Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Recalls The Story Of How Willie Nelson Gifted Him His First Guitar [Exclusive]

Being a “huge fan” of Nelson, Johnson was thrilled when he had the chance to meet the country music icon.


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

May 2, 2024


1:23 pm

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Dawyne Johnson; Photo by Huy Doan, Willie Nelson; Photo by Pamela Springsteen

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson reveals country icon Willie Nelson gave him his first guitar. 

The entertainment icon’s name is not typically associated with the country music community, however as he has shown from his recent appearance in Chris Janson’s “Whatcha See is Whatcha Get” music video, his connection to the genre runs deep. 

By the time he was eight years old, Dwayne admits he was singing songs by country music greats like Hank Williams and Hank Williams Jr., Merle Haggard, Johnny Yaycheck, and Vern Gosdin. When he moved to Nashville as a teenager, his love for country music grew even stronger and he eventually developed dreams of becoming a superstar. Even though his career path ended up taking a very different turn, Dwayne still holds a great appreciation for the country music community. 

How Dwayne Ended Up On Willie Nelson’s Bus

One day Dwayne found himself at a wrestling match in Texas where Willie Nelson also happened to be filming a music video. The two ended up meeting for the first time on the “Always on My Mind” singer’s bus and started a foundation for what would become a true friendship.   

“I was just such a huge fan, and we stayed in touch. He sent me my first guitar. It’s a Trigger guitar, Martin makes like a hundred of ‘em,” Dwayne told Country Now in reference to Nelson’s unique Martin N-20 classica that is famously named “Trigger” and has been his go-to instrument for most of his career. 

After hearing Dwayne’s story, Chris Janson jumped in to say that he also has a similar model guitar that holds a very special memory for him as it was signed by another country music legend, Merle Haggard

“I’d never asked any star for an autograph except Merle Haggard and I did it in person, which is not what most people would not do,” Janson explained during the interview. “It was a gut-string just like Trigger. It was a much cheaper model, but it was my pawn shop guitar that I spent $25 on in 2014 and in 2015 wrote, ‘Buy Me a Boat.’ In 2016, I had a number one song with it.”

When Did Dwayne And Chris Janson’s Friendship Begin?

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Chris Janson; Photo Courtesy of Nashville Harbor Records, Ent.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Chris Janson; Photo Courtesy of Nashville Harbor Records, Ent.

Much like his initial meeting with Nelson, “The Rock” and Janson also became fast friends when they unexpectedly met in a parking lot back in 2022. The pair explained that they bonded over their days of trying to make it on Nashville’s Lower Broadway, and their love for classic country songs like “The Blues Man” by Hank Williams Jr.

This eventually led Janson to ask Dwayne to help bring his authentic country-rooted single to life in a new music video. They shot the video for “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get” in an open field of Texas for two hours and “had a ball” hanging out together. 

“We didn’t have to think about timing, schedules, nothing like that. Nobody was bothering he or I on where we had to be, and we had to be places by the way, but we didn’t feel barrage or rushed to do it,” Janson explained. “So we got everything we wanted. We got amazing B-roll footage, we got the objective done, the mission was accomplished, very swiftly and executed great. And I just love the video. I’m so proud of it.”

YouTube video

Future Plays To Perform At The Grand Ole Opry

After seeing how much fun they had doing this project, the friends started brainstorming other ways they could collaborate in the future and Janson, being an official member of the Grand Ole Opry, extended an invitation to Dwayne to join him in the coveted circle. 

“Yes, the Opry performance is going to happen,” Janson confirmed. “It’s going to be a very special moment. And I already, in my heart, have some things planned that are going to be really great, that coincide with that and make it an even more special event. Him being basically a native Nashville guy and basically me too, even though I wasn’t born and I was raised there in my adult years, it’s going to be an exceptional night…the great news is it’s not going to be just for show. It’s going to be about the music and it’s going to be about friendship and about our country. And we will celebrate, and we will highlight the things that are important to us. That’s what the Grand Ole Opry is all about.”

Dwayne Johnson might be best known for his time competing in the ring and starring in films, but it’s clear that he has never strayed too far from his country music roots, and soon, he will hopefully get to showcase that on the Opry stage.

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.