One of the great things about school lunch times for me was the possibility of leafing through albums in Dundee’s record shops. When I went to college instead of doing my 6th Year it was much the same except that lunchtimes occasionally became entire afternoons. Around that time country rock had begun to impact on the mainstream. Daytime radio was playing The Eagles and The Bellamy Brothers and, when Radio One stopped in the early evenings, we got Radio 2’s folk and country output. Around that time too came an alt country band called ‘The Outlaws.’ Outlaws as a theme was in the water.
As young people still slightly wary of country music the idea of Nashville outlaws intrigued us. Those people, we were reliably involved, had been drawn in and subsequently spat out by Music Row and had started the fightback for real country music. Cut their hair? Hell no.
The album which captured all of this and more was The Outlaws album. This wasn’t the band I mentioned above – though they did make an album of the same name – this was the collective of Tompall Glaser, Willie Nelson, Jessie Colter and Waylon Jennings. All of them were big country names and all of them were happy to be branded as outsiders. As far as Mainstream Country was concerned it was the perfect match. Wille and Waylon’s reputation was cemented as the country stars they truly well – the album went on to become a big winner at the subsequent CMA awards – and the names on the sleeves were allowed to continue on their merry, rebel way delighting their respective audiences in their disrespect for the rules.
It’s a well worn path which had been taken by Hank Williams and others before them and would inspire Steve Earle and others in the decades to follow. Though Willie had been a songwriting and recording star before all of this it was Waylon Jennings who would gain the greatest recognition from his time as an outlaw.
This week Waylon Jennings would have been 80 years old. Sadly he’s not around to celebrate that anniversary, but he would have become only a footnote in country history had he not decided to drive that long bus trip from Clear Lake Iowa to Moorhead Minnesota and give up his seat on the plane which crashed killing Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly.
In one sense the implications of that night never left Waylon Jennings and his subsequent struggles with addictions until his death in 2002 bear testimony to that.
This Tuesday on Another Country we’ll celebrate the music he made and the music he inspired. Hot off the press we’ll share a new Steve Earle track from his forthcoming album which ‘channels Steve’s inner Waylon’ and we’ll try to explain and celebrate Waylon’s unique legacy.
In the bits in between I’ll bring you up to date with some current music from Music City where I’ve been spending some creative time over the last couple of weeks.
It all starts at five past nine this coming Tuesday 13th June on BBC Radio Scotland and repeated this coming Friday evening at 7 o’clock. Join me if you can.