Let’s just say Waylon Jennings and the CMA Awards have a complicated history.
He famously walked out of the show in 1970, after they cut his performance short due to time constraints, and considered doing so again in 1975 when he was nominated for Entertainer of the Year, as well as several other awards, but his wife Jessi Colter didn’t win anything.
He stayed that year and gave an extremely short speech (if that’s what you wanna call it), saying in classic Waylon fashion:
“Thank you, they told me to be nice, I don’t know what they meant by that. Thank you.”
I mean, it’s no secret that the man always did exactly what he wanted to do and didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought about it.
And it’s quite obvious that the CMA’s always need him way more than he needed them, but as he got a little bit older, Waylon calmed down a lot, mainly because he kicked a 21-year drug addiction completely by 1984.
He spoke about it quite openly later in life, and in detail in his 1998 book Waylon: An Autobiography, often saying it was “21 years of hell,” fueled by an addiction to cocaine.
And he always hated award shows, but still made appearances every now and then throughout his career, which brings us to the 1984 CMA Awards, when he returned for a full performance to debut “America.”
Written by Sammy Johns, Waylon released it as the lead single to his 1984 Waylon’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 compilation album. It peaked at #6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.
He put it out the year he parted ways from RCA Records after two decades with the label, because he wanted a special song to mark the occasion and was inspired by the Olympics happening that year.
Introduced by Kenny Rogers, Waylon looks and sounds much healthier here than some of the live performances you can find online prior to the mid-80’s, and it’s a lesser-known moment from CMA Awards history that’s actually one of my favorite’s.
If he ever had any bad blood with the show, you’d never know it by watching this all-time great performance:
This years 56th CMA Awards show will air live next week on November 9th on ABC, with Peyton Manning and Luke Bryan co-hosting live from Nashville, Tennessee.
They’ve announced Luke Combs, Miranda Lambert, Carly Pearce, Ashley McBryde, Patty Loveless, Reba McEntire, Chris Stapleton, Morgan Wallen, Hardy, Lainey Wilson, and more as performers.
The opening of the show is set to include an all-star tribute to the late, great Loretta Lynn, which will surely be a highlight of the night.