At the end of every checkup, Erlewine puts on a new set of strings, strums the guitar, and marvels again at how sweet Trigger sounds. A guitar sounds better as it gets older, just like a Stradivarius does. The wood ages and the tone gets more lively. “New guitars have to have time to open up,” says Erlewine. “The wood has to vibrate, it has to move, to bring the sound out. Willie plays so much, it’s brought out the tone of the guitar.” 

For years Willie’s crew tried to get him to toggle over to another guitar—or to at least give Trigger a break. In the mid-nineties Poodie found a 1968 N-20 that was in much better condition. Willie tried it, thanked him, and put it back in its case. In 1998 Martin made an N-20 replica, calling it the Limited Edition Signature N-20WN, in Willie’s honor. Willie tried one, thanked them, and put it back in its case. His loyalty is legendary, as is his dislike of change. At this point he’s simply not going to play another guitar. “Every guitar has its own feel and sound,” Willie says. “The Trigger replicas are nice guitars, but anyone who has played this guitar can tell you immediately that there’s a different feel.”

Why is that?

“I don’t know why.” 

Willie Nelson and Trigger