I didn’t grow up on country music so my knowledge of Waylon Jennings was limited to stories about him told by other artists, whether they were real or just part of some myth. When I did make the full dive into the genre around 16 I was listening to stuff like Rascal Flatts, and hadn’t even begun to tap into the older artists who influenced today’s chart toppers.
I was always had the notion that he was some purist who shook his fist at the new influences infiltrating the genre so may hold dear. Then I started reading WAYLON, and was very surprised. Like that he played the bars in Arizona before heading to Nashville.
Waylon was a man who all he wanted was to play music, and didn’t like anyone telling him how to go about doing it (like Nashville execs). They wanted him to go a more polished route with studio musicians, and he wanted to record with his own band. He thought the polished sound took some of the authenticity out of the song.
And believe it or not, he was all for country music’s progression in terms of outside influences, and didn’t like being told that something he was doing wasn’t country.
Another thing he was very honest about was his drug addiction. He didn’t really even kick the habit until the mid 1980s. And there’s a good chance he never would’ve successfully kicked it without the help of the love of his life: Jessi Colter. Even through his darkest days she stood by him. I’m sure it involved a lot of praying.
WAYLON is like a very long country song; only he’s not singing to you. He’s just talking to you, from one human being to another. And man, does he have some stories.