It was on this day, June 15, that the original outlaw, Waylon Jennings was born. Waylon was born in Littlefield, not far from Lubbock, Texas in 1937. Waylon’s heritage was of Irish and Black-Dutch on his father’s side and Cherokee and Commanche Indian from his mother’s side. The name officially on his birth certificate was Wayland, but his mother later changed the spelling to Waylon.
“I didn’t like Waylon. It sounded corny and hillbilly, but it’s been good to me, and I’m pretty well at peace with it right now.” Waylon Jennings would write in his autobiography.
“I didn’t like Waylon. It sounded corny and hillbilly, but it’s been good to me, and I’m pretty well at peace with it right now.”Waylon Jennings
I guess there isn’t a time that I have ever heard the name Waylon without thinking first of this superstar and a father of the Outlaw Country movement. I was first introduced to Waylon through my parents taste in music. I have been a fan of his music I reckon all of my life.
When Waylon Jennings was only eight years old, his mother taught him how to play the guitar. The first song he learned to play was, “Thirty Pieces of Silver.” Waylon’s first guitar was a Stella. By age 14, Jennings was performing around the local area and even had begun to play his brand of Bluegrass and Country on local television. By age 16, Waylon was a high school dropout. Around this time, He played on the radio station KDAV it was here where he began playing with rock sensation Buddy Holly.
The radio station KLLL in Lubbock hired Waylon Jennings as a radio Disk Jockey. During Waylon’s time at KLLL he produced radio jingles and began making public appearances. It was at one of these appearances that Buddy Holly’s father, L.O. Holley, requested that Waylon play Buddy Holly’s record on the radio. Buddy Holly had a desire to begin producing artists himself and visited Jennings at the KLLL station. Waylon Jennings was outfitted with new clothes and Buddy Holly arranged a session for him in a recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico. The songs “Jole Blon” and “When Sin Stops (Love Begins)” were recorded by Waylon at this session. The songs include Buddy Holly and Tommy Allsup on guitar and also feature King Curtis work on the saxophone. Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup along with a drummer named Carl Bunch were soon recruited by Buddy Holly to be his own backup band for the upcoming Winter Dance Party Tour. It was while on the Winter Dance Party Tour, that Buddy Holly was tragically killed in a plane crash just after playing a show at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.
Waylon often blamed himself for the death of Holly. He would later write and record, “The Stage (Stars in Heaven)” as a tribute to Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens who lost their lives that cold winters night.
In 1966, Jennings released his debut album, Folk-Country, under the RCA label. Waylon soon became dis-satisfied with the Nashville establishment. Ladies Love Outlaws, was the first significant hit for Jennings in 1972 and was Waylon’s first approach to outlaw country. Jennings felt that Nashville had become too caught up with a new sound called “Countrypolitan.” He felt that he had lost creative control of his own music. Recording in Nashville he wasn’t even allowed to record with his own band. The orchestral arrangements of the music by the record producers, and the recording companies demands to bring in so called professionals to play backup on his albums took their toll on Waylon Jennings. “They wouldn’t let you do anything. You had to dress a certain way: you had to do everything a certain way…. They kept trying to destroy me…. I just went about my business and did things my way…. You start messing with my music, I get mean.” Waylon once told an interviewer.
They wouldn’t let you do anything. You had to dress a certain way: you had to do everything a certain way…. They kept trying to destroy me…. I just went about my business and did things my way…. You start messing with my music, I get mean.”Waylon Jennings
It was 1972, when Willie Nelson had found success with Atlantic Records after re-negotiating his own contract to allow him more creative control that persuaded RCA to rethink their own contract with Jennings. This was the major turning point for Jennings career and the following year he released released Lonesome, On’ry and Mean and Honky Tonk Heroes.
Wanted! The Outlaws, considered to be the debut of Outlaw Country was released in 1976. This album featured Waylon, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter and Tompball Glaser. The album was the first country album to become platinum certified for reaching over one million sales. Wanted! The Outlaws, reached No. 1 on the country charts and peaked at No. 10 on the pop charts. Two singles from the album featuring Waylon Jennings peaked at No 1 and 2 on the charts, “Suspicious Minds” and “Good Hearted Woman.”
Summertime blues brings a happy roar and the crowd cheers loud as they holler for more.- Waylon Jennings
Today on Twitter Paula Nelson Tweeted- “ We love you and Miss You.” As did many others who remembered Waylon on his birthday. Waylon Jennings may have gone too soon but through his fans his music will live forever.
Ol’ Waylon, We love You and Miss You.