Waylon Jennings, from outlaw to legend
By Naughty Mickie
It's true that I am known as the Princess of Rock and Roll, but what you may not know is that I did a stint crooning country tunes around Syracuse, New York. My father had piqued my interest in the genre as a child by tuning the car's radio to an "oakie" station as we tooled down the highway. My dad also shared his love of rock, dixieland jazz and classical music with me, yet it was that timeless twang that resonates in my memory of him, after KISS that is.
When I opened the newspaper this morning, I saw the headline: "'Outlaw' country singer Waylon Jennings, 64, dies." I paused and reflected on my childhood and my Syracuse time for a moment. The Outlaw has a special place in my heart. It was not only his music that endeared him to me, it was Jennings' solid stance in remaining an ethical artist.
Jennings was born in Littlefield, Texas and became a disc jockey at age 14 and soon after, he formed a band. As a teen in Lubbock, Texas, he befriended Buddy Holly and joined his group. The friendship lasted until 1959 when a plane carrying Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper crashed. Jennings was left to face the death of his companions with a
heavy burden, he had given his seat to The Big Bopper who was ill and wanted to fly, rather than travel by bus to the next stop.
The early '60s found Jennings playing in a nightclub in Arizona, which led to a contract with A&M Records in 1963, then to RCA in Nashville and later to Chet Atkins. During his five-decade career he gave us hits like "I'm a Ramblin' Man," "Amanda," "I've Always Been Crazy," "Lucille" and "Rose in Paradise" and defined the outlaw movement in country music. He also performed duets with his friend Willie Nelson, such as "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys" and "Luckenbach, Texas."
Jennings recorded 60 albums and had 16 number one country singles. He won two Grammy awards and four Country Music Association awards and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this past October. Oddly enough, Jennings usually did not attend music awards shows, as he felt that performers should not be competitive.
In keeping with his outlaw image, Jennings usually wore a black cowboy hat, along with white clothing to accentuate his dark beard and mustache. He was fiercely independent and had a history of battling with record producers in order to do his music his own way.
Jennings suffered from diabetes and had been plagued with problems stemming from his condition over the past few years. It had become difficult to walk and, in December, his left foot was amputated. It was reported that he died peacefully in his home in Arizona.
Jennings may be with his friends in guitar heaven, but leaves behind a treasure, not only of songs, but of style-- true style, the kind you get by living your life right and standing up for what you believe. Yes, he grew up to be a cowboy and became an outlaw, but more importantly, Jennings will live on as a legend.
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