True Willie: ‘Twin sons from a different mother’

Tahoe Onstage

The True Willie Band performs the second of two shows Feb. 10 at the Carson Valley Inn.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Pheonix Gruneich

It’s difficult for celebrities to go about day-to-day business without being swarmed by fans and paparazzi, so Willie Nelson’s ruse is understandable. He doesn’t really live in Hawaii. He’s in Southern California posing a musician named Roger Hegyi.

For proof, check out Hegyi’s True Willie Band . You will swear the band leader is the true Willie. Music lovers at the Carson Valley Inn can attest to that after two packed shows on Friday night. The doppelganger and his band received standing ovations after each set.

Hegyi is a lifelong musician whose career ascended about five years ago after he attended concert at the Hollywood Bowl with his daughter.

“There was a poster of Willie Nelson and my daughter had me pose next to it for a photo,” Hegyi said. “She goes, ‘Dad, you’re Willie Nelson!’”

Pheonix Gruneich/ Tahoe Onstage

Roger Hegyi’s music career took off when he took on the Willie Nelson persona.

It’s easy for Hegyi to emulate Nelson on stage. He merely puts on blue jeans and a bandana and sings songs by Nelson, whose talking and singing voice is remarkably similar.

“I don’t try to imitate his voice, Hegyi said. “Somehow, Willie and I are twin sons from a different mother. … All of a sudden I was turning into him. That photo changed my life. Before I knew it, I was getting calls left and right. The thing just went crazy immediately.”

Hegyi has always included country music in his shows. He immersed himself in Nelson’s life history. He pays tribute to Nelson by telling his stories and singing his songs, which transcend country music.

“Everybody loves Willie,” Hegyi said. “He’s written more than 3,000 songs. Everything just relates to people, so it’s easy to love his music.”

The True Willie Band is made up of outstanding musicians: Mike Fleetwood on guitar, Cliff Saunders on bass, Johnny Higgins on keyboards, and the drummer is David Terry, who sings Waylon Jennings’ verses on The Highwaymen covers.

Feb. 10 was the second True Willie Band appearance at the Carson Valley Inn. The first time, CVI retired entertainment director Stew Stewart recalled, “He walked through our casino and restaurants causing a huge stir! Folks thought he was Willie Nelson.”

Hegyi’s portrayal of Nelson is not limited to onstage performances. A television project is in the works, and Hegyi plays Nelson in a Volkswagen commercial.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” Hegyi said.

Nelson’s iconic hit song “On the Road Again” is the soundtrack in the commercial for the VW Passat. At the end, the Passat motors down the Pacific Coast Highway and is passed by a honking, yellow 1969 Volkswagen Bug driven by the Nelson character.

“The first thing they asked was if I knew how to drive a stick shift,” Hegyi said. “I actually learned to drive a stick on my brother’s ’69 Bug.”

Strange but “True.”

To see True Willie Band videos, click the LINK

Pheonix Gruneich / Tahoe Onstage

The True Willie Band display excellent musicianship and vocal harmonies Friday in the Valley Ballroom.

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

2 comments

  1. It was a great experience ,awesome crowd and the staff at Carson Valley Inn were amazing.
    We look forward to coming back and sharing the music and Life of Willie!.
    True Willie

  2. Hi Mr. Parsons!

    I had a great time performing at Carson Valley Inn. Everyone was so helpful and friendly. Mark, Cindy, Derrick, Jake, Joey, and everyone we met went above and beyond to make us feel at home. If your photographer has any more pictures to share, please forward my email address. Thank you for the excellent write up. You are so very kind. But that’s ok, we can take it. 😉

    Cliff Saunders
    (Bassist for True Willie)

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