Of course, these days, we all think of him as the ultimate country outlaw, who paved the way for an incredible era of country music back in the 1970s.
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, calling it a marketing gimmick, and even once said that the most “outlaw” thing Willie Nelson ever did was come to town and “double-park 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 thought that was about the dumbest thing I ever heard.
You know, 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: