CMA Awards 1970: Waylon Jennings Storms Out After Producers Cut His Performance Short

Waylon Jennings country music
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With the CMA Awards right around the corner on November 8th, hosted once again by Peyton Manning and Luke Bryan, we’re gonna be spending the next few weeks looking back at some of the wildest moments over the course of the past 50 years. And today… we’re taking it back to the great Waylon Jennings and the 1970 CMA Awards.

Waylon Jennings… the man was one of kind. I wish the country music legend was still alive to this day, and I could have the privilege to sit down with him and listen to all of the wild stories he accumulated throughout his famed career.

Above all else, the man always was authentic is they come… and didn’t care to deal with the bullsh*t, especially when it came to the pageantry of the corporate country powers that be. Like… the CMA Awards.

He admitted in his autobiography, Waylon: An Autobiography, that he was a scheduled performer for that year’s show, performing his 1968 hit “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line.” However, the show lasted a little longer than expected and organizers were running short on time, so they asked Waylon if he could cut the song short, to only a verse and a chorus.

According to the man himself, this is exactly how it went down:

One year I’d stormed out of the awards and didn’t mind telling anyone who would listen why. It was Kris Kristofferson’s night… he was a shoo-in for several categories. I had been scheduled to perform ‘Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line.’

They said they were strapped for time, and they wanted me to cut the song to one verse and chorus. I said, ‘Why don’t I just dance across the stage and grin? Maybe do one line. That’ll give you a lot of time.’

They told me to not get smart. Either I did it or I got out. They said, ‘We don’t need you.’

I decided that was true, and I left.”

Yup… Waylon Jennings walked right out of the CMA Awards. I mean, how are you gonna tell Waylon Jennings to cut it down?

Needless to say, when was nominated for multiple CMA Awards, including Entertainer of the Year, a few years later in 1975, the CMAs were much more in need of Waylon’s full participation. And he thought about walking out of that ceremony too once he learned that Jessi Colter didn’t win anything:

“My heart went out to Jessi, and though my first instinct was to get the hell gone, I thought that maybe by staying I could raise some of the larger problems that faced country music, such as its closed mindedness and suspicion of change.”

And when Waylon walked up to accept his awards, all he said was this:

“Thank you, they told me to be nice, I don’t know what they meant by that. Thank you.”

They don’t make ’em like that anymore.


A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock