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Artist Profile
Jennings, Waylon

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Jennings, Waylon

WAVE Away In A Manger


Waylon Jennings 1937 - 2002

Waylon was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in October 2001!

Jennings has recorded more than 60 albums and had 16 No. 1 country hits. He joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in October, but did not attend the induction ceremony, sending his son in his place to accept the honor.

Waylon Jennings is one of a handful of towering figures behind country musicís current phenomenal success. At a time when countryís audience easily embraces diversity and when platinum albums are getting to be more and more common, Waylon stands as a true forerunner, a pioneer who was among the first to pull north and south, rural and city, college kids and blue collar workers into a unified movement and who was the first, both as a solo artist and on the collaboration Wanted: The Outlaws, to go platinum as a country artist.

Modern country music owes much of its broad-based appeal and rugged individualism to Waylon, a man whose career stretches from the mid-í50s, when he was a protťgť of Buddy Holly, through four decades whose music he has helped shape. He has influenced instrumental and vocal styles, shaped attitudes and launched major trends, all by staying true to himself and his vision.

Along the way, he has won Grammys and CMA awards while connecting with his audience in a way that few have, becoming one of the industryís true all-time legends in the process.

Born in 1937 in Littlefield, Texas, he grew up listening to folk songs and the music of seminal artists like Jimmie Rodgers, and later, to singers that ranged from Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb and Webb Pierce to B.B. King and Bobbie "Blue" Bland. He was a disc jockey at 14, and had already formed his own band at the age of 12, making guest appearances on local station KDAVís "Sunday Party," where he met Holly in 1955.

"Mainly what I learned from Buddy," Waylon says, "was an attitude. He loved music, and he taught me that it shouldnít have any barriers to it."

Holly produced Waylonís first record and used him as a bass player--it was Waylon who gave up his seat to the big bopper on the plane that would crash, killing Holly and Ritchie Valens as well. By the early-to mid-í60s, Waylon was headlining a club called JDís in Phoenix, putting out a sound that combined his "chicken-pickiní" Telecaster guitar style, his rough-edged, soulful vocal style and an eclectic repertoire that often borrowed from rock and rockabilly.

This combination was as popular as it was groundbreaking.

"We got long-haired people, lawyers, doctors, and all the cowboys," he says. Word got around, and after a short stint at Herb Alpertís A&M Records, he was signed to RCA by Chet Atkins.

By 1968, he had hit the top five with "Only Daddy Thatíll Walk The Line" and "Walk On Out Of My Mind," and a year later he would win a Grammy for a version of "MacArthur Park," recorded with the Kimberleys, and record several songs for the soundtrack album of Ned Kelly, a feature film starring Mick Jagger.

Still, the Nashville "system," in which producers often stamped their own ideas and formulas onto artists, was something Waylon was struggling against mightily.

"Every business has its systems that works for 80 percent of the people who are in it," he says, "but thereís always that other 20 percent who just donít fit in. Thatís what happened to me, and it happened to Johnny Cash and it happened to Willie Nelson. We just couldnít do it the way it was set up. It wasnít until I started producing my own records and using my own musicians and working with people who understood what I was about that I first started having any real success."

When it came though, it came hard and heavy. Albums like 1973ís Lonesome, Oníry and Mean and 1974ís This Time, which he co-produced with Willie Nelson, caught the attention of critics outside of country circles and reasserted him as one of the genreís truly innovative stylists. He also teamed up with Nelson for the first of the Fourth of July picnics in Texas that solidified the demographic mix that would turn into countryís modern audience.

In 1975, Waylon was named the Country Music Associationís Male Vocalist of the Year and, in 1976, he helped found a movement that would change the face of country. Tompall Glaser teamed up for Wanted: The Outlaws that became the first platinum (one million units) album ever recorded in Nashville. It also helped Waylon and Willie sweep that yearís CMA Awards, winning Best Album, Best Single and Best Vocal Duo (for "Good-Hearted Woman")

This period found Waylon hitting Billboardís Number One singles spot with song after song, from 1974ís "This Time" through "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way," "Luckenbach, Texas," "Wurlitzer Prize," "Iíve Always Been Crazy," "Amanda," "Ainít Living Long Like This" and "Just To Satisfy You," among others. In 1978, he would win his second Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for "Mammas, Donít Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys," with Willie Nelson.

His albums were great chart and sales successes as well, with eight consecutive Lps going gold (there have been 13 altogether). Olí Waylon, released in 1977, became the first country album by a solo artist to go platinum, and Greatest Hits, two years later, entered uncharted territory by going quadruple platinum.

Waylon continued to cross barriers and bridge gaps musically, as, for instance, when Never Could Toe The Mark became the first country album to premier on Showtimeís "Album Flash," and when he released his "audiography," an autobiographical record and one-man Broadway-style show called A Man Called Hoss.

Although he has known success for three decades and has long since been accorded legend status, Waylon is still both highly active and highly visible. While some of the handful of performers who share living legend status with him have taken a back seat in recent years, Waylon continues to make his mark in several areas of show business.

Since the mid-í80ís, he has been a part of another superstar foursome: The Highwaymen (Waylon and Willie, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson) who have turned their four-way collaboration into hit records and highly successful tours to packed out venues, most recently of Australia, Singapore, China and Thailand.

Waylon is highly visible on other recorded projects as well. He was the recent duet partner of Neil Diamond on "One Good Love," which was part of Diamondís Tennessee Moon album and a video release as well. He recorded a track with Mark Knopfler for the tribute Notfadeaway: Remembering Buddy Holly, and also contributed a track to the Nashville/NASCAR album. And in another example of the enduring vitality of his work, he re-recorded his Ď70s-hit "Rainy Day Woman" with Mark Chesnutt not long ago.

He has released a childrenís album, Cowboys, Sisters, Rascals & Dirt, and has spoken to schoolchildren about the importance of staying in school. A 10th grade dropout, Waylon successfully completed studies for his GED in 1989, and has been a spokesperson for that program.

In 1993, RCA Records assembled a 40-song retrospective boxed set called Only Daddy Thatíll Walk The Line: The RCA Years, celebrating Waylonís 20 years on the label from 1965 to 1985. Admiring the respect and care which he was accorded in the collection, Waylon re-signed with RCA in the fall of 1994 to record Waymoreís Blues (Part II), with Don Was producing.

Nor have Waylonís contributions been confined to singing. He has been a commercial spokesman for the Pizza Hut chain. He has starred in a number of film projects, including Stagecoach, a CBS-TV movie with the Highwaymen, Oklahoma City Dolls, and ABC-TV movie with Eddie Albert and Susan Blakely, Follow That Bird, a Sesame Street movie in which Waylon played a farmer. He had a cameo in the Maverick movie, for which he also contributed "You Donít Mess around With Me" to the soundtrack, and he had a role on FOX-TVís "Married With Children," playing a wizened mountain prophet named Ironhead Haynes.

This last year was another busy year for Waylon as well: he performed about 100 concerts, RCA issued a Twentieth Anniversary edition of Wanted: The Outlaws, he had a new album on Justice Records, and his authorized autobiography, written with writer-musician Lenny Kaye, was released.

Waylonís contributions to the country music industry he helped shape continue unabated. The man who has done so much to define the edge and the attitudes that are part of the current parameters of country continues, through his records and performances, to add to his status as one of the true giants of the business.

~Courtesy Waylon Jennings - Official Page at

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