Imagine sitting down in a room with Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings.
Four of the best to every play country music… you can ask them anything you please, and you lead off with an insult? Bold strategy Cotton…
Back in 1991, Paul Holmes, a popular New Zealand broadcaster, sat down with this incredible crew for an interview just prior to their tour.
And he asked if the reason for the tour was that they couldn’t sell any tickets by themselves, or… at least that’s what “critics” were saying:
“Why they’re teaming up together? At least one critic, probably more critics, have suggested it’s because none of you can now fill the holes on your own, it takes four of you.
How do you answer a critic like that?”
Kris Kristofferson jumped in with a chuckle:
“How kind of you to point that out.”
As the rest of the gang joined him in laughing, Waylon joined in:
“Well it’s about time to leave, looks like…”
The four didn’t seem to take too much offense to the comment, and kept it very light, but the insinuation behind the question was pretty insulting to the arguable Mount Rushmore of outlaw country singers.
They quickly put the speculation to rest with Kris Kristofferson starting off the group’s response:
“We have a lot of business being up on stage together because we all have been referred to as ‘wild men’ at one time or other in our life.”
But ultimately, it was the calm and collected Man In Black who corrected these “critics”:
“There’s not a one in this group that can’t fill any hall he plays on his own, that’s not a true statement that you made there.
I haven’t had a show this year, with myself, my wife, and the Carter family that hasn’t been a sellout, and I know Willie sells out every place he plays. So does Waylon, so does Kris. It’s not true that we can’t make it on our own.
As a matter of fact, we have trouble working into our schedule, the shows for The Highwaymen… we do it a year in advance. We’ve taken a year of planning to make this tour happen.”
Waylon followed up Johnny’s poised response with one that is very telling of his own cast-out style:
“I tell ya, one more point too… that if you ask another question like that we’ll burn your home.”
I mean, I know Waylon said that with a grin, but it wouldn’t be the first time he burned down a building. If you remember back in the day, Waylon actually blew up a venue with dynamite after the owner refused to pay them for a gig they just played.
Not to mention, the man has always had a quick wit. If you’re familiar with your Waylon Jennings, this answer won’t come as a surprise to you.
His nonchalant threat had the entire group breaking out in laughter, but realistically I wouldn’t tempt the often-hot-tempered Waylon.
Needless to say, the rest of the interview went more smoothly, and in Paul Holmes’ defense, I think he wanted the guys to clear up the travesty behind the critical statements being made.
His follow up question got into some of the less than glamourous personal details about the four:
“You’ve all been described as survivors, survivors of a collective twelve marriages, more than a hundred and fifteen years on the road, and untold bottles of whiskey and pills… what is he talking about?”
Once again, he seems to be looking for a good quote, but at the same time, you can’t deny the history of these four.
Willie chimes in with a quick-witted:
“That’s just Kris he’s talkin’ about!”
“Yeah, what about the rest of us?”
As for the critic’s speculation on their “lack of individual sales,” they remained more-or-less unconcerned.
I guess we can just assume that this cool-as-a-cucumber attitude comes with the territory of being an outlaw, or maybe it comes along naturally when you’ve sold nearly 200 million albums collectively…
So I think the lesson is… if you’re going to be a critic, at least do your homework first.