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Waylon Jennings

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  • Born: Littlefield, TX
  • Died: Chandler, AZ
  • Years Active: 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s
  • Waylon Jennings


Biography All Music GuideWikipedia

All Music Guide:

If any one performer personified the outlaw country movement of the '70s, it was Waylon Jennings. Though he had been a professional musician since the late '50s, it wasn't until the '70s that Waylon, with his imposing baritone and stripped-down, updated honky tonk, became a superstar. Jennings rejected the conventions of Nashville, refusing to record with the industry's legions of studio musicians and insisting that his music never resemble the string-laden, pop-inflected sounds that were coming out of Nashville in the '60s and '70s. Many artists, including Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, followed Waylon's anti-Nashville stance and eventually the whole "outlaw" movement -- so-named because of the artists' ragged, maverick image and their independence from Nashville -- became one of the most significant country forces of the '70s, helping the genre adhere to its hardcore honky tonk roots. Jennings didn't write many songs, but his music -- which combined the grittiest aspects of honky tonk with a rock & roll rhythm and attitude, making the music spare, direct, and edgy -- defined hardcore country, and it influenced countless musicians, including members of the new traditionalist and alternative country subgenres of the '80s.

Jennings was born and raised in Littlefield, TX, where he learned how to play guitar by the time he was eight. When he was 12 years old, he was a DJ for a local radio station and, shortly afterward, formed his first band. Two years later he left school and spent the next few years picking cotton, eventually moving to Lubbock, TX, in 1954. Once he was in Lubbock, he got a job at the radio station KLLL, where he befriended Buddy Holly during one of the station's shows. Holly became Waylon's mentor, teaching him guitar licks, collaborating on songs, and producing Jennings' first single, "Jole Blon," which was released on Brunswick in 1958. Later that year, Waylon became the temporary bass player for Holly's band the Crickets, playing with the rock & roller on his final tour. Jennings was also scheduled to fly on the plane ride that ended in Holly's tragic death in early 1959, but he gave up his seat at the last minute to the Big Bopper, who was suffering from a cold.

Following Holly's death, Jennings returned to Lubbock, where he spent two years mourning the loss of his friend and working as a DJ. In late 1960, he moved to Phoenix, AZ, where he founded a rockabilly band called the Waylors. Jennings and the Waylors began to earn a local following through their performances at the local club JD's, eventually signing to the independent label Trend in 1961. None of the group's singles made any impact, and Jennings began working for Audio Recorders as a record producer. In 1963, Waylon moved to Los Angeles, where he landed a contract with Herb Alpert's A&M Records. By this point, Waylon's music was pure country, and Alpert wanted to move him toward the pop market; Jennings didn't cave in to the demands and his sole single, "Sing the Girl a Song, Bill," and album for A&M flopped.

Following the A&M debacle, Jennings landed a contract with RCA with help from Chet Atkins and Bobby Bare, and he moved to Nashville in 1965. After arriving in Nashville, he moved in with Johnny Cash, and the two musicians began a long-lasting friendship (which eventually resulted in a collaboration in the form of the Highwaymen in the '80s). Waylon released his first single for RCA, "That's the Chance I'll Have to Take," late in the summer of 1965, and it became a minor hit. With his second single, "Stop the World (And Let Me Off)," he had his first Top 40 country hit, and it began a string of moderate hits that eventually developed into several Top Ten singles -- "Walk on Out of My Mind," "I Got You," "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line," "Yours Love" -- in 1968. At this point, he was working with Nashville session men and developing a sound that was halfway between honky tonk and folk. As the next decade began, he started to move his music toward hardcore country.

In 1970, Jennings recorded several songs by a struggling but promising songwriter called Kris Kristofferson, which led to a pair of ambitious albums -- Singer of Sad Songs and Ladies Love Outlaws -- the following year. On these two records, he developed the roots of outlaw country, creating a harder, tougher muscular sound with a selection of songs by writers like Alex Harvey and Hoyt Axton. During the following year, Waylon began collaborating with Willie Nelson, recording and writing several songs with the songwriter.

By 1972, he had renegotiated his contract with RCA, demanding that he assume the production and artistic control of his records. Honky Tonk Heroes, released in 1973, was the first album released under this new contract. Comprised almost entirely of songs by the then-unknown songwriter Billy Joe Shaver and recorded with Jennings' road band, the album was an edgy, bass-driven, and surly variation on stripped-down honky tonk. Jennings and his new sound slowly began to gain more fans, and in 1974 he had his first number one, "This Time," followed by yet another number one single, "I'm a Ramblin' Man," and the number two "Rainy Day Woman." Waylon's success continued throughout 1975, as Dreaming My Dreams -- featuring one of his signature songs, the number one "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" -- reached number 49 on the pop charts; he was also voted the Country Music Association's Male Vocalist of the Year.

Jennings truly crossed over into the mainstream in 1976, when Wanted! The Outlaws -- a various-artists compilation of previously released material that concentrated on Waylon but also featured songs from his wife Jessi Colter, Willie Nelson, and Tompall Glaser -- peaked at number one on the pop charts. Following the success of Wanted!, Waylon became a superstar, as well known to the mainstream pop audience as he was to the country audience. For the next six years, Jennings' albums consistently charted in the pop Top 50 and went gold. During this time, he recorded a number of duets with Nelson, including the multi-platinum Waylon & Willie (1978), which featured the number one single "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys." Over the course of the late '70s and early '80s, Jennings scored ten number one hits, including "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)" (which hit number 25 on the pop charts and spent six weeks at the top of the country charts), "The Wurlitzer Prize (I Don't Want to Get Over You)," "I've Always Been Crazy," "Amanda," "Theme from 'The Dukes of Hazzard' (Good Ol' Boys)," and three duets with Nelson.

By the mid-'80s, the momentum of Waylon's career began to slow somewhat, due to his drug abuse and the decline of the entire outlaw country movement. Jennings kicked his substance habits cold turkey in the mid-'80s and formed the supergroup the Highwaymen with Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Johnny Cash in 1985; over the next decade, the band released three albums, yet none of them were more successful than their debut, which spawned the number one single, "Highwayman." Also in 1985, Jennings parted ways with RCA, signing with MCA Records the following year. At first, he had several hit singles for the label, including the number one "Rose in Paradise," but by the end of the '80s, he was no longer able to crack the Top 40. In 1990, Waylon switched labels again, signing with Epic. "Wrong," his first single for the label, reached the Top Ten in 1990, and "The Eagle" reached the Top 40 the following year, but after that minor hit, none of his singles were charting.

Despite his decreased sales -- which were largely due to the shifting tastes in country music -- Waylon remained a superstar throughout the '90s and was able to draw large crowds whenever he performed a concert, while many of his records continued to receive positive reviews. In 1996, he signed to Justice Records, where he released the acclaimed Right for the Time. Closing In on the Fire followed in 1998. His work was slowed by his health in the years following that album, as complications from diabetes made it difficult for him to walk. His foot was amputated in December 2001 because of his illness, and he died on February 13, 2002, at his home in Arizona.


Waylon Arnold Jennings (pronounced /ˈən ˈɛɪŋ/; June 15, 1937 – February 13, 2002) was an American singer, songwriter, musician, and actor. Jennings began playing guitar at 8 and began performing at 12 on KVOW radio. His first band was The Texas Longhorns. Jennings worked as a D.J. on KVOW, KDAV, KYTI, and KLLL. In 1958, Buddy Holly arranged Jennings's first recording session, of "Jole Blon" and "When Sin Stops (Love Begins)". Holly hired him to play bass. In Clear Lake, Iowa, Jennings gave up his seat on the ill-fated flight that crashed and killed Holly, J. P. Richardson, and others. The day of the flight was later known as The Day the Music Died. Jennings then worked as a D.J. in Coolidge, Arizona, and Phoenix. He formed a rockabilly club band, The Waylors. He recorded for independent label Trend Records and A&M Records, before succeeding with RCA Victor after achieving creative control.

During the 1970s, Jennings joined the Outlaw movement. He released critically acclaimed albums Lonesome, On'ry and Mean and Honky Tonk Heroes, followed by hit albums Dreaming My Dreams and Are You Ready for the Country. In 1976 he released the album Wanted! The Outlaws with Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser, and Jessi Colter, the first platinum country music album. That success was followed by Ol' Waylon, and the hit song "Luckenbach, Texas". By the early 1980s, Jennings was struggling with a cocaine addiction, which he quit in 1984. Later he joined the country supergroup The Highwaymen with Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Johnny Cash. During that period, Jennings released the successful album Will the Wolf Survive. He toured less after 1997, to spend more time with his family. Between 1999 and 2001, his appearances were limited by health problems. On February 13, 2002, Jennings died from complications of diabetes.

Jennings also appeared in movies and television series. He was the balladeer for The Dukes of Hazzard; composing and singing the show's theme song. In 2001 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, which he chose not to attend. In 2007 he was posthumously awarded the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award by the Academy of Country Music.

Early life[edit]

Waylon Arnold Jennings was born on June 15, 1937 on the J.W Bittner farm, near Littlefield, Texas. He was the son of Lorene Beatrice (née Shipley) and William Albert Jennings. The Jennings family line descended from Irish and Black-Dutch. Meanwhile, the Shipley family moved from Tennessee and settled in Texas. The Shipley line descended from Cherokee and Comanche families.

The name on his birth certificate was Wayland, meaning land by the highway. His name was changed after a Baptist preacher visited Jennings's parents and congratulated his mother for naming him after the Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas. Lorene Jennings, who had been unaware of the college, changed the spelling to Waylon. Jennings later expressed in his autobiography, "I didn't like Waylon. It sounded corny and hillbilly, but it's been good to me, and I'm pretty well at peace with it right now."

After working as a laborer on the Bittner farm, Jennings' father moved the family to Littlefield and established a retail creamery. When Jennings was eight, his mother taught him to play guitar with the tune "Thirty Pieces of Silver". Jennings used to practice with his relatives' guitars, until his mother bought him a used Stella, and later ordered a Harmony Patrician. Early influences were Bob Wills, Floyd Tillman, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, Carl Smith and Elvis Presley.

Beginning at family gatherings, Jennings advanced to perform at the Youth Center with Anthony Bonanno followed by appearances at the local Jaycees and Lions club. He won a talent show at Channel 13, in Lubbock, Texas, singing "Hey Joe". He later made frequent performances at the Palace Theater in Littlefield, during local talent night.

^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 4.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 9, 11.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 6.^ Jasinski, Laurie 2012, p. 432.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 22.^ Dansby, Andrew (February 14, 2002). "Waylon Jennings Dead at Sixty-four". Rolling Stone (Wenner Media LLC). Retrieved November 1, 2011. ^ Wishart 2004, p. 540.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 271.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 34.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 36.


Music career1.1 Beginnings in music1.2 Winter Dance Party Tour1.3 Phoenix and the Nashville Sound1.4 Outlaw Country1.5 Later years

Music career[edit]

Beginnings in music[edit]

The 12-year-old Jennings auditioned for a spot on KVOW in Littlefield, Texas. Owner J.B. McShan, along with Emil Macha, recorded Jennings's performance. McShan liked his style and hired him for a weekly 30-minute program. Following this successful introduction, Jennings formed his own band. He asked Macha to play bass for him, and gathered other friends and acquaintances to form "The Texas Longhorns". The style of the band, a mixture of country and western and bluegrass, was often not well received.

At age sixteen, after several disciplinary infractions, tenth-grader Jennings was convinced to drop out of high school by the superintendent. Upon leaving school, he worked for his father in the produce store, also taking temporary jobs. Jennings felt that music, his favorite activity, would turn into his career. The next year, Jennings and The Texas Longhorns recorded a demo of the songs "Stranger in My Home" and "There'll Be a New Day" at KFYO radio in Lubbock, Texas. Meanwhile, he drove a truck for the Thomas Land Lumber Company, and a cement truck for the Roberts Lumber Company. Tired of the owner, and after a minor driving accident, Jennings quit. He and other local musicians often performed at country radio station KDAV; it was during this time that he met Buddy Holly at a Lubbock restaurant. He and Holly became friends, often meeting during local shows. Jennings also attended Holly's performances on KDAV's Sunday Party.

In addition to performing on air for KVOW, Jennings started to work as a D.J. in 1956, and moved to Lubbock. His program ran for six hours, from four in the afternoon to ten in the evening. Jennings played two hours of country classics, two of current country and two of mixed recordings. During those final two hours, Jennings played artists such as Chuck Berry and Little Richard. The owner reprimanded him each time he aired the recordings, and when he then played two Richard records in a row, the owner fired him.

During his time at KVOW, Jennings was visited by D.J Sky Corbin, who worked at KLVT in Levelland, Texas. Corbin was impressed with his voice, and decided to visit Jennings at the station after hearing him sing a jingle to the tune of Hank Snow's "I'm Moving On". Jennings expressed his economic struggle to live on a US$50-a week salary. Corbin invited Jennings to visit KLVT, where he eventually took Corbin's then-vacated position. The Corbin family later purchased KLLL, in Lubbock. They changed the format of the station to country, becoming the main competition of KDAV. The Corbins hired Jennings as the station's first D.J.

Jennings produced commercials and created jingles with the rest of the D.J's. As their popularity increased, the D.J's made public appearances. Jennings' events included live performances. During one performance, Buddy's father, L.O Holley, approached them with his son's latest record, and requested them to play it at the station. L.O mentioned his son's intention to start producing artists himself, and Corbin recommended Jennings. After returning from his England tour, Buddy Holly visited KLLL.

Holly took Jennings as his first artist. He outfitted him with new clothes, and worked with him to improve his image. He arranged a session for Jennings at Norman Petty's recording studios in Clovis, New Mexico. On September 10 Jennings recorded the songs "Jole Blon" and "When Sin Stops (Love Begins)" with Holly and Tommy Allsup on guitars with saxophonist King Curtis. Holly then hired Jennings to play electric bass for him during his "Winter Dance Party Tour".

Winter Dance Party Tour[edit]

Before the tour, Holly vacationed with his wife in Lubbock, and visited Jennings' radio station in December 1958. Jennings and Sky Corbin performed the hand claps to Holly's tune "You're the One". Jennings and Holly soon left for New York City, arriving on January 15, 1959. Jennings stayed at Holly's apartment by Washington Square Park, on the days prior to a meeting scheduled on the headquarters of the General Artists Corporation, that organized the tour. They later took a train to Chicago to join the band.

The tour began in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on January 23, 1959. The amount of travel created logistical problems. The distance between venues had not been considered when scheduling each performance. Adding to the disarray, the tour buses were not equipped for the weather and twice broke down. After a show in Clear Lake, Iowa, Buddy Holly chartered a plane for himself, Jennings and Allsup to avoid the long bus trip to Moorhead, Minnesota. Jennings gave up his seat to J. P. Richardson, who was suffering from the flu and complaining about how uncomfortable the bus was for a man of his size. Holly jokingly told Jennings, "I hope your ol' bus freezes up!" Jennings replied, "Well, I hope your ol' plane crashes!" During the early morning hours of February 3, 1959, later known as The Day the Music Died, the charter crashed outside Clear Lake, killing all on board.

Jennings's family heard on the radio that "Buddy Holly and his band had been killed". After calling his family, Jennings called Sky Corbin at KLLL from Fargo to say that he was alive. The General Artists Corporation promised to pay a first class ticket for Jennings and the band to assist Holly's funeral in Lubbock, in exchange for them playing that night in Moorhead, Minnesota. After the first show, they were initially denied their payment by the venue, but after Jennings' persistence, they were paid. The flights were never paid, and Jennings and Allsup continued the tour for two more weeks, featuring Jennings as the lead singer. They were paid less than half of the original agreed salary, and upon returning to New York, Jennings put Holly's guitar and amplifier in a locker in Grand Central Station and mailed the keys to Maria Elena Holly. Then, he returned to Lubbock. Jennings later admitted that he felt responsibility for the crash.

"Jole Blon" was released on Brunswick in March 1959 with limited success. Now unemployed, he returned to KLLL. Still affected by the death of Holly, his performance at the station worsened. He left the station after he was denied a raise, and later worked briefly for the competition, KDAV.

Phoenix and the Nashville Sound[edit]

Due to Maxine's father's illness, Jennings had to shuttle between Arizona and Texas. While his family lived back in Littlefield, Jennings found a job briefly at KOYL in Odessa, Texas. He moved with his family to Coolidge, Arizona, where his wife's sister lived. He found a job performing at the "Galloping Goose" bar, where he was heard by Earl Perrin, who offered him a spot on KCKY. Jennings also played during the intermission on drive-in theaters and on bars. After a successful a performance at the Cross Keys Club in Phoenix, Arizona, he was approached by contractors who were building a club for Jimmy D. Musiel, called JD's. Musiel employed Jennings as his main artist and designed the club around his act.

He formed his backing band, The Waylors with bassist Paul Foster, guitarist Jerry Gropp and drummer Richie Albright. Jennings and his band performed at the newly opened nightspot in Scottsdale, where they soon earned a strong local fanbase. At JD's, Jennings developed his "rock tempered" style of country music, that would define him on his later career.

In 1961, Jennings signed a recording contract with Trend Records, and experienced moderate success with his single, "Another Blue Day". His friend, Don Bowman took demos of Jennings to Jerry Moss, who at the time was starting A&M Records with associate Herb Alpert. On July 9, 1963, Jennings signed a contract with A&M that granted him five percent of record sales. At A&M he recorded "Love Denied" backed with "Rave On", and "Four Strong Winds" backed with "Just to Satisfy You". He followed up by recording demos of "The Twelfth of Never", "Kisses Sweeter than Wine" and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right"; and also produced the single "Sing the Girls a Song, Bill", backed with "The Race Is On". The singles were released between April and October 1964.

His records had little success, because A&M's main releases were folk music rather than country. He had a few hits on local radio in Phoenix, with "Four Strong Winds" and "Just To Satisfy You" (co-written with Bowman). Meanwhile, he recorded an album on BAT records, called JD's. After 500 copies were sold at the club, another 500 copies were pressed by the Sounds label. He also played lead guitar for Patsy Montana on a 1964 album.

Singer Bobby Bare heard Jennings' "Just to Satisfy You" on his car radio while passing through Phoenix, eventually recording it and "Four Strong Winds" After stopping in Phoenix to attend to a Jennings performance at JD's, while driving to Las Vegas, Bare stopped and called Chet Atkins in Nashville, suggesting that he needed to sign Jennings.

When he was made aware of the new deal, Waylon wasn't sure if he should quit his gig at JD's. He then went to get the advice of his friend, RCA artist Willie Nelson, who had gone to see one of Waylon's shows. When Willie and Waylon met, after talking about the possibilities and considering Waylon's profits at the club, Nelson suggested that Waylon should stay in Phoenix and not to move to Nashville.

Nonetheless, Jennings decided to accept the offer, and asked Herb Alpert to release him from his contract with A&M. Alpert agreed, though later A&M would compile all of Jennings' singles and unreleased material the label had and release it as Don't Think Twice. Atkins formally signed Jennings to RCA Victor in 1965. On August 21, Jennings made his first appearance on the Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart with "That's the Chance I'll Have to Take".

In 1966, Jennings released his debut album for RCA Folk-Country, followed by Leavin' Town, and Nashville Rebel. Leavin' Town resulted in significant chart success as the first two singles "Anita, You're Dreaming" and "Time to Burn Again" both peaking at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. The album's third single, a cover of Gordon Lightfoot's "(That's What You Get) For Lovin' Me", became Jennings' first top 10 single, peaking at No. 9. Nashville Rebel was the soundtrack to an independent film of the same name, starring Jennings. The single "Green River" charted on Billboard country singles at #11. In 1967 Jennings released a hit single, "Just to Satisfy You". During an interview, Jennings remarked that the song was a "pretty good example" of the influence of his work with Buddy Holly and rockabilly music. Jennings produced midchart albums that sold well, including Just to Satisfy You, that included the same-named hit single of 1967. Jennings' singles enjoyed success. "The Chokin' Kind" peaked at number eight on Billboard's Hot Country Singles in 1967, while "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line" hit number two the following year. In 1969, his collaboration with The Kimberlys on the single "MacArthur Park" earned a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group. His single "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" reached number three at the Hot Country Singles chart by the end of the year.

During this time, Jennings rented an apartment in Nashville with singer Johnny Cash. Jennings and Cash were both managed by "Lucky" Moeller's booking agency Moeller Talent, Inc. The tours organized by the agency were unproductive, with the artists being booked to venues located far from each other in close dates. After paying for the accommodation and travel expenditures, Jennings' profits were reduced, with him frequently requesting advances from the agency or RCA Records to play the next venue. While playing three-hundred days on the road, Jennings' debt increased along with his consumption of amphetamines, as he believed himself to be trapped on the circuit.

In 1972 Jennings released Ladies Love Outlaws. The single that headlined the album became a hit for Jennings, and was his first approach to Outlaw Country. Jennings was accustomed to performing and recording with his own band, The Waylors, a practice that was not encouraged by powerful Nashville producers. Over time, however, Jennings felt limited by the Nashville sound's lack of artistic freedom. The music style publicized as "Countrypolitan" was characterized by orchestral arrangements, and the absence of traditional country music instruments. The producers did not let Jennings play his own guitar or select material to record.

Outlaw Country[edit]

In an interview, Jennings recalled the restrictions of the Nashville establishment: "They wouldn't let you do anything. You had to dress a certain way: you had to do everything a certain way.... They kept trying to destroy me.... I just went about my business and did things my way.... You start messing with my music, I get mean." By 1972, after the release of Ladies Love Outlaws, his recording contract was nearing an end. Sick with hepatitis, Jennings was hospitalized. Afflicted by disease, debt and the music industry, he was considering retirement. Albright visited him and convinced him to continue. Albright talked to him about making Neil Reshen his new manager. Meanwhile, Jennings requested a US$25,000 royalty advance from RCA Records to cover his living expenses during his recovery. The same day he met Rashen, RCA sent Jerry Bradley to offer Jennings US$5,000 as a bonus for signing a new 5% royalty deal with RCA, the same terms he had accepted in 1965. After reviewing with Reshen, he rejected the offer and hired Reshen.

Reshen started to renegotiate Jennings' recording and touring contracts. At a meeting in a Nashville airport, Jennings introduced Reshen to Willie Nelson. By the end of the meeting, Reshen had become Nelson's manager as well. Jennings's new deal gained him a $75,000 advance and artistic control. Reshen advised Jennings to keep the beard that he had grown in the hospital, to match the image of outlaw country.

By 1973, Nelson had returned to music, finding success with Atlantic Records. Now based in Austin, Texas, he had made inroads into the rock and roll press by attracting rock audiences. Atlantic Records was now attempting to sign Jennings, but Nelson's rise to popularity persuaded RCA to renegotiate with Jennings before losing another potential star.

In 1973, Jennings released Lonesome, On'ry and Mean and Honky Tonk Heroes, the first albums recorded and released under his creative control. The release of these albums heralded a major turning point for Jennings, kicking off his most critically and commercially successful years. More hit albums followed with This Time and The Ramblin' Man, both released in 1974. The title tracks of both albums topped the Billboard country singles chart, with the self-penned "This Time" becoming Jennings' first No. 1 single. Dreaming My Dreams, released in 1975, included the No. 1 single "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" and was his first album to be certified gold by the RIAA; it was also the first of his next six consecutive, solo studio albums to be certified gold or higher. In 1976, Jennings released Are You Ready for the Country, Jennings wanted the record to be produced by Los Angeles producer Ken Mansfield. Although RCA denied the request, Jennings and The Waylors went to Los Angeles and recorded with Mansfield at his expense. After a month, Jennings presented the master tape to Chet Atkins, who decided to release it. The album hit number one on Billboard's country albums three times the same year, topping the charts for 10 weeks. It was named country album of the year in 1976 by Record World Magazine and it was certified gold by the RIAA.

In 1976 Jennings released the album Wanted! The Outlaws, recorded with Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser, and Jessie Colter for RCA. The album was the first country music album certified platinum. The following year, RCA issued Ol' Waylon, an album that produced a hit duet with Nelson, "Luckenbach, Texas". The album Waylon and Willie followed in 1978, producing the hit single "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys". Jennings released I've Always Been Crazy, also in 1978. The same year, at the peak of his success, Jennings began to feel limited by the outlaw movement. Jennings referred to the over-exploitation of the image in the song "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit Has Done Got Out of Hand?", claiming that the movement had become a "self-fulfilling prophecy". In 1979 he released Greatest Hits, which was certified gold the same year, and quintuple platinum in 2002.

Also in 1979, Jennings joined the cast of the CBS series The Dukes of Hazzard as The Balladeer, the narrator. The only episode to feature him in person was "Welcome, Waylon Jennings", during the seventh season. Jennings played himself, presented as an old friend of the Duke family. For the show, he also wrote and sang the theme song "Good Ol' Boys", which became the biggest hit of his career. Released as a single in promotion with the show, it became Jennings' twelfth single to reach number one on the Billboard Country Singles chart. It was also a crossover hit, peaking at twenty-one on the Billboard Hot 100.

Later years[edit]

In the mid-1980s, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Nelson, and Jennings formed a successful group called The Highwaymen. Aside from his work with The Highwaymen, Jennings' released a gold album WWII (1982) with Willie Nelson.

In 1985, Jennings joined with USA for Africa to record "We Are the World," but he left the studio because of a dispute over the song's lyrics that were to be sung in Swahili. Ironically, after Jennings left the session, the idea was dropped at the prompting of Stevie Wonder, who pointed out that Ethiopians did not speak Swahili. By this time, his sales had decreased. After the release of Sweet Mother Texas, Jennings signed with Music Corporation of America. The debut release with the label Will the Wolf Survive (1985) peaked at number one in Billboard's Country albums in 1986. Jennings's initial success tailed off, and in 1990, he signed with Epic Records. His first release, The Eagle, became his final top 10 album. During the late 80s-early 90s, Jennings and his contemporaries such as Faron Young, Merle Haggard, and George Jones were gradually evicted from the airwaves in favor of a younger generation of pop-influenced country artists like Alan Jackson and Reba McEntire.

Also in 1985, he made a cameo appearance in the live-action children's film Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird. In the movie, he plays a turkey farm truck driver that gives Big Bird a lift. He also sings one of the film's songs, entitled "Ain't No Road Too Long".

In 1993, in collaboration with Rincom Children's Entertainment, Jennings recorded an album of children's songs, Cowboys, Sisters, Rascals & Dirt, which included "Shooter's Theme," a tribute to his 14-year-old with the theme of "a friend of mine".

Although his record sales and radio play dwindled during the 90s, Jennings continued to draw large crowds at his live performances. In 1997, after the Lollapalooza tour, he decreased his tour schedule and became centered on his family.

In 1998, Jennings teamed up with Bare, Jerry Reed, and Mel Tillis to form The Old Dogs. The group recorded a double album of songs by Shel Silverstein.

In mid-1999, Jennings assembled what he referred to as his "hand-picked dream team" and formed Waylon & The Waymore Blues Band. Consisting primarily of former Waylors, the 13-member group performed concerts from 1999 to 2001. In January 2000, Jennings recorded what would become his final album at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium, Never Say Die: Live.

^ Carr & Munde 1997, p. 154.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 31-33.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 39.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 48.^ Amburn, Ellis 2014, p. 15.^ Carr & Munde 1997, p. 155.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 40.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 47.^ Corbin, Sky. "The Waylon Jennings Years at KLLL (Part One)". KLLL (KLLL Lubbock). Retrieved July 2, 2014. ^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 51.^ Corbin, Sky. "The Waylon Jennings Years at KLLL (Part Two)". KLLL (KLLL Lubbock). Retrieved July 2, 2014. ^ Corbin, Sky. "The Waylon Jennings Years at KLLL (Part Four)". KLLL (KLLL Lubbock). Retrieved July 2, 2014. ^ Corbin, Sky. "The Waylon Jennings Years at KLLL (Part Five)". KLLL (KLLL Lubbock). Retrieved July 2, 2014. ^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 58, 59.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 62.^ Everitt 2004, p. 13.^ Texas Monthly, January 1988; p.108^ Hetter, Katia; Marsh, Rene (March 4, 2015). "Buddy Holly plane crash may be re-examined". cnn.com. Retrieved March 4, 2015. ^ Everitt, Rich 2004, p. 15.^ Everitt, Rich 2004, p. 18, 19.^ Corbin, Sky. "The Waylon Jennings Years at KLLL (Part Six)". KLLL (KLLL Lubbock). Retrieved July 2, 2014. ^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 71.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 72.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 73.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 74.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 70.^ Cite error: The named reference Rolling_Stone was invoked but never defined (see the help page).^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 77-81.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 81.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 82-86.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 89.^ Smith, John 1995, p. 15.^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas; Bogdanov, Vladimir; Woodstra Chris 2003, p. 375.^ Carr & Munde 1997, p. 159.^ Carr & Munde 1997, p. 156.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 94-96.^ Wolff & Duane 2000, p. Waylon Jennings at Google Books.^ Country Music Foundation; p.53^ Bluegrass Unlimited; p.44^ Streissguth, Michael 2013, p. 52.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 102-103.^ Nelson, Willie; Bud Shrake; Edwin Shrake 2000, p. 158.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 104.^ Smith, John 1995, p. 231.^ Wolff & Duane 2000, p. 360.^ Henderson, Richard 2001, p. 84.^ Cramer, Alfred 2009, p. 715.^ Thompson 2002, p. 622.^ The Southern Quarterly; p.118^ Country song roundup staff 1967.^ Kingsbury 2004, p. 247.^ Streissguth, Michael 2007, p. 135.^ Kingsbury 2004, p. 333.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 112, 182.^ Larkin 1995, p. 3005.^ Petrusich 2008, p. 105.^ Ashby, LeRoy 2006, p. p.418.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 182-186.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, pp. 187-192.^ Petrusich 2008, p. 106.^ Larkin 1995, p. 2159.^ Lewis 1993, p. 169.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 266.^ Reid, Jan; Sahm Shawn 2010, p. 79.^ Reid, Jan 2004, p. p. 224.^ Petrusich 2008, p. 106.^ Wolff & Duane 2000, p. 340.^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Ramblin' Man – Overview". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved October 24, 2011. ^ Mansfield, Ken; p.171, 172^ Huang, Hao 1999, p. 325.^ Wishart 2004, p. 54.^ Kingsbury2004, p. 612.^ Lewis 1993, p. 169.^ Schäfer 2012, p. 60.^ Kingsbury2004, p. 612.^ "RIAA Searchable Database". RIAA.com. The Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved May 22, 2012. ^ Kingsbury2004, p. 612.^ Seal 2011, p. 141 View page^ Breskin 2004, p. 6.^ Cagle, Jess (January 24, 1992). "They Were the World". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 11, 2009. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Waylon Jennings – Biography". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. ^ "Will the Wolf Survie?". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved October 25, 2011. ^ Clarke 1998, p. 648.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 370.^ Birk, Carl 2005, p. p.71.^ Ankeny, Jason. "Old Dogs". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved October 25, 2011. ^ George-Warren, Romanowski & Pareles 2001, p. 492.^ D'Angelo, Joe (February 13, 2002). "Country Music Outlaw Waylon Jennings Dies at 64". MTV News (MTV Networks). Retrieved October 25, 2011. 

Music style and image[edit]

Jennings' music was characterized by his "powerful" singing voice, noted by his "rough-edged quality," as well as his phrasing and texture. He was also recognized for his "spanky-twang" guitar style. To create his sound, he used a mixture of thumb and fingers during the rhythmic parts, while using picks for the lead runs. He combined hammer-on and pull-off riffs, with eventual upper-fret double stops and modulation effects. Jennings played a 1953 Fender Telecaster, a used guitar that was a gift from The Waylors. Jennings's bandmates adorned his guitar with a distinctive leather cover that featured a black background with a white floral work. Jennings further customized it by filing down the frets to lower the strings on the neck to obtain the slapping sound. Among his other guitars, Jennings used a 1950 Fender Broadcaster from the mid-1970s, until he gave it to guitarist Reggie Young in 1993. The leather covers of his guitars were carved by leather artist Terry Lankford.

His signature image was characterized by his long hair and beard, as well as his black hat and the black leather vest he wore during his appearances.

^ Brown 1986, p. 132.^ Ward 2012, p. 308.^ Hunter 2010, p. 124.^ Hunter 2010, p. 125.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 105.^ "Waylon Jennings guitar". Country Guitar (Country Guitar Magazine): 15. February 1995. ^ "Interview: Waylon Jennings". Guitar player (Miller Freeman Publications) : 118. 1973. ^ "Waylon Jennings Fender Electric Instrument Company, a solid-body electric guitar, broadcaster, Fullerton, CA, circa 1950". Christie's. Christies.com. Retrieved June 14, 2013. ^ Arender, Tammi; Terry Lankford (April 19, 2012). "2542". Lankford Leather. (Interview). Tennessee Crossroads. WNPT. Nashville, Tennessee. ^ "Country great Waylon Jennings dies at 64". CNN (Turner Broadcasting System, Inc). February 14, 2002. Retrieved May 22, 2012. ^ de Rubio, Dave Gil (April 13, 2012). "Willie Nelson: Live! At the US Festival 1983". American Songwriter (American Songwriter, LLC). Retrieved May 22, 2012. 

Personal life[edit]

In 1969, Jennings met and married Jessi Colter.[5] Jennings and Colter then moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Colter and Jennings had one son, Waylon Albright "Shooter" Jennings (born May 19, 1979). In the early 1980s, Colter and Jennings nearly divorced due to his addiction to drugs and other forms of substance abuse.[6] However, they remained together until Jennings's death in 2002.

In 1997, he gave up touring to be close to his family. To set an example about the importance of education to his son Waylon Albright, Jennings earned a GED at age 52.

Addiction and recovery[edit]

Jennings started to consume amphetamines while he lived with Johnny Cash during the mid-1960s. Jennings later stated, "Pills were the artificial energy on which Nashville ran around the clock." In 1977, Jennings was arrested by federal agents for conspiracy and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. A private courier warned the Drug Enforcement Administration about the package sent to Jennings by a New York colleague that contained 27 grams of cocaine. The DEA and the police searched Jennings's recording studio. They found no evidence, because while they were waiting for a search warrant, Jennings disposed of the cocaine. The charges were later dropped and Jennings was released. The episode was recounted in Jennings's song "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Outta Hand?"

During the early 1980s, his cocaine addiction intensified. Jennings claimed to have spent $1,500 a day on his habit, draining his personal finances and leaving him bankrupt with debt of up to $2.5 million. Though he insisted on repaying the debt and did additional tours to earn the funds, his work became less focused and his tours deteriorated. Jennings decided to quit his addictions, leased a home in the Phoenix, Arizona, area and spent a month detoxing himself, intending to start using cocaine again in a more controlled fashion afterward. In 1984, he quit cocaine. Jennings claimed that his son Shooter Jennings was his main inspiration to quit permanently.

Illness and death[edit]

Jennings's health had been deteriorating for years before his death. After quitting cocaine, he ended his habit of smoking six packs of cigarettes daily in 1988. The same year he underwent heart bypass surgery. By 2000 his diabetes worsened, and the pain reduced his mobility, forcing Jennings to end most touring. Later the same year he underwent surgery to improve his leg circulation. In December 2001 his left foot was amputated at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. On February 13, 2002, Jennings died in his sleep of diabetic complications in Chandler, Arizona. He was buried in the Mesa City Cemetery, in Mesa, Arizona. At the funeral ceremony, on February 15, Jessi Colter sang "Storms Never Last" for the attendees, who included Jennings's close friends and fellow musicians.

^ Birk, Carl 2005, p. p.72.^ Kingsbury2004, p. 264.^ Cite error: The named reference Rolling_Stone was invoked but never defined (see the help page).^ Hart 2007, p. 184.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, pp. 322-325.^ Weatherby, Gregg 1988, p. p.46.^ Ching, Barbara 2001, p. 124.^ "The Outlaw in Love". People.com. Retrieved 2013-07-03. ^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 322.


Between 1966 and 1995, fifty-four Jennings albums charted, with 11 reaching number one. Meanwhile between 1965 and 1991, ninety-six singles charted, with 16 number ones. In October 2001, Jennings was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In one final act of defiance, he did not attend the ceremony and opted instead to send son Buddy Dean Jennings.

On July 6, 2006, Jennings was inducted to Hollywood's Rock Wall in Hollywood, California. On June 20, 2007, Jennings was posthumously awarded the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award by the Academy of Country Music.

^ Billboard, February 23, 2002; p.8^ Birk, Carl 2005, p. p.72.^ "Guitar Center's Hollywood Rock Wall". Rockwall.com. Guitar Center, Inc. Retrieved October 25, 2011. ^ "Pioneer Award". ACM Awards. Academy of Country Music. Retrieved October 25, 2011. 


Jennings's music had a major influence on several neotraditionalist and alternative country artists, including Hank Williams Jr., The Marshall Tucker Band, Travis Tritt, Steve Earle, Jamey Johnson, John Anderson, his son, Shooter Jennings and Hank Williams III.

In 2008, his first posthumous album, Waylon Forever, was released. The album consisted of songs recorded with his son Shooter when he was 16.

In 2012, Waylon: The Music Inside a three-volume project, consisting in covers of Jennings's songs by different artists was released. The same year, it was announced for September the release of Goin' Down Rockin': The Last Recordings, a set of 12 songs recorded by Jennings and bassist Robby Turner before his death in 2002. Jennings's family was reluctant to release any new material because they did not feel comfortable at the time. The songs only featured Jennings and Turner on the bass, while further accompaniment would be added later. Ten years after, Turner completed the recordings with the help of former Waylors. The Jennings family approved the release despite the launch of a new business focused on his estate. Shooter Jennings arranged deals for a clothing line, while also launching a renewed website, and started talks with different producers about the making of a biographical film.

^ Cite error: The named reference AM was invoked but never defined (see the help page).^ Guralnick, Peter 1989, p. 203.^ Browne, Ray; Browne, Pat 2001, p. p.515.^ Jennings, Waylon; Kaye, Lenny 1996, p. 333.^ Fox, Pamela; Ching, Barbara 2008, p. 10.^ Talbott, Chris (February 13, 2012). "New Music on the Way From Late Waylon Jennings". Huffington Post (AOL, Inc.). Archived from the original on 2014-04-20. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 


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