AUSTIN (KEYE-TV) -- Texas music icon Willie Nelson gave South by Southwest visitors a big surprise.

It's been a rough start to 2017 for Willie Nelson. But nothing stopped the 83-year-old legend Tuesday night as he made a surprise appearance at a party in Downtown Austin for GSD&M.

He canceled two of five shows in Las Vegas in late January because of a bad cold. Just two weeks later Nelson canceled three California shows due to illness.

He was able to make it to the February 17 show at the San Antonio Rodeo, which sold out the AT&T Center, where he told fans, "I woke up, still not dead."

Tuesday night Willie looked good, and started his set off with Whiskey River. The event was billed as Ray Benson's birthday. He's an Austin musician known for leading the band Asleep at the Wheel, and is a good friend of Willie.