Waylon Jennings is one of the most iconic names in the history of Country Music.
Right up there with Willie, Dolly, Loretta, Merle, George (both Jones and Strait), and Johnny, a conversation about the genre is hardly complete without at least a mention of the Texas native.
But did you know “Waylon” is not is actual name?
It turns out, his birth name is “Wayland” and that was his government official name until the day he died in 2002.
According to his autobiography, Waylon: An Autobiography, while expecting their first child, Lorene Jennings, his mother, liked the name “Galen,” but that wasn’t a viable option due to a tradition that her husband’s father was trying to start with the family.
He had named his first born son William Alvin, and wanted each subsequent eldest son to carry the first two initials of “W.A.”.
So she came up with a compromise and just switched out the first letter with a “W,” slapped on the middle name Arnold, and the tradition was alive and well for another generation with the birth of Wayland Arnold Jennings in 1937.
“They were originally going to name me Wayland: “land by the highway.’ Momma wanted to call me Galen, and my grandmother had a boyfriend that she was going to marry who had died of some disease, and his name was Wade.
Daddy thought I should have the initials W.A., which was a tradition for the oldest through the Jennings. The first ones that ever migrated to Texas were William Albert and Miriam.
So it came down to Wayland Arnold.”
But the name didn’t stick around too long.
Shortly, after Wayland’s birth, a professor and preacher from a nearby Baptist College paid the family a visit, during which he said something to the effect of “Thank you for naming your son after our school, The Wayland Baptist College.”
This did not sit well with Mama Jennings, who was a devout member of the Church of Christ and fully believed that anyone outside of her church was unable to preach, let alone understand, the Word of God.
As Waylon put it:
“But when a Baptist preacher stopped by to visit Momma, he said, ‘Oh, I see you’ve named your son after our wonderful Wayland College in Plain-view,’ so she immediately changed the spelling to Waylon.
We were solidly Church of Christ, saved by baptism instead of faith. She never got around to switching it on the birth certificate. I still hate my middle name, and for a while I didn’t like Waylon.
It sounded so corny and hillbilly, but it’s been good to me, and I’m pretty well at peace with it now.”
And from that moment on, Wayland was no more, replaced with the now legendary name of Waylon Jennings.
If you remember, Waylon’s first born son’s name does not start with a W. To go a step further, Terry’s middle name is Vance.
Turns out, like in most other parts of his life, Waylon didn’t exactly like anyone telling him what to do, not even his grandfather.
Grandpa Gus was less than pleased with this decision.
Waylon and his then-wife Maxine didn’t end up changing his name, but down the road when he and Jessi Colter had their first son, they decided to honor the tradition and named him Waylon Albright Jennings, although you may know him better as Shooter.
Waylon Jennings sure did live a wild life and left behind a legacy of tales, so it’s only fitting that even his name had a good story behind it.