If anyone knew what a hit song sounded like, and knew when it had real potential, I can’t imagine they had a better ear than John Lennon.
The Beatles co-founder, vocalist and guitarist actually once pitched a tune to country music’s own icon Waylon Jennings, after hitting it off with him when they met by chance at the 1975 Grammy Awards in New York.
The story of their meeting in and of itself is quite fascinating, as Waylon recalled in a 1996 interview with Terry Gross that both famous musicians had ideas of what the other one would be like that weren’t totally true, and based mostly off of things they’d heard in the press.
Waylon had no idea how funny Lennon was, which he told him that day:
“I met John Lennon, and we were cutting up and everything at one of the Grammy things. And I said, ‘Man, you’re funny. I didn’t know you were funny.’
I said, ‘I thought you were some kind of mad guy or something like that.’”
“Listen, people in England think you shoot folks.”
That story stemmed from a recording session early in Waylon’s career, where he was frustrated with his session musicians and how they didn’t play with as much passion as he wanted.
He brought in a revolver one day and told them:
“The first guy that I hear use a pickup note, I’m going to shoot his fingers off!”
Members of the British press happened to be there that day, and were somewhat shocked by Waylon’s personality and that moment specifically. They ran with it, and his outlaw image only grew overseas even greater than it already was in America.
Anywho, Lennon was so fond of Waylon that he took the time to write and mail him a letter, seemingly in the context that it accompanied some sort of song he wanted Waylon to record, though we don’t know that for sure.
It’s pretty short and sweet note, but I think the nature of their first meeting and quick camaraderie definitely comes through very effortlessly.
Lennon also went back and hand-corrected a few spelling errors (including Waylon’s name), and apologized for it after it was printed out which you can see at the bottom of the page:
“Dear Wayland, (*Waylon, sorry about that).
Twas good to meet ya! Try these on for size… it’s a hit. I should’ve released it as a single myself, but I left it too late… but it ain’t for someone else.
All the best to you. Saw you on TV last week. Very good (nice band). John (Lennon).”
How cool is that? I can only imagine what the song would’ve sounded like had Waylon ever recorded it, but I guess we’ll never know for sure, though the possibility is still really fun to think about.
That letter hung in Waylon’s living room for the rest of his life, and in 2014, Guernsey’s held a massive auction where they sold many items from Waylon’s Arizona home.
The letter had been referenced once prior in Waylon’s 1996 book Waylon: An Autobiography, where there was a photo of it with no context other than a caption that read:
“A Beatle writes…”
It ultimately sold for $7,500, but in my opinion, is a priceless piece of music history that links two music giants, and their mutual respect and admiration, together forever in a really badass way.
I mean, if a member of The Beatles is sending you a hit song to record, you’ve clearly done something very right…
I think part of the reason Lennon probably took a quick liking to Waylon too is partially because all of The Beatles members were huge fans of Buddy Holly, and he was a huge influence for The Beatles early on in their career.
Waylon famously got his start as Buddy Holly’s bass player before he became a country music star on his own, and he also once recorded a cover of The Beatles song (co-written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon) “Norwegian Wood” in 1966 for his third studio album Nashville Rebel.
The record peaked at #4 on the Billboard country albums chart, and I’m sure the fact that Waylon was obviously already a longtime fan only made meeting Lennon and receiving that letter an even more full-circle moment for the country outlaw who was notoriously quite difficult to impress.
Give it a listen while you’re here too if you’ve never heard Waylon’s cover before:
Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, & Chris Stapleton Cover Of The Beatles’ “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away
It’s not everyday that you get to experience a trio as talented as this, sharing the stage together.
And then to make it even better, they’re performing a song by The Beatles, arguably the greatest band of all time.
Back in 2015, a tribute concert was held in honor of John Lennon’s 75th birthday. The concert featured heavy hitters like Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, two country legends, but it also featured a couple legends in the making in that of Chris Stapleton and Eric Church.
Written and performed by John Lennon, it was released as an album cut on the 1965 Help! album.
Unless the ghost of John Lennon himself appeared on that stage, I don’t see how it could get much better.
And the original:
Chris Stapleton, Sheryl Crow & Brandon Flowers Sing “Don’t Let Me Down”
Taking it back to 2015.
Back in December of 2015, a phenomenal group of artists came together to honor John Lennon for what would’ve been his 75th birthday. The tribute concert featured performances from Eric Church, John Fogerty, Peter Frampton, Juanes, Kris Kristofferson, Pat Monahan, Tom Morello, Willie Nelson, The Roots, Spoon, and Steven Tyler.
But it also featured this knockout performance from Chris Stapleton, Sheryl Crow and The Killers lead singer, Brandon Flowers. Recorded in 1969 during the iconic Let It Be Sessions, The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” was originally released as a B-side to “Get Back,” and then included on the Let It Be album on 1970.
Written for Yoko Ono, John once told Rolling Stone magazine in 1970:
“When it gets down to it, when you’re drowning, you don’t say, ‘I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me,’ you just scream.”
The song was also included in their legendary rooftop concert set in London.
Chris was just a few weeks removed from his breakout CMA Awards performance alongside Justin Timberlake. And this tribute wasted no time getting on stage with some of the biggest acts in the business.
And thank God they did.
And the original, live from the rooftop of Apple in Savile Row, London.