Yes, Waylon Jennings Did Bring A Gun To A Recording Session And Threaten Everyone To Play With Passion

Waylon Jennings country music
Pinterest/Dale Harlan

They just don’t make ’em like Waylon Jennings anymore.

The country outlaw has so many incredible stories to his name, though I don’t think any of them can top this one…

Waylon’s Label Forces Him To Use Their Session Musicians

Back when Waylon was first starting out as a recording artist on a Nashville label, he certainly had his own ideas about how things should be done.

But since the label essentially owned him, which he obviously hated, he only had so much freedom in terms of what he could and couldn’t do with his music.

This also meant that the label chose the producer he would use for those early albums, and they told him his road band wasn’t good enough to back him in a recording session, so he had to use their hand-selected session musicians (something that still happens in Nashville today, for whatever that’s worth).

One of the problems with that, though, was that Waylon didn’t like the way they played, because it’s what these studio guys did all day, every day, with so many different artists, and he felt that they didn’t play with the same passion that he expected from his road band.

Waylon Takes Matters Into His Own Hands

This led Waylon to come up with a very, um, unique (yet effective) idea… he decided to bring a Colt Buntline revolver into the studio and tell them all:

“The first guy that I hear use a pickup note, I’m going to shoot his fingers off!”

A pickup note is a beat that provides a sort of launching pad for the music to start, instead of just diving into the first measure, which Waylon clearly didn’t like because he viewed it as lazy and uninspired.

And yes, that is a 100% true story, according to what Waylon said in a 1996 interview with the Houston Press:

“Yeah, that’s a true story. I said I would shoot the fingers off of anyone that played a pickup note — and if anyone was still looking at the sheet music by the third time through, I’d kill them.

That got their attention. After that, they let me use my own band.”

Although, Waylon had a penchant for sarcasm and a knack for joking around, so who knows how serious he was at the time. But can you imagine something like that happening today? Even decades ago, that was a wild thing to do, and the story spread like wildfire, especially overseas.

John Lennon Meets Waylon For The First Time

In fact, when Waylon met Beatles legend John Lennon at the 1975 Grammy Awards, that was the first thing he brought up.

During this particular recording session, members of the British press just so happened to be there, and when articles across the pond started circulating with this story, Waylon’s outlaw legend grew bigger accross the pond than it was in America.

At that meeting, Waylon told Lennon he had no idea how funny Lennon was:

“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.’”

To which Lennon replied, referencing the outlaw story and crazy recording session, saying:

“Listen, people in England think you shoot folks.”

It seems to me that’s a fair enough assessment, though not completely true…

The two music icons hit it off immediately, and later that year, Lennon sent Waylon a letter pitching him “a hit” song, and funny enough, also told him that his band was “very good,” as he’d seen them performing on TV earlier that week.

You can read that full letter HERE.

While the outlaw bit may have gotten a little bit out of hand, in this particular case, it served Waylon very well and led to the country outlaw movement of the 1970’s, pioneered by someone who stood up for the music he believed in and refused to do it any other way.

Turn it up…

“Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got out of Hand”

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock