Waylon Jennings

TrackAlbum
Only Daddy That'll Walk The LineOnly The Greatest
She Comes RunningSinger Of Sad Songs
Ladies Love OutlawsLadies Love Outlaws
Pretend I Never HappenedLonesome, On'ry And Mean
Old Five And Dimers Like MeHonky Tonk Heroes
It's Not Supposed To Be That WayThis Time
AmandaThe Ramblin' Man
Dreaming My Dreams With YouDreaming My Dreams
Are You Sure Hank Done It This WayDreaming My Dreams
Bob Wills Is Still The KingDreaming My Dreams

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Contributor: Dave Stephens

Waylon & Willie. The Outlaws. How many times have we heard those phrases? Yet while the ageless Mr Nelson is practically a household name, his partner (in crime apparently) is a rather more shadowy figure these days, known far more by diehard country fans than the average person in the street. His pomp was in the seventies and early eighties since which time his image seems to have faded a little or, at least, that’s how it appears. Pop historians and old lags like yours truly will recall that Waylon was on the Winter Dance Party in ’58/’59 and famously gave up his seat on the plane to the Big Bopper. Marginally more recently – 1976 to be precise – Marianne Faithfull had a number one hit in Ireland with a song recorded a couple of years earlier by Waylon, Dreamin’ My Dreams.

Those who had the curiosity to dig out the original version of this song would have been well rewarded. Dreaming My Dreams With You, from the Dreaming My Dreams album produced by ex-Sun Studios ace, Cowboy Jack Clement, was released in 1975. It could well be the best album for a Jennings neophyte to start on, containing not only another excellent song co-written by the creator of Dreaming My Dreams, I Recall A Gypsy Woman (a hit for Don Williams but I prefer the WJ take), but also both sides of the Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way/Bob Wills Is Still The King single – of which more later.

Clement deployed a full orchestra on Dreaming My Dreams With You but in such a restrained manner that it reinforced Waylon’s intimate vocal rather than competing for attention. The melody line, whilst not going anywhere unusual chordally, manages to evoke Middle Europe in the last century and is so strong that the temptation must have been to throw the kitchen sink at it and make the production last for at least six minutes. But that temptation is thankfully avoided and the listener is left wanting more.

 

THE OUTLAWS

What was the “Outlaw Bit” (to quote Waylon) all about? In essence it was a rebellion against the Nashville way of doing things; in the main, their absolute insistence on the usage of support musicians, arrangers and usually staff producers. There was an acceptance within the ranks of country artists that Nashville was where you went to get records made and when you were there you did it their way; that was in spite of the fact that most country performers had excellent road bands. ‘Their way’ had undoubtedly led to a very high level of professionalism but at the same time many of the rough edges that made such music attractive in the first place got knocked off. A generalisation might be that banks of strings replaced fiddles. This is almost an absurd simplification but it does exemplify the ‘country music as commercial product’ approach. To quote Jennings himself (from Wiki) “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”.

By 1972 Jennings had only achieved a modicum of success in the country and/or pop field even though the period up to then had included some splendid albums and singles. He was also suffering with hepatitis and his RCA contract was coming up to completion. He actually thought about leaving the business altogether but was persuaded to take on a new manager, Neil Reshen, who also managed Willie Nelson, Frank Zappa and Miles Davis. Reshen went to battle with RCA armed with arguments from both Nelson and Jennings and gained a new contract with a sizeable advance to cover medical treatment and, even more importantly, full artistic control.

The two albums released by Waylon in ’73 – Lonesome, On’ry And Mean and Honky Tonk Heroes – reflected the new arrangement. On the first there were three songs which were still “in the bag” under the old Nashville regime, but the rest were produced by Waylon himself using his road band, the Waylors, plus the man himself on guitar. Heroes had Jennings in the producer’s chair with assistance from Tompall Glaser, Ronnie Light and Ken Mansfield. The album was a tribute to “honky tonk hero” Billy Joe Shaver, with all bar one of the songs composed by him. I’ve selected Old Five And Dimers Like Me to reflect the “new” Waylon. Its stripped down approach with strong bass line, minimal instrumentation and plenty of fresh air between the notes is typical of the outlaw sound.

She stood beside me letting me know she would be
Something to lean on when everything ran out on me
Fenced yards ain’t hole cards and like is not never will be
Reason for rhymers and old five and dimers like me

 

THE EARLY YEARS

I wouldn’t want anyone to think that there was a quantum shift in the quality of Waylon’s records from before the outlaw revolution to after. He made good records throughout his career even if the period starting with Lonesome, On’ry And Mean and going up to roughly the end of the seventies was one heck of a hot streak matched by few other artists in the country field.

If one ignores the 1959 single, Jole Blon, produced by Buddy Holly plus a small handful of others, then Waylon’s first record label of any note was A&M from 1963 to 1965. Songs recorded during that period included Ian Tyson’s Four Strong Winds, and Dylan’s I Don’t Believe You (a splendid version), suggesting that A&M saw him as something other than a bog standard pop or country singer. A&M put out these sides plus other unreleased tracks on a album in 1970, Don’t Think Twice, and it’s worth searching out.

Label wise, Waylon’s next stay was at RCA and it was a long one. The title of his first album, the Chet Atkins produced Folk-Country, was somewhat on the deceptive side although it was apparently how Atkins, and maybe RCA, saw Jennings. The bulk of the album was country or pop country. Only the presence of the traditional Man Of Constant Sorrow hinted at anything other than standard Nashville music. However, there were two other positive signs: Waylon took either all or a share of the writing credit for four songs, and Chet allowed him to use members of his road band, the Waylors, on some of the numbers, something that rarely happened again until the revolution I reported on a few paras back.

Early Waylon singles from RCA, including a version of Norwegian Wood plus a charting Gordon Lightfoot song, That’s What You Get For Lovin’ Me, hinted at the possibility that the label wasn’t totally sure what it had on its hands. Before too long, though, country music proper had taken over. Harlan Howard was a favoured song writer with numbers like The Chokin’ Kind.

In terms of selections I was tempted by Anita You’re Dreaming, a Jennings co-write from 1965 which, melodically was not a million miles from Dylan’s To Ramona, also ’65, but earlier. I should add, though, that both were reusing a vaguely Mexican sounding melody line which had been heard many times before. However I plumped for Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line, an up-tempo chug along affair of the type Jennings would often favour in later years, but it had a descending riff that kind of snuck up on you. While the title might have hinted at a sequel to Cash’s I Walk The Line, and certainly the meaning of the phrase is the same, lyrically it differs. It’s her doing the messing about but he’s going to continue walking that line through hell and high water.

 

TRANSITIONAL

Something of a catch-all heading intended to cover those albums which contained at least some music that was more akin to that recorded in the outlaw years albeit, in most cases, still with Nashville production. First among these (in my view) was Waylon which saw release in 1970. AllMusic (Thom Jurek) commented, “He is making efforts in the studio here to stretch its boundaries and include material very foreign to Nashville.” One of the standout tracks was the Waylon take on Mickey Newbury’s 33rd Of August. By now, the Waylon vocal has taken on all those dramatic tones that we’re familiar with; the opening is minimal – not a lot more than percussion and bass, and, while the not unexpected strings do make their entrance they complement rather than overpower the main performance – and it’s one that very nearly made my list.

Possibly the most interesting out of this grouping was 1970’s Singer Of Sad Songs where Lee Hazlewood, who was invariably a law unto himself, occupied the producer’s chair for all bar the title track. I have to declare some personal interest here. It was this LP plus 1971’s Cedartown, Georgia, which formed my introduction to Jennings. I purchased the pair together at a W H Smith sale for the princely sum of 79p each circa 1973. I didn’t know it at the time but both were more rock and pop inclined than anything hitherto. The earlier set, Singer Of Sad Songs, was the more distinctive of the two and that was down to both the instrumentation which was generally guitar heavy and not a million miles from rock, plus the song selections of which only roughly a third came from Jennings’ usual country sources. The others ranged from the Fats Domino/Chris Kenner jumper, Sick And Tired, through the Stones’ Honky Tonk Woman to folk cum singer/songwriter items like If I Were A Carpenter and No Regrets. For those unaware of the latter it’s an excellent ballad from Tom Rush which first appeared on The Circle Game, and was covered by the Walker Brothers. Hazlewood favoured a minimalist approach on it – not much more than bass and guitar – which directs most of the attention onto Waylon’s interpretation of those lyrics: “I don’t want you back, we’d only cry again, say goodbye again.” It’s a faster take than the Rush original which I already knew and loved. While Tom’s sombre vocal reflects the hollowness of the title, Waylon’s relatively brusque approach is slightly more reminiscent of another goodbye song, Bob’s Don’t Think Twice, with which he was already familiar.

I’ve selected an obscure Lee Hazlewood song from Singer Of Sad Songs, She Comes Running, on which Waylon and Lee between them invent a totally new category: country baroque. With a manic harpsichord carrying the between verse riff what else could it be? Arguably, this was Lee’s second attempt at the song. It had appeared on his Love And Other Crimes album in ’68. It’s interesting to compare the two versions:

 

Waylon is definitely the more understated of the pair. And while the song is almost throwaway, the arrangement makes it totally irresistible. Ice cream sundae topped with chocolate maybe (and a million miles from the Waylon image).

The last couple of albums in what I’ve termed Waylon’s transitional period, Good Hearted Woman and Ladies Love Outlaws, were definitely edging their way towards the sound Waylon wanted with both containing excellent songs and performances. The former gave him one of his biggest hits so far on the Country Chart with the part self-written title track. The second of the pair was largely disowned by Waylon who claimed that several of the tracks were unfinished. Regardless of that it was well received and the contents largely justified the eulogistic sleeve notes from Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times. The title song, Ladies Love Outlaws, inspired both the sleeve art work – an image of Waylon (with long hair) in full black western gear standing in a movie set being admired by his five year old niece – and the revolution in recording practice that would follow within the coming few months. It also happened to be a pretty good song which surprisingly didn’t see single release.

 

COVERS

Waylon Jennings was the ultimate covers man. A combination of his own wide ranging taste and curiosity, plus producers wanting to strike gold with a version of something that had already sold a zillion, yielded a whole raft of songs from sources that weren’t always predictable. Yes, there were big ballads and they didn’t come much bigger than Bridge Over Troubled Water, MacArthur Park and the Big O’s Crying. But he’s also had a go at more quirky items like Los Lobos’ Will The Wolf Survive, the Stones’ No Expectations and Steely Dan’s Do It Again (a surprising success). Tailor-made for Waylon were such songs as J.J. Cale’s Clyde and Chuck’s Brown Eyed Handsome Man. It wasn’t at all unusual for Waylon interpretations to differ drastically from the originals. He turned Little Richard’s Lucille into a plaintive folky item, or at least, that’s how it starts:

In addition to the Stones, the Beatles also attracted cover versions from WJ – Norwegian Wood, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, as did Dylan – Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right, I Don’t Believe You and One Too Many Mornings (with Johnny Cash). My only disappointment is that he never got around to recording anything from bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins who was one of his big favourites.

One curio under the ‘Covers’ heading is It’s All Over Now. Jennings recorded two entirely different songs with this title. One was the Stones/Valentinos one we all know. The other, which appeared on Cedartown, Georgia, had exactly the same title but was penned by Mirriam Eddy (Jessi Colter) and was one of the better tracks in that set:

A couple of honourable mentions: You Can Have Her, a song originally recorded by Roy Hamilton but subsequently covered by loads of people – the Waylon version allows him to put on his more boisterous hat after a gentle start – I used to play this single a lot on a jukebox circa ’74, and Mr Berry’s You Never Can Tell (C’est La Vie), a delicious duet with Jessi from 1982’s Leather And Lace.

 

WILLIE NELSON SONGS

Our man covered multiple Willie Nelson songs – there was one heck of a lot to choose from – and had songs specially written for him by his fellow outlaw. I’ve selected two of them, both ballads about love affairs that have gone wrong, and both from the outlaw period. It’s Not Supposed To Be That Way opens with a sole guitar for support which is joined by a steel guitar and harmonica (a frequent part of Waylon’s outlaw sound).

When you go out to play this evenin’ play with fire flies till they’re gone
Then you rush to meet your lover and play with real fire till the dawn

Pretend I Never Happened ups the tempo and has much fuller support even to the extent of a backing chorus but the message is, if anything, even harder to take.

Pretend I never happened
Erase me from your mind
You will not want to remember
Any love as cold as mine

There were plenty more Nelson songs from Jennings, some with the man himself as co-writer, some without. All are worth hearing: It Should Be Easier Now, Good Hearted Woman, Pick Up The Tempo, and more.

 

OTHER TEXANS’ SONGS

I haven’t counted them but there could be even more Kristofferson numbers in Waylon’s songbook. Just to mention a few: Me And Bobbie McGee, The Taker, Sunday Morning, Loving Her Was Easier (a big personal favourite), Casey’s Last Ride, To Beat The Devil, etc, etc.

(Note the hair which is midway between early pompadour and outlaw cum hippie.)

He was also a great interpreter of Mickey Newbury with takes on San Francisco Mabel Joy, 33rd of August, Frisco Depot, Let Me Stay Awhile and the relatively obscure – am unsure whether the Newbury original has seen CD release – If You See Her. Maybe that original just shades it in my affections but few people have even heard it compared with the Jennings cover – 200,000 views on YT for the latter and only 12,000 for Mickey (and I had to put it up myself!).

If you see her and she mentions my name
Tell her the times have, but I have not changed

In which Waylon brings a new meaning to the word ‘understated’.

Before I launch off on a Mickey Newbury digression I should remind the reader of the nine Billy Joe Shaver songs on Honky Tonk Heroes. Waylon has also covered Steve Earle – The Devil’s Right Hand; Delbert McClinton – If You Really Want Me To, I’ll Go; Sonny Curtis – Destiny’s Child; Willis Alan Ramsey – Satin Sheets. And I nearly forgot to mention Rodney Crowell – Waylon had a hit with the latter’s near rocker, I Ain’t Living Long Like This, yet another one which very nearly made my list. Check out the live version below from ’84 with Ralph Mooney and Waylon duetting on steel and lead respectively:

 

SELF-WRITTEN SONGS

From the above, the casual reader could have come away with the impression that Waylon was little more than a cover-making machine but in reality that was far from the truth. One also has to put it in the context of a tradition of country artists covering other artists’ songs regardless of whether they wrote songs themselves and/or used ones from the specialist country songwriters, Cochran, Howard, etc. Waylon was much the same in his usage of country ‘standards’ and songs written for him. And he wrote songs himself, something that most people didn’t immediately notice even though there was at least one Jennings number or co-write on most of his albums.

Both sides of his second single, in 1961 for the tiny Trend label, were Jennings compositions. Both had charm but were derivative. However, Just To Satisfy You, his third A&M single, was another Waylon song and it showed a much heftier chunk of confidence and originality.

But the disc that really showed off his song writing talent was Bob Wills Is Still The King/Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way – that was the US order, the UK release flipped the A- and B-side.

Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way is both the best known Waylon record and the nearest thing to rock, and by that I don’t mean fifties rock’n’roll, that the man had recorded. And those two facts certainly aren’t mutually exclusive. The song is much easier for the average rock or pop fan to relate to without being dumbed down in any way. It’s also autobiographical with references to the Nashville mafia view of much of his work, i.e. that it was closer to rock than the country music they knew. While Waylon’s words are relatively gentle – “Tell me one more time so I’ll just understand, are you sure Hank done it this way?” – his deliberate placement of those words in a two chord rock riff format makes it much more confrontational. It was a brave effort which could have fallen flat but Waylon and the band pulled it off with aplomb.

As if to reassure his audience that he held country music traditions (and its legends) in as high esteem as anyone, Waylon’s flip was a tribute to Bob Wills, “A guy that probably did as much for our kind of music as anybody” and it’s not a million miles from honky tonk; the steel guitar is there but the harmonica man replaces the fiddler. But let’s not fool ourselves; this doesn’t sound remotely like Bob Wills. There’s still a chunky beat which the live audience are lapping up. The Stones had a go at this one but it’s not up there with Dead Flowers or Faraway Eyes.

 

THE HITS

Unlike Mr Nelson, Waylon didn’t trouble the pop charts too much – loads of number ones in the Country Chart but few crossovers. Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way only got to #60 though it is one of those records that was good enough to have a reputation that’s increased over time. 1979 gave Waylon a bigger seller in the shape of Amanda, a song which was present on his 1974 album, The Ramblin’ Man. It hadn’t been released along with the album but was selected later after Waylon started receiving more public attention.

The lyrics of the song would seem to fit Waylon to a tee. It’s a simple paean of love to his partner/wife from an aging country singer:

It’s a measure of people who don’t understand,
the pleasures of life in a hillbilly band.
I got my first guitar when I was fourteen,
Well I finally made forty, still wearing jeans

It was written by fellow Texan, Bob McDill, and was originally recorded by yet another Texan, Don Williams. Consequently, the lyrics were most probably targeted at Don. As a minor note, Don’s last line in the stanza above was “Now I’m crowding thirty and still wearing jeans.” And as a final comment I’d add that Don’s original is excellent (and that’s coming from someone who sometimes finds Don a tad soporific).

 

 

THE ALBUMS

To misquote the late Cilla, Waylon made a lorra albums. This is a subjective selection.

Folk-Country (1966) A decent ‘first’ LP (see Footnotes) even if our man is a little restrained in comparison to his later stuff. The title is misleading: it’s mainly country.

Waylon Sings Ol’ Harlan (1967) A collection of Harlan Howard songs performed well.

Love Of The Common People (1967) Notable for good title track and a version of the Beatles’ You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.

Waylon (1970) Good selection of material including a blast from the past in Brown Eyed Handsome Man.

Singer Of Sad Songs (1970) Lee Hazlewood production and his most rock oriented to date.

Good Hearted Woman (1972) Excellent title song penned with Willie Nelson – also has tracks written by Gordon Lightfoot, Chip Taylor, Kris Kristofferson and Tony Joe White.

Ladies Love Outlaws (1972) Great (Lee Clayton penned) title track – also had, as far as I know, his first recorded duet with Jessi Colter on Buck Owens’ Under Your Spell Again.

Lonesome, On’ry And Mean (1973) The first official outlaw album. Another great (Steve Young penned) title track – he was making a habit of this.

Honky Tonk Heroes (1973) If you’ve read this far you’re likely to have heard this one. It contained nine Billy Joe Shaver songs (two of which were co-penned) and one, We Had It All, from Troy Seals and Donnie Fritts. With hindsight it was a shame that the album wasn’t completely dedicated to Shaver – it would appear that the non Shaver track was included in the hope of getting a hit single – or, to put it another way, RCA weren’t completely convinced by the Billy Joe material (or maybe its execution).

This Time (1974) Another great album containing several stand out tracks including It’s Not Supposed To Be That Way, Slow Movin’ Outlaw, Mona (not the Bo Diddley number) and If You Could Touch Her At All.

The Ramblin’ Man (1974) Yet more good stuff though the title track was one of those near rock chuggers that Waylon seemed to love.

Dreaming My Dreams (1975) His best? It is for me – a marvellous collection of songs and excellent production from Jack Clement.

Are You Ready For The Country (1976) Dropping off his peak but still good, though I confess I’ve never been a great fan of the Neil Young sourced title track. Does contain a self penned tribute to Buddy Holly in Old Friend.

Ol’ Waylon (1977) Similar comments to the last – big seller though and Wiki tells us that this is due to the presence of the ever-so-slightly fluffy Luckenbach, Texas (Back To The Basics Of Love). Contains an excellent version of Rodney Crowell’s Till I Gain Control Again which was tailor-made for the slow outlaw style. There’s also a track present from interesting Texan writer Willis Alan Ramsey, Satin Sheets.

After purchasing a couple more I did rather lose interest. I have dipped into this next one though:

Ol’ Waylon Sings Ol’ Hank (1992) And does a mighty fine job.

Waylon Live (1976/expanded 2006) I do own this one and can report that it’s superb. I’ve neglected to mention that he always gave great value live and this set captures that aspect brilliantly. It’s been expanded twice and contains most of his better known songs – the quality is so good that the set is effectively a very, very good best-of.

 

THE HIGHWAYMEN

Waylon continued performing and releasing albums until 1997 when the touring stopped, in part due to bad health brought on by heavy cigarette consumption plus usage of various drugs including cocaine over the years. He died in 2002.

In the eighties, along with Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson, he formed a supergroup called The Highwaymen who made three albums and toured on and off through to the mid nineties. On stage they included songs associated with each individual, plus new numbers specially written for them, plus songs from what one might term the Great American Country Songbook. Check out Kristofferson’s beaming smile when the other three desperadoes come in behind him on the Guy Clark classic:

Maybe I’m just a sentimental old sod but that version beats the great original in my book.

 

QUOTES

“I told them. ‘My band is here for the long run.’ ‘Well, you don’t bring your own clics to Nashville,’ they told me … I always wanted a live sound in the studio … I liked things that weren’t perfect. It was okay for microphones to leak into each other like they do on a stage performance, and I wanted to hear Richie’s foot drum loud and clear. I wanted to feel some excitement.” Waylon, from the audio version of his autobiography

“I’ve always felt that blues, rock’n’roll and country are just about a beat apart.” Waylon, date and circumstances not known

“This is what I encountered when I first met Waylon Jennings in 1974 – well, not so much the irrepressible humor but the individualism, the embrace of life (the embrace of the future), the appreciation of eccentricity, the denial of category that has marked every great American artist from August Wilson to Merle Haggard, from Howlin’ Wolf to Mark Twain.” Peter Guralnick, from his blog with subheading “Waylon, Willie And The Boys”

Lonesome, On’ry And Mean is the quintessential Waylon Jennings outlaw record. Waylon produced the set – the first unfettered by the bonds of RCA – with his own band, and the results are nothing less than electrifying.” Thom Jurek, in the AllMusic review of that album

Like Hank Williams two decades before, Jennings does pretty much what he wants, and like Williams, his talent enables him to get away with it. Chet Flippo, Texas Monthly, February 1975

“The first time I saw Waylon Jennings in 1966, I thought he was one of the most exciting singers I had ever seen, and I still do. There is both a rugged, uncompromising strength and also a delicate sensitivity to his voice.” Robert Hilburn, Los Angeles Times (from his sleeve notes to Ladies Love Outlaws)

My last quote comes from Waylon again, from the lyrics of Luckenbach, Texas:

“Between Hank Williams’ pain songs and Newbury’s train songs and Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain, out in Luckenbach, Texas ain’t nobody feelin’ no pain.”

 

FOOTNOTES

Those with memories of early eighties telly will remember The Dukes Of Hazzard for which Waylon wrote and performed the theme song, The Good Ol’ Boys. It gave him his biggest US Pop Chart hit, rising to #21 in 1980.

Waylon also performed several of the songs in the 1970 film, Ned Kelly, which starred Mick Jagger in the title role.

‘Five and dime’ was an affectionate phrase used by Americans to describe the Woolworths store. If you haven’t made its acquaintance yet, check out The Old Five And Dime by Nanci Griffith.

Our man shared an apartment with Johnny Cash in the sixties. Both were on amphetamines at the time, reportedly to help with the touring.

Waylon was married four times. His fourth marriage was in 1969 and it was to Mirriam Johnson whose stage name was, and is, Jessi Colter. Mirriam was previously married to Duane Eddy. The album Singer Of Sad Songs was recorded between June and December 1969. It was produced by Lee Hazlewood who, apart from other things, was the producer for Duane Eddy during his glory years.

If I gave the impression that Waylon was the only ‘Outlaw’ in terms of wresting back artistic control, I should state that that wasn’t the case. While he might have been correctly perceived as ringleader, along with Willie Nelson, others including Tompall Glaser and David Allan Coe followed the same path.

For anyone who isn’t aware of the Tom Rush authored song, No Regrets, I would just clarify that it’s not the same song as Edith Piaf’s Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien which is sometimes anglicised to No Regrets. I’d add that there’s also a later version of the Rush number from Midge Ure who sounds as if he’d listened to the Walkers a few times.

As a final comment on No Regrets, I would note that Lee Hazlewood also recorded the song also in 1969 though whether this was before or after his production of the Waylon version I don’t know. It’s worth digging out though.

One of the most unexpected covers from Waylon, which I was unaware of until putting this Toppermost together, is Sam & Dave’s Hold On I’m Coming, which he recorded with Jerry Reed in 1983.

I commented on the fact that WJ had recorded two different songs with the same title in It’s All Over Now. He also repeated the feat with Lucille – Kenny Rogers as well as Little Richard.

Under ‘The Albums’ I list Folk-Country as Waylon’s first RCA LP. There was a non RCA album that preceded it, Waylon At JD’s, which contrary to its title, was studio material recorded in 1964 rather than live. Tracks from it have appeared in various cheapo collections over the years.

Although Wiki doesn’t mention the fact, I can confirm that Green On Red laid down a live version of Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way which was released on vinyl and subsequently cassette. And there’s another more recent cover of the song:

What’s with the headings? Well, originally, I thought I might approach this Toppermost in a less linear and rather more tangential manner than usual using headings to denote scattered phases and/or groupings of songs in Waylon’s career. Probably unsurprisingly my OCD tendencies came to the fore yet again so those linear aspects didn’t entirely disappear but the headings stayed. If anything they reinforced my need for a bit of order!

 

AND … LAST WORDS

If there’s a thread of continuity in my other Toppermost postings, apart from a strong tendency to verbosity, it’s the emphasis on voice. Lonnie Mack, Charlie Rich, Solomon Burke, Gene Vincent (particularly on ballads), Charlie Feathers and Buddy Holly – they all had highly distinctive voices. Waylon Jennings was another. One can understand A&M and then RCA not being quite sure what market to pitch him at. His vocal timbre was utterly unlike that exhibited by a typical country singer (or pop, rock or folk singer). Even the fairly exotic tones of, say, a George Jones can pale somewhat in comparison to Waylon. But, contradictorily, he only rarely showed off the full strength of that voice. Much of his work, particularly in the outlaw period, was low key, almost conversational, often reflecting the lyrical style of songs that he and Willie Nelson, and others, produced. Yet that power and richness was there even if suppressed for much of the time.

That said there is a version of the karaoke standard, Suspicious Minds (with Jessi), in Waylon’s canon. I’ll leave you to find it.

 

 

Waylon Jennings (1937–2002)

 

Waylon Jennings facebook

The Highwaymen – country supergroup (Wikipedia)

Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson discography

Waylon Jennings biography (iTunes)

Dave Stephens had a long career in IT – programming, consultancy, management etc. – before retiring in 2007. After spending time on the usual retiree type activities he eventually got round to writing on one of his favourite subjects, popular music, particularly, but not only, the sort that was around in his youth. He gained experience at ‘the writing thing’ by placing CD reviews on Amazon. This led to his first book “RocknRoll” which was published for Kindle in 2015. He followed this up with “London Rocks” in July 2016. You can follow him on Twitter @DangerousDaveXX

Read other Toppermosts by David Stephens:
Solomon Burke
Lonnie Mack
Charlie Rich
Gene Vincent
Charlie Feathers
Buddy Holly
and his joint-post on:
Guy Clark

Read the Toppermosts of some of the other artists mentioned in this post:
Nanci Griffith
George Jones
Mickey Newbury
Billy Joe Shaver
Willis Alan Ramsey

TopperPost #560

9 Comments

  1. Andrew Shields
    Oct 10, 2016

    Thanks for this excellent list and superbly comprehensive account of Waylon’s musical career. Up to now I had really known him mainly through compilations and through the odd album acquired in a scattershot way. This list, however, gives me a road map with which to follow up his work in a more organised way. The piece also gave me a new insight into the breadth and range of his musical tastes/influences. Thanks again…

    • Dave Stephens
      Oct 10, 2016

      Thanks very much Andrew. When I saw this in publication I was a bit worried that I’d gone over the top lengthwise – there was just so much of Waylon to cram in – his consistency was so high particularly on that hot streak through to the mid seventies that I felt I had to make reference to, and include clips for, songs even if numbers didn’t permit them as selections.

  2. David Lewis
    Oct 11, 2016

    I loved this entry. But even though Waylon hated it, Luckenbach Texas (Back to the Basics of Love) is superb and should be there. Somewhere. Secondly I think Willie is the ultimate covers man. But it’s close between the two. Nonetheless this was great!

  3. Ilkka Jauramo
    Oct 11, 2016

    To me as a Mr. Jennings fan every list is superb – and this list is superb. I like him as the nostalgic and sweet-bitter humorous character (isn’t it what REAL country is all about?). Good to find “Hank Doing This-A-Way” here but my favorite “Living Legends” didn’t make it. I saw him only once in Stockholm Concert House which is more suitable for chamber music. He did a great show, together with Jessi, despite having terrible flu.

    • Dave Stephens
      Oct 11, 2016

      David and Ilkka, thank you very much for your comments. Apologies David that I was less than positive about Luckenbach, TX. I don’t dislike it, just find the “Waylon and Willie and the boys” bit, a tad twee. Ilkka, was your favourite Living Legend(s), the Kristofferson song, or the humorous one that Waylon himself wrote?

      • Ilkka Jauramo
        Oct 12, 2016

        Thanks for the response. This would be a respond to a respond. Yes, it is the Waylon song, I assume: “Living Legends (Are A Dying Breed)”. For me the words are something like a country singer’s last will: “Livin’ legends are a dying breed, There ain’t too many left, To tell the truth, I ain’t been feelin’, Real hot lately my damn self, But I ain’t old and I ain’t bitter, I ain’t mad at anyone, So don’t go takin’ seriously, What’s poked at you in fun.”

        • Dave Stephens
          Oct 12, 2016

          Know the one you mean Ilkka. Good stuff.

  4. Steve Fruitman
    Jun 16, 2017

    Kind of overlooked, i think, is Mental Revenge, a Mel Tillis song covered on 1968s Jewel LP by Waylon. Superb!

    • Dave Stephens
      Jun 16, 2017

      From the short hair days. For reasons I can’t quite pin down, Mental Revenge never clicked with me. However I’ve given it another listen. Maybe I got it wrong …

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