When Willie Nelson came home to find his house on fire in 1969, he made a mad dash into the burning home to save two things ... and that's where the story becomes the stuff of legend.

Nelson has told the story many times of returning home from a Christmas party in Nashville to his home in Ridgetop, Tenn., on Dec. 23, 1969. When he arrived back at his property, he found his house in flames.

“By the time I got there, it was burning real good,” Nelson told People, “but I had this pound of Colombian grass inside. I wasn’t being brave running in there to get my dope — I was trying to keep the firemen from finding it and turning me over to the police.”

Country Stars Who've Smoked Marijuana

Nelson also rescued his guitar, Trigger, and the incident marked a turning point in his life and career. He had been struggling for years to establish himself as a recording artist in Nashville, where he had a track record of writing successful songs for other artists. But Nelson's music and image were oftentimes at odds with the straightlaced suits and syrupy "Nashville Sound" that dominated Music City in that era, and after the fire, he decided to relocate to Austin, where he dramatically changed his sound and began sporting the long-haired look that would become his trademark.

The result was a career overhaul for Nelson, who began to dig in and make the kind of music he'd always dreamed of. In 1973 he released Shotgun Willie, which has gone on to be a classic. He followed it up with a decade-long streak of work that included Red Headed Stranger, Stardust and Always on My Mind, among others, and ended with Nelson as one of the biggest stars in country music.

Over the years, Trigger had become so widely associated with Nelson that it's almost difficult to imagine him playing anything other than the battered old instrument, and of course, Nelson's continuing fondness for and advocacy of marijuana is widely documented.

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