AKA Waylon Arnold Jennings
Birthplace: Littlefield, TX
Location of death: Chandler, AZ
Cause of death: Diabetes complications
Remains: Buried, Mesa City Cemetery, Mesa, AZ
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Country Musician
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys
One of the most prominent figures in country music, Waylon Jennings formed his first band at the age of 12, and began working as a disc jockey at a station in Littlefield by the time he was 14. Eventually he moved to Lubbock and took a job at KLLL, where he befriended up-and-coming musician Buddy Holly. The two began a close working relationship, with Holly producing Jennings' first single and taking him on the road with him as a temporary bass player for The Crickets. This relationship was to be cut short by the plane crash that claimed Holly's life in 1959 - a flight that Jennings was originally scheduled to be on as well, but had decided to give his place to J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson instead. Following the deaths of his friends, Jennings abondoned his musical pursuits for a year while he struggled to come to terms with his loss.
A return to performing came about in 1960 after Jennings moved to Phoenix, where he put together a band called The Waylors and began a residency at a nightclub called JD's; the band's blend of rock and country had a broad appeal, and inevitably led to a record deal with the independent Trend label. Output with Trend failed to attract any notice, and in 1963 Jennings moved to Los Angeles for a brief and equally ineffective tenure with A&M. Finally, with the help of producer and guitarist Chet Atkins, the right setting for his music was found at RCA Records in Nashville, who launched his gradual rise to fame in 1965 with the modest hit That's the Chance I'll Have to Take. A series of increasingly popular singles took their turns on the charts throughout the next several years, at last graduating into the top 10 by 1968 with songs like Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line and Walk On Out Of My Mind.
At the start of 1970 Jennings began his long-standing association with songwriter Kris Kristofferson, and not long afterwards initiated an equally enduring working relationship with Willie Nelson (his friendship with Johnny Cash having been founded already upon his arrival in Nashville in 1965). During this period, a rougher and more stripped-down sound was being pursued in his music - a sound strongly at odds with the lush orchestrations favored in Nashville at the time. In 1972 he managed to gain artistic control over his output and fully devoted himself to what came to be known as the "Outlaw" sound. By 1974 the appreciation for this style of country music had expanded enough to push his single This Time to the top of the charts.
The remainder of the decade saw Jennings maintaining his popularity with a string of well-received albums and singles, his mainstream appeal confirmed beyond any doubt when the 1977 release Ol' Waylon became the first country record to go platinum. Some of the most successful material was created alongside Willie Nelson - particularly the duo release Waylon & Willie in 1978, which featured the well-known song Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys. The following year his voice was heard through television sets across the country singing the theme to that celebration of Southern knuckleheads known as The Dukes of Hazzard. A decline in his fortunes took place in the mid-1980s (due in part to substance abuse issues), but a recovery was made in 1985 with the help of his collaborators Nelson, Kristofferson, and Cash, all four coming together that year to form The Highwaymen. The group released four albums between 1985 and 1995, starting with a number one hit in the form of the song The Highwayman.
The same year as his venture with The Highwaymen, Jennings ended his long association with RCA and took up with MCA - the new situation giving his career an initial boost, but gradually declining once again by the end of decade. Another change was made to Epic in 1990 with similar results. His concerts remained well-attended for as long as he continued to perform them, however: a fact clearly shown by his inclusion on the 1996 Lolapalooza roster alongside acts such as Metallica and Devo. In 2001 Jennings was inducted into the Country Music hall of Fame but remained absent from the ceremony, continuing his long-established tradition of not participating in awards events due to the conviction that music is not a pissing contest. It's unfortunate that most performers are so bankrupt of integrity that they cannot follow his example on this. Complications from diabetes had brought his productive years to an end by this time, with circulation problems in his legs claiming his left foot on 19 December 2001, and the rest of him in early 2002.
Father: William Alvin Jennings
Daughter: Tomi Lynn
Wife: Jessi Colter (4th, m. 26-Oct-1969, until his death)
Son: Waylon Albright Jennings ("Shooter Jennings", musician, b. 1979)
High School: (dropout, GED in 1989)
Country Music Hall of Fame 2001
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame
Grammy 1969 (country performance, duo or group)
Grammy 1978 (country performance, duo or group)
Drug Possession: Cocaine Nashville, TN (1977)
Conspiracy Nashville, TN (1977)
Risk Factors: Cocaine, Hepatitis
The Dukes of Hazzard Narrator (1979-85)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Maverick (20-May-1994) · Man with Concealed Guns
Tanner '88 (15-Feb-1988) · Himself
Stagecoach (18-May-1986) · Hatfield
Sesame Street Presents: Follow that Bird (2-Aug-1985) · Truck Driver
We Are the World (28-Jan-1985) · Himself
Road to Nashville (1967) · Himself
Nashville Rebel (1-Jan-1966)
Author of books:
Waylon (1996, memoir)
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