A deep dive into the history of the Outlaw Country movement?
Sign me UP.
There’s a brand new, 12-hour documentary titled They Called Us Outlaws on the way, which was produced by country great Jessi Colter, who was of course married to a pioneer of the outlaw movement, Waylon Jennings.
In partnership with the Country Music Hall of Fame, the film was shot over the course of a decade by director Eric Geadelmann and his Shadowbrook Studios, and it will include six episodes in a 12-hour timespan.
The film will feature over 75 interviews with those who were there and played a massive roll in the movement, like Willie Nelson, as well as those who carry the torch today, like Eric Church and Miranda Lambert
Other interview subjects also include Kris Kristofferson, Matthew McConaughey, Emmylou Harris and Margo Price.
Some of the episodes will even include the last ever on-camera conversations had with late legends of the movement like Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Billy Joe Shaver and Tom T. Hall.
And the part that I’m possibly most excited for is all of the rare and never-before-seen performances from the height of Outlaw Country from Willie, Waylon and others that we’ll get to see when it airs.
I’ve written pretty extensively about how Waylon and Willieboth felt about being labeled “outlaws,” but it will be incredibly neat to take an in-depth look at this particular era of country music in the 1970’s, and the people who made it so incredible.
There is no official release date quite yet, but it seems like a great time to cue up Waylon’s “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got out of Hand” (which was inspired by an entirely true story and DEA raid):
Waylon Jennings Said The “Outlaw” Title Was “The Dumbest Thing I Ever Heard”
Of course, these days, we all think of him as the ultimate country outlaw, who paved the way for an incredible era of music back in the 1970’s.
And his 1976 collaborative record with Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser and wife Jessi Colter, Wanted! The Outlaws, was wildly successful, becoming first country album to ever go platinum.
Waylon has admitted more than once that he hated the whole concept of it, and even once said that the most “outlaw” thing Willie ever did was “that he came to town and double-parked on music row.”
And in an interview on the Down Home Down Under show in Australia back in the late ’80s, he admitted that he hated labels and just wanted to make the music he was passionate about:
“Well, you shoulda started with some of what they called me before that. I been called a little bit of everything. When I came here, I didn’t quite fit in any mold, just like I still don’t, you know?
They felt like that they had to put some kind of label on you. And I’ve really always not liked labels, you know? I think when you finally make it is when people start referring to your music as the ‘Waylon Jennings music’ or the ‘Willie Nelson music’, or the sound.
And that’s what I always strived for, not for a particular type of music.”
But of course, like pretty much any artist in the music industry will tell you, when PR people and label executives get involved, it becomes a lot more about marketing than music in a lot of ways (read: pretty much every way).
And it’s always been like that to a certain degree based on what Waylon said in this interview, but you know he’s gonna call it exactly like he sees it…
He thought that “outlaw” title was the dumbest thing he ever heard:
“And then when I thought I had it all made, they come along with this outlaw mickey mouse, you know?
And I though that was about the dumbest thing I ever heard.
Outlaw music? What is ‘outlaw music,’ you know?”
Except, he later admitted in the interview that, in the end, it really was a brilliant move from a purely business standpoint.
He also let everyone in on a little secret that, when they had picked out the songs for the aforementioned Wanted! The Outlaws record, a lot of them were 10-plus years old.
And Waylon had decided at the time that Willie needed to come redo some of his old tracks before the record got cleared to go to the label for publishing, and had him come in the studio and lay down new vocals.
That was pretty illegal for a lot of reasons having to do with publishing rights and all, especially because Willie was no longer with RCA Records, who still owned those rights and put the album out, and was signed with Columbia Records at the time:
“Now I’ll tell it, because it won’t hurt anything anyways, but I made Willie come in and re-sing some of that stuff, which was against the law.”
Sounds pretty damn outlaw to me…
What I would give to have one beer with Waylon and just shoot the shit about life. The man’s honesty about everything he ever thought will never, ever get old.
Do yourself a favor and check out that part of the interview here: