It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Waylon Jennings will forever be one of the greatest outlaw country singers of all time.
We’re talking about a guy who did things his own way with no regrets, and if the machine out in Nashville, or anybody in general pissed him off, he was gonna let ’em know.
Granted, he thought the outlaw title was “the dumbest thing he I heard,” and said the most outlaw thing Willie Nelson ever did was double park on Music Row.
Nevertheless, the two were cornerstones of the outlaw country movement.
I was going through some of these Mike Judge Tales from the Tour Bus videos, and found this gem of a story, that perfectly depicts how much of an outlaw Waylon was.
In the late ’70s, Jennings transitioned from this clean cut and clean shaven country singer, to the black hat, long haired and bearded country boy outlaw, which many of his friends say was induced by his increasing struggles with substance abuse with cocaine in particular, and his growing weariness of the people in Nashville.
Around that time, fellow country artist Billy Joe Shaver recalled a story about how Waylon always kept some dynamite in the back of the tour bus, just incase it was ever needed.
One night, they were playing a show in this barn, where Shaver said it was packed to the brim, and people were hanging from rafters just to get a good look at arguably the greatest country singer of the time.
Everything was going as planned, until after the show when they were all waiting to get paid.
However, as time rolled on, nobody came out of the barn to pay them, and sure enough they realized they were the last people on the site.
Needless to say, Waylon was getting fed up, and he disappeared for a minute and came back, and they all just decided to take off.
Sure enough, as they were leaving, the back half of the barn exploded, more than likely from the dynamite Waylon was keeping in the back of the bus.
Check it out:
You can hear Shaver tell the story himself in another interview:
Waylon Jennings Said The “Outlaw” Title Was “The Dumbest Thing I Ever Heard”
I can never get enough of Waylon Jennings.
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 in an interview on the Down Home Down Under show in Australia back in the late ’80s, he said 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: