, a wife never leaves. I regret the pain I caused Connie — and Martha and Shirley before her — and have no excuses.”

But it seems Nelson fell in love deep when he met his fourth wife while still married to Connie. “Love is love,” he shares, “and in the mid-eighties I fell head over heels in love with Ann Marie D’Angelo, called Annie. Never had met a woman like her before.”

After marrying D’Angelo in 1991, the two recently celebrated 30 years of marriage. “Marrying Annie wasn’t complicated at all. It’s about the smartest thing I ever did. I can say that because, 34 years after we first met, we’re still together and going strong,” Nelson says.