Waylon Jennings & The Story Of The Legendary $25,000 Piss

A man with a microphone
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The legendary Waylon Jennings.

A country music icon and pioneer of the “Outlaw” country movement, Waylon has more than his fair share of wild stories, but perhaps one of the most entertaining is the legendary “$25,000 piss.”

In the documentary Renegade Outlaw Legend, Waylon recalled a contract dispute with RCA in the early ’70s when he asked them for an advance on royalties. After initially agreeing to his request of $25,000, they came back with a much smaller offer of $5,000 and the same royalty rate that he had since the beginning. Plus, it was on the condition that Jennings sign with the label for another five years.

Needless to say, that wasn’t gonna fly with Waylon.

Enlisting the help of business manager/lawyer Neil Reshen, Jennings met with RCA executives Jerry Bradley and Chet Atkins to hammer out this $25,000 royalty issue, but negations quickly turned south.

According to his autobiography, Waylon: An Autobiography, it went like this:

It was down to a $25,000 sum, and they we’re not going to give it to me. He wanted it. We were sitting there, not a word spoken, and the silence got unbearable. After a while, I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Chet,” I said, reaching over to a bowl on his desk, “where’d you get these peanuts?’” Neil glared at me. “Shut up, Waylon.”

You could hear a clock tick in the room. It got even quieter. Minutes passed. I rose up, never said a word, walked out. I went to the bathroom to take a leak. When I came back, Neil greeted me in the hall. “You’re a fuckin’ genius,” he said.

“What?”

“Walking out like that. That sewed it up.” He was positively gleeful. “Where’d you go?”

“I had to take a piss.”

“That’s a $25,000 piss,” said Neil.

They asked me where you went and I told them I didn’t know. “Waylon’s mad, I’m sure. He’s crazy. He’s liable to do anything.”

“Will he be back?” they wanted to know, and I shrugged. “I guess he’s gone, so we may as well call this to a close.” And that when they gave us the money.

According to the 2013 book Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville, Jennings ended up signing a monster deal with RCA, one that gave him a ton of creative freedom, more control over his music, and a lot more money moving forward.

He started working on Lonesome, On’ry and Mean, which was released in March the following year (1973), and the rest is history.

A beer bottle on a dock

STAY ENTERTAINED

A beer bottle on a dock