We here at High Bias were saddened to learn of the untimely death of C&W legend Waylon Jennings. Here we offer our thoughts on his passing.
Billy Joe Shaver tells this story about his early struggles in Nashville. Waylon Jennings had heard some of his material, and had told Shaver he intended to record an album of it.
As weeks stretched into months, no word came from Jennings' camp. Finally, an enraged Shaver confronted Jennings in the hallway of a recording studio. Threatening to kick Jennings' ass, Shaver was oblivious to the pair of biker bodyguards flanking Jennings. Jennings chose not to have Shaver summarily whupped, and in 1973 released Honky Tonk Heroes, which consisted primarily of Shaver songs.
Waylon Jennings died in his sleep at home Wednesday 2/13. He was 64. He'd been suffering from diabetes and related illnesses for years.
Jennings was one of the progenitors of the "outlaw country" movement. As recently as October, when the Country Music Hall of Fame inducted him, he chose to stay home and send his son, Shooter, to collect his award. Jennings still couldn't stand to rub elbows with the Nashville muckety-mucks.
Early in his five-decade career, he worked as bassist on Buddy Holly's final tour. Holly had produced Jennings' first studio sessions, including the cover of "Jolie Blon," which became Jennings' first hit. On the night of the crash, Jennings gave his seat on the plane to the Big Bopper, a fateful decision that haunted him for years.
I've Always Been Crazy was the eight-track tape I bought my father for his thirtieth birthday in 1978. I was nearly ten, and my mother had given me some money and told me to find something at the Bottom Dollar store in Freeport. It turned out to be a damn good choice, as my sister and I spent many hours listening to that tape with him in his Chevy truck.
Despite shunning the Nashville hit machine, Jennings' accomplishments certainly read like Hall of Fame credentials. His 1976 album Wanted: The Outlaws was the first country album to go platinum. He also wrote and sang the theme to the 1970s TV series The Dukes of Hazzard. He had 16 number-one country singles. He won a Grammy for his duet with Willie Nelson, "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys." He teamed with Nelson, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson to form the Highwaymen, an outlaw supergroup that recorded three albums, and had a hit with the single, "Highwayman." All told, he recorded over 60 albums.
He is survived by his wife of 32 years, singer Jessi Colter, and their son, Shooter.
On Wednesday, April 28, 1993, Jennings was standing offstage during the CBS taping of Willie Nelson's Big Six-O, An All-Star Birthday Celebration. Nelson had just wowed the intimate audience with "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground." As they cheered wildly, Jennings threw back his head and shouted to no one in particular, "Hell, he wasn't that goddamn good. If ya'll don't shut up he's liable to sing it again!"
The world is a duller place without Waylon Jennings.
Copyright © 2002 High Bias