Browsing articles in "Outlaw History"
Oct
3

Waylon Jennings Estate Auction: The Guitars

October 3, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  1 Comment

On Sunday 10/5, nearly 500 individual lots and over 2,000 items from Waylon Jennings will be auctioned of by Guernsey’s at the at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, with the proceeds from the auction going to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Out of the items there’s a total of 21 musical instruments that belonged to Waylon personally, as well as 11 amplifiers, a few keyboards, and even a set of Waylon Jennings conga drums. Below is a selection of some of the most valuable, and the most interesting items from the Waylon Jennings musical instrument collection.

More Details on the Waylon Jennings Auction


1946 Martin D28 Herringbone Guitar

Said to be Waylon’s personal guitar that he used to write songs with at home and on the road, this 1946 Martin with a Dreadnaught-style body has a Sitka spruce, mahogany neck, and ebony fingerboard. The guitar is in great playing condition, and considering its famous owner its considered one of the greatest Martin collectibles currently on the market. Serial number: 95073. Estimated $30,000-$40,000.

waylon-jennings-1946-martin-D28-herringbone


1943 Martin Guitar 00021

Another guitar said to be played by Waylon often and used for songwriting, it is listed as a 1943 model, but says it was numbered in September of 1948. Sitka spruce top, mahogany neck and ebony fretboard. The original tuners have been replaced with Grover Rotomatics tuners. “This was one of Waylon’s personal Martin Flattops,” says Guernsey’s. Serial number: 89206. Estimated $30,000-$40,000.

waylon-jennings-guitar-1943-martin-00021


Yamaha Acoustic Guitar “Roger Miller 1976″

An acoustic Yamaha guitar with “Roger Miller 1976″ carved into the top along with other scribblings. This guitar could probably tell a story, but its story is not known. THis is one of two instruments attributed to Roger Miller in the auction. Estimated $3,000-$5,000.

waylon-jennings-guitar-yamaha-roger-miller-1976


Gibson 1987 Chet Atkins CE Guitar

This nylon string classical-style guitar with a piezo pickup was a gift to Waylon from Chet Atkins, and is signed by Chet and dated ’87 on the sound covers. White signed to RCA, Chet Atkins was Waylon’s first primary producer. When Waylon won his creative freedom from RCA, Chet left the picture and became the face of stringent label control during country music’s Outlaw era. But later in life Waylon and Chet remained friends. Serial number: 82956570. Estimated $15,000 – $25,000.

waylon-jennings-gibson-Chet-Atkins-CE-1987-guitar


Baby Custom-Made Fender Telecaster for Shooter

The interesting part about this guitar is that it has a Telecaster body like all of Waylon’s electric guitars, but a shortened neck so a young Shooter Jennings (Waylon’s son) could play it. It is marked, “Made by John Birch, Birmingham, England,” and is said to be in excellent condition. Estimated $1,500 – $2,000.

waylong-jennings-baby-fender-telecaster-shooter


Fender Custom Shop Waylon Jennings Telecaster

There are actually four total of these custom shop Fender Telecaster guitars that are part of the auction, and each looks the same. None of them are the leather-clad black and white telecaster that Waylon played on stage for years, but were made by Fender to look very similar. Three all come with Fender Certificates of Authenticity and cases, serial numbers WJ037 Estimated $10,000 – $15,000. A fourth without a case and some damage is estimated at $8,000-$12,000. Serial #WJ038

fender-custom-shop-waylon-jennings-telecaster


Waylon Jennings’ Unidentified Telecaster-Style Guitar

One of the most unusual items in not just the guitar portion of the auction, but the entire Waylon estate auction is this art project guitar that appears to be an early blonde and black Fender Telecaster guitar from the shape of the body and head stock, but has what appear to be little mirror or mother-of-pearl tiles haphazardly glued to the body. The guitar has no label, and is in rough shape. If it could talk, the stories it could tell. Estimated $1,000-$1,5000.

waylon-jennings-telecaster-unidentified


“Little” Jimmy Dickens Dobro Resonator Guitar

This dobro resonator with a pickup was given to Waylon Jennings personally by “Little” Jimmy Dickens whose name appears in pearl inlay down the fretboard. “Little” Jimmy Dickens is the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry. It’s in excellent condition. Estimated $6,000 – $8,000.

waylon-jennings-dobro-resonator-little-jimmy-dickens


Martin Mandolin Model A

From Waylon’s personal collection, no year is given for this mandolin, but it does come with a serial number #25056. Estimated $7,000 – $9,000.

waylon-jennings-mandolin-model-a


Violin Given to Waylon Jennings by Roger Miller

A fiddle missing a tuner with no name or date, but with special value because it was given to Waylon by Roger Miller. Waylon’s widow Jessi Colter recalls when Roger gave Waylon the fiddle on their front porch. Estimated $3,000 – $4,000.

waylon-jennings-violin-fiddle-roger-miller-gift

 

Oct
2

Johnny Cash Writes a Letter to Waylon Jennings

October 2, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  3 Comments

The-HighwaymenIt was November of 1985. Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash—long-time friends who traced their intertwined stories all the way back to when they shared an apartment together just outside of Nashville—were as close as ever, and sharing the stage as part of the supergroup The Highwaymen with Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. The song “Highwayman” had been one of 1985′s biggest hits, cresting at #1 and holding on the Billboard charts for 20 weeks on its way to becoming a Top 5 song of the entire year.

Amidst their success, Waylon had agreed to be a part of a “roasting” in Georgia to benefit the Spina Bifida Association of Atlanta, and all of his fellow Highwaymen, including Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter Cash were scheduled to attend. Reporter Jack “Hawkeye” Hurst wrote briefly about the event on November 28th, 1985, and placed Johnny and June in Atlanta with Waylon, because that is where they were supposed to be according to the billing. But in truth Johnny and June were not there; they were in Jamaica. The Cash’s had a home called “Cinnamon Hill” on the Caribbean island which Waylon and his wife Jessi often visited, and while hiding away in their Jamaican home, Johnny and June missed the Atlanta roast. How do we know this?

As part of the liquidation of Waylon’s Arizona estate currently underway, a letter from Johnny Cash to Waylon has been made public for the first time. To make it up to Waylon for not attending the roast, Johnny Cash (or someone on his behalf) took to a typewriter, and in the spirit of a proper roasting, wrote a letter to Waylon that was equally apologetic for missing the event as it was pointedly sarcastic toward his old friend.

The Johnny Cash letter to Waylon Jennings is a testament to the friendship and closeness the two men shared, and the respect each man felt for respective wives.

The letter, along with hundreds of personal effects, including reams of other written paper matter, is scheduled to be auctioned off by Guernsey’s Auctioneers on Sunday, Oct. 5th.

- – - – - – - – - – - – -

Waylon, this roast shouldn’t hurt you too much tonight, because your brain is already fried. Seriously, I wanted to be there so bad, but I have been told that the only way to get from Jamaica to Atlanta is to travel. I sincerely hope you will accept this honest reason. We miss you and Shooter. Did you ever find out who Shooter’s mother is . . . . . I love you, Jessi, don’t I June? Jessi, you are one of the few truly great women I have met in my entire life. As soon as we get home, we want you to find Waylon’s clothes that he is going to wear that day, then show him where the car keys are, and come to see us. Waylon, I love you, don’t I God? Just remember if you’re ever down to your last dollar, if all your old friends turn their backs on you, if you’re so low that you wish you could die, just remember, I’ll always be . . . . . . . . .

Johnny Cash

johnny-cash-letter-to-waylon-jennings

READ: John Lennon Writes A Letter to Waylon Jennings

Sep
16

Johnny Cash’s Black Rolls-Royce Up For Sale

September 16, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  5 Comments

johnny-cash-rolls-royce

The Man in Black may be gone, but his legacy lives on, and so do many of the personal artifacts that tell the story of Johnny Cash that he left behind. One such important piece of history is about to go to the auction block in Las Vegas: a 1970 “build-to-order” Black Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow automobile owned by Johnny Cash that has quite the interesting story.

Between 1969 and 1971, Johnny Cash hosted a total of 58 episodes of “The Johnny Cash Show” on ABC. All the greats of the day from country music and beyond appeared on the show, including historic appearances by people like Bob Dylan and Bob Hope. To show their appreciation, ABC purchased the Rolls-Royce in a custom black color and presented it to Johnny Cash as a gift. The automobile was a long wheelbase, long door “Saloon” model, and boasted a privacy partition, and custom “JRC” gold lettering in the rear doors. This was one serious motor coach.

johnny-cashThe vehicle was owned by Johnny Cash until about 1985 when he sold it to another private owner, and on September 25th, the car will go up for grabs to the highest bidder as part of Barrett-Jackson’s Las Vegas auto auction at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

This is not the first time the car has been put up for sale recently. In a 2013 episode of the reality show Pawn Stars, the car was offered up for $350,000 but was passed on. The price was then reduced to $150,000, but it still wasn’t sold. The upcoming Las Vegas auction will have no reserve, so it is sure be sold this time.

There were roughly 36,000 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadows produced in many different styles, but only one like Johnny Cash’s. It has a twin-carbureted 412 CID aluminum V8 engine, independent front and rear suspension, and four wheel disc brakes. It only has 32,000 original miles on the odometer, and is mostly in original condition. The hood and trunk lid were also aluminum. Included with the car are various pieces of original paperwork that have Johnny Cash’s signature on them as the official owner.

For more information on the auto auction, visit www.barrett-jackson.com.

johnny-cash-rolls-royce-rearjohnny-cash-rolls-royce-interior

a twin-carbureted 412 cid aluminum V8, independent front and rear suspension, and four-wheel disc brakes. – See more at: http://news.barrett-jackson.com/feature-car-johnny-cash-1970-rolls-royce-silver-shadow/#sthash.IpldtiUy.dpuf

Sep
9

Muhammad Ali’s Remarkable Friendship with Waylon Jennings

September 9, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  22 Comments

“When people ask me who I admire most in the world, I always have the same answer: Muhammad Ali.” –Waylon Jennings

muhammad-ali-waylon-jenningsThe occasion of Waylon Jennings’ Arizona estate being auctioned off on October 5th by Guernsey’s Auctions has given us the opportunity to sit back and be awed at the remarkable life this poor boy from Littlefield, TX lived. The artifacts that Waylon accumulated over the years tell the story of a man who lived an incredible life, and one with a little more refinement than what there appeared to be on his rough, “Outlaw” surface. The presence of a letter to Waylon from John Lennon speaks to the breadth of Waylon’s influence and respect in the music world, but outside of music, there was another acquaintance, just as remarkable in its strangeness, but even more astounding in its depth. I’m speaking of Waylon’s undying friendship with Muhammad Ali.

Two heavyweights from different disciplines coming together in friendship is one thing. But the respect these two men had for each other is something so erudite and unexpected, it can give you chills.

“I thought he was too smart-ass for his own good when I first heard of him,” Waylon said in his autobiography with Lenny Kaye. “But after I realized what he was doing, he left-hooked me quick. Muhammad talked about himself with a grand sense of humor, but it helped that he was probably the most gracefully flamboyant boxer of our lifetime.”

Waylon was introduced to Muhammad Ali by Kris Kristofferson in 1978. “I met him back in the ’70s, after I did ‘A Star Is Born,’ and he’d seen the movie,” Kristofferson tells Men’s Journal. “We’ve been close since. I remember that Waylon Jennings, who wasn’t impressed with anybody, wanted to meet Ali. I introduced them at some restaurant in Los Angeles, and I was worried because that’s when Waylon was really messed up. He looked like death eating a soda cracker – his hair was all greasy and he’d been up for a month, I think. But they became great friends too.” 

Kristofferson says of Ali, “I’m still close with Muhammad, and he’s probably the biggest hero in my lifetime.”

In Ali’s dressing room during a fight is where the deep friendship between Waylon and Ali was forged. “Kris brought me back to his dressing room the night he won the belt back from Leon Spinks. Before the fight, he was the most calm man you ever saw, sitting on his trainer’s table, waiting, sure it was a done deal.”

Muhammad Ali’s September 15th, 1978 fight with Leon Spinks wasn’t just your typical boxing match, or even your typical heavyweight title fight involving Muhammad Ali. Earlier that year in February, Spinks became the first man to defeat Ali in the ring to claim boxing’s heavyweight belt. Seven months later in Louisiana the rematch ensued, held at the Superdome and immortalized as the “Battle of New Orleans.” Ali, who hadn’t taken the first bout seriously, won the rematch solidly in 15 rounds by a unanimous decision. Once again, Muhammad Ali was the Heavyweight Champion of the World, making him the first ever three-time champ.

“When I left, he simply said ‘Waylon,’ and gave me a big hug,” Waylon recalls, but that was not all he gave Waylon. Whether it was a token of his friendship, or repaying Waylon for being his good luck charm that night, Muhammad Ali gave Waylon the white terrycloth robe he wore before the fight, and the training gloves from the bout as a gift. At that moment, a robe that already was a priceless artifact of the boxing world also became an important artifact in the country music world, bestowed with such honor by the friendship between the two men.

“We had lunch in L.A. a few months later,” Waylon remembers. “And after Shooter (Waylon’s son with Jessi Colter) was born, I called him and told him we were having a christening. ‘We’d love to have you,’ and sure enough, he showed up and flopped down on the couch. ‘I’m here to integrate this joint,’ he said with a smile.”

001

Waylon once wrote a song for Muhammad Ali called “Here’s To The Champions,” but never got to sing or record it for him. But at a Parkinson’s Fund dinner in Phoenix in 2010, Kris Kristofferson sang the song with Waylon’s widow Jessi Colter for Ali. It reportedly brought tears to Ali’s eyes. The yellow piece of paper Waylon wrote the lyrics to Ali’s song on, as well as other pictures of Ali from Waylon’s estate will be a part of the upcoming Waylon auction along with the robe, and the gloves given to Waylon by Ali.

After attending Shooter’s christening, something else happened that showed the deep friendship between Waylon and Ali. “I had just bought the bus we called Shooter I,” Waylon recalls. “It wasn’t even furnished yet; I don’t know if it had license tags. Muhammad asked me for the keys, drove it to Louisville to see his momma, and then brought it back. He could have kept it for all I cared. He means that much to me, and the world.”

- – - – - – - – - – -

Visit Guernsey’s Waylon Auction

muhammad-ali-lyrics-waylon-jenningsmuhammad-ali-gloves-waylon-jenningsmuhammad-ali-robe

Sep
6

10 Badass David Allan Coe Moments (75th Birthday Special)

September 6, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  18 Comments

david-allan-coe-banner

The question about David Allan Coe has never been if he’s a badass, but if he’s a little too badass. Some of his stories are hard to believe. Others are even harder to validate. And others are hard to herald because of the malevolent nature of the occurrences or outcomes. David Allan Coe is a living dichotomy. He’s a scary, weird, train wreck of a man; one of these people we all knew growing up in school or in the neighborhood that was always in someone’s face and that could twist off at any moment. At the same time, and for some of the same reasons, David Allan Coe is an American treasure, and a country music legend. And country music, and the rest of the world, would be a lot less of a colorful place without him. Because whether you like him, respect him, or hate him, there will never be another person or performer in country music or the American culture like David Allan Coe.

READ: Look, This is the Deal with David Allan Coe (An Editorial)

More in this series:

 


1. Spending 20 Years In Reform School & Prison

david-allan-coe-prisonIn a genre of music where what you’ve done and how you lived goes a long way into putting legitimacy behind the songs you sing, David Allan Coe’s story is arguably filled with more street cred than any other major performer in the history of the genre. Institutionalized from 9-years-old in reform schools, David Allan Coe committed crimes such as robbery and grand theft auto in early adulthood, and ended up in and out of jail and prison for two decades. Though Coe claims a lot of miraculous meetings with former and future famous individuals and other rowdy incidents while in the pen, including killing a man in self-defense and spending time on death row (see at bottom), one claim that is widely accepted is that while incarcerated in Ohio, Coe met fellow Ohio native Screamin’ Jay Hawkins who encouraged Coe to pursue songwriting. David’s rough and tumble early life would go on to lay the foundation for future songs that would help shape the sound of country music. When he finally got out of prison in 1967, he stayed out, and put together one of the most legendary, curious, and colorful country music careers the genre has ever seen.


2. Living In A Hearse / Parking It at the Grand Ole Opry

After getting out of prison in 1967, David Allan Coe moved to Nashville to pursue his country music career. He was homeless at the time, and lived in the back of a red Cadillac hearse that he parked regularly in front of the Ryman Auditorium—aka the “Mother Church of Country Music” where the Grand Ole Opry was conducted at the time. Crudely decaled to advertise the Opry, as the crowds came and went, there was David Allan Coe busking in front of the famed venue. It was his way of getting the attention of the industry. What was the result? It worked. Plantation Records recognized Coe and signed him to the label. Coe’s first two albums—Penitentiary Blues and Requiem for a Harlequin—were through Plantation, and that was the big break he needed. Later he singed with the major label Columbia Records.

david-allan-coe-hearse


3. Being The First Country Artist to Have and All Girl Backup Band

That’s right. The man that would probably would be fingered as country music’s biggest misogynist had country music’s first female backing band called the Ladysmiths. Though they only lasted a short time too early in Coe’s career for many people to notice, he still deserves the distinction.

Not only was it an all-girl band, but they were from New Jersey,” David Allan Coe once said in an interview. “Seven years later Porter Wagner [Wagoner] had his TV show, and had an all girl band and that was a big deal. Porter was famous so he got the credit for being the first to use an all-girl Country band. Nobody paid attention when I did it. I wasn’t famous – and it didn’t matter to me.”

Of course, you have to balance out this info with the fact that Coe once also claimed to have as many as seven wives, and once claimed allegiance to the Mormon Church to justify his polygamy. As you can imagine, the Mormons were not happy.

001

From Michael Bane’s “The Outlaws”


4. Recording “The Ride”

If you’re anything like me, when you first heard this song, and when you realized Coe was singling about Hank Williams, it was one of those singular musical moments that made your spine tingle and the hair on your arms stand on end. Written by Gary Gentry and J.B. Detterline Jr. and released in February of 1983, “The Ride” simply wasn’t just another great David Allan Coe song, it was the one that revitalized his struggling career at the time, and put him back on the mainstream map.

Columbia Records had fitted Coe with legendary Countrypolitan producer Billy Sherrill. The Coe / Sherril collaboration was a success, and along with another hit of the era “Mona Lisa Lost Her Smile,” “The Ride” drove David Allan Coe to the top of the country charts. The song made it to #4 on the Billboard Country chart, and spent 19 weeks in the chart.


5. Writing “Take This Job & Shove It”

One of the biggest songs of David Allan Coe’s career, and Johnny Paycheck’s. The #1 hit (the only one of Paycheck’s career) released in October of 1977 created its own colloquial expression and snowclone that is still in practice today. It inspired a 1981 film of the same name and too many popular culture references to count. Coe released his own version of the song on his 1978 record Family Album and an alternative version called “Take This Job And Shove It Too” that included the line, “Paycheck you may be a thing of the past”—a veiled stab at Johnny who Coe felt betrayed him by alluding to the public that he wrote the song.


6. Living In A Cave After IRS Seizure

David Allan Coe once had a house in Key West with other songwriters such as Shel Silverstein and Jimmy Buffett. In fact it was when listening to Silverstein’s off-color comedy songs that Coe was inspired to record his two X-rated albums, Nothing’s Sacred in 1978, and the Underground Album in 1982. Coe had a falling out with Jimmy Buffett when Buffett accused Coe of stealing the melody of his song “Changes In Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” for his song “Divers Do It Deeper.” Buffet later said, “I would have sued him, but I didn’t want to give Coe the pleasure of having his name in the paper.”

Coe nonetheless had hard times coming. In 1990 his contract with Columbia Records came to and end, and after a bitter divorce and troubles with the IRS, Coe’s Key West home was seized and he was thrown out on the street. With no place to go, David Alan Coe lived in a cave for several months in Tennessee, or at least that is how the story goes. Some have questioned the validity of Coe’s cave-living claims.


7. Being Criminally Overlooked for Writing & Recording Powerful Love Songs

Whenever you say the name “David Allan Coe,” people immediately think of his hellrasing Outlaw songs, confederate flags and the use of the ‘N’ word, his X-rated albums, prison time, and many other seedy events that have sensationalized his life and country career. But what might be the most underrated part of David Allan Coe’s contributions is his ability to write and record some of the best, most touching love songs the country genre has ever heard. The breadth of David Allan Coe’s songwriting ability, and his ability to perform a heartfelt tune when called upon it is something that even the most hardened David Allan Coe detractors could find beauty in.

Coe’s first big success in country music came as the songwriter for Tanya Tucker’s #1 hit in March of 1974, “Would You Lay Me Down (In A Field Of Stone).” Coe’s own version of the song is also highly regarded by singers and songwriters. His recording of “Mona Lisa Lost Her Smile” written by Johnny Cunningham was Coe’s highest-charting single in his career, hitting #2 on the Billboard Country charts, and Coe’s “Jody Like A Melody” rarely leaves a dry eye in the house.

David Allan Coe’s long relationship with producer Billy Sherrill, who was known as one of the founders of the refined Countrypolitan sound, resulted in some beautiful recordings that may not balance out all the bad he’s done in his life, but certainly speak to the wide expanse of Coe’s talent and contributions.


8. Standing Up to Casino Security Guards in Iowa

In June of 2008, David Allan Coe was at the Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona, Iowa with his girlfriend (now wife) during a stopover between shows. The altercation happened after Coe hit the jackpot on a slot machine. His wife stayed with the machine to collect the jackpot, and Coe moved on to another slot to continue playing. When the casino workers came to deliver the jackpot, they told David’s girlfriend that he had to be present because he was the one who pushed the button. When the casino workers found Coe at the other slot machine is when the trouble started. As Coe was trying to give the casino proper ID, a young security guard became combative with Coe. To avoid an altercation Coe began to walk away, but security cornered him, wrestled him to the ground, detained him, and charged him with Disorderly Conduct and other charges.

Bad thing for the security is the entire thing was caught on tape, and completely corroborated David Allan Coe’s side of the story. It clearly shows security unnecessarily wrestling Coe to the ground, and all charges were dropped. Coe blames the incident for why he has to walk with a cane, and still down while performing. He counter sued the casino.

The video of the incident is pretty astounding.


9. Partnering with Pantera for Rebel Meets Rebel

Yes, there’s many partnerships and collaborations in music where two famous artists or bands get together and do something that is usually really exciting on paper, but the results musically are fairly negligible beyond the novelty of the collaboration. Rebel Meets Rebel took it a step further, and has withstood the test of time for many fans of both David Allan Coe and metal band Pantera.

Recorded between 1999 and 2003, and not released until May 2nd, 2006—two years after Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell was brutally murdered on stage. This wasn’t David Allan Coe playing metal, or Pantera playing country. This was a true collaboration that mixed influences from both disciplines. Hard-edged and unapologetic, it is mostly a meal for the red meat crowd, but stands above most other country/metal collaborations as one that got it right.


10. Surviving a Horrific Car Crash

If you need any further evidence of just how badass David Allan Coe is, just appreciate that in March of 2013, David Allan Coe was broadsided by a Peterbilt 18-wheeler in Ocala, Florida and live to tell the tale. The impact sent Coe’s 2011 black Suburban all the way into a nearby parking lot, which the semi ended up on its side and wrapped around a cement pole. Coe suffered cracked ribs and bruised kidneys, and spent a couple of weeks in the hospital, but was back performing months later. Just looking at the pictures from the accident, it’s a wonder Coe made it out alive. A badass indeed.

Read More About Coe’s Accident.

david-allan-coe-car-crash


BONUS #11 – Recording “You Never Even Call Me By My Name”


Bonus #12 – Being Part of the 1% Outlaw Motorcycle Gang

david-allan-coe-motorcycle


Badass DAC Moments That Are Probably Not True

Taught Charles Manson How To Play Guitar - Though David Allan Coe claims he taught Charles Manson how to play while they were both in prison together, there’s no evidence to support that the two were in prison together ever, let alone that Coe would have the kind of access to Manson to teach him. Another man Alvin “Creepy” Karpis is given credit by most sources for teaching Manson guitar while in prison.

Killed A Man In Prison / Served Time on Death Row - This has been one of Coe’s most contentious claims; sworn to be true by him, but refuted by journalists, penitentiary workers, and legal experts. According to Coe, while in prison a man tried to rape him, so Coe killed him in self-defense. When a story in Rolling Stone in the 70′s refuted Coe’s claims, he wrote a song in response called, “I’d Like To Kick The Shit Out Of You.”


More in this series:

Sep
2

John Lennon’s Letter to Waylon Jennings

September 2, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  29 Comments

waylon-jennings-john-lennonOn October 5th, Guernsey’s Auctions will be liquidating a massive 2,000-piece collection of items owned by Waylon Jennings from his Arizona estate. Though there are many items of intrigue to be sold off, one of the most curious might be the letter John Lennon once wrote to Waylon Jennings. Representing such a clashing of music worlds, this artifact of popular music is one of the few insights we have into men that spent most of their lives trying to protect their privacy and wearing their personas like armor.

The letter first surfaced in the public eye in the glossy photo section of Waylon’s 1996 autobiography with Lenny Kaye. No explanation, and no context for the letter was given, simply the caption of, “A Beatle writes…” Beyond the natural curiosity the letter creates from being between two megastars who on the surface would seem to be polar opposite personalities, the hilarity Lennon embedded throughout the letter makes it especially enriching. Waylon Jennings and John Lennon were not as far apart as one would think, or as even the two stars thought themselves when they first met at the Grammy Awards in New York.

For starters, Waylon and John had a “Buddy” between them. Buddy Holly was a big influence on The Beatles during the British band’s early stages, and Waylon did time as the bass player in Buddy Holly’s backing band “The Crickets” when the two original members took a break. The name “The Crickets” by many accounts is what directly inspired Lennon to call his band with Paul McCartney “The Beatles,” (McCartney was responsible for changing the ‘e’ to an ‘a’). The first song John Lennon ever recorded with Paul McCartney and George Harrison was a cover of Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day.” It was also Waylon who gave up his seat to The Big Bopper on that fateful plane that crashed in 1959 in an event that later became known as “The Day The Music Died,” taking the lives of the Bopper, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.

But when John Lennon met Waylon, Buddy Holly was not what was on his mind, and it wasn’t on Waylon’s either. As revealed in a 1996 interview with Waylon by Terry Gross, both stars had the other pegged incorrectly before they met. “I met John Lennon, and I – you know, we were cutting up and everything at one of the Grammy things,” Waylon recalls. “And I said, ‘Man, you’re a lot of – you’re funny. I didn’t know you were funny,’ I said. ‘I thought you were some kind of mad guy or something like that.’”

This explains in part the humorous tone Lennon took with the letter.

When it came to how Lennon perceived Waylon, it was even more off the mark.

As much as Waylon’s reputation in the United States was one of a rough and tumble country music Outlaw, in the U.K. it was even more so. During an early studio session in Waylon’s career, he was recording at RCA in Nashville when he brought a gun into the studio to make a point about RCA’s session players playing “pickup notes.” Waylon didn’t feel like session players played with any feeling to their music. They were great players, but after playing on so many different recordings each day, they lacked the type of imagination and creativity Waylon wanted on his records. This perception of session players was later one of the foundations for the Outlaw movement, but while Waylon was still under the thumb of RCA, he had to do whatever he could to get the session players to play with feeling.

So during one studio session, Jennings brought a long-barreled Colt Buntline revolver with him and proclaimed, “The first guy that I hear use a pickup note, I’m going to shoot his fingers off!” Though the session players themselves probably took it mostly as sarcasm, some British journalists who were in the studio observing the session at the time didn’t have the same handle on American custom or Waylon’s personality. After their reports of Waylon carrying a revolver into the studio were published, Waylon’s Outlaw reputation in Britain only grew more menacing.

So when Waylon said to John Lennon at The Grammy Awards, “I thought you were some kind of mad guy or something like that,” Lennon’s response was, “Listen, people in England think you shoot folks.

All indications are Waylon Jennings and John Lennon hit it off like peanut butter and jelly. Though the letter itself does not shed much light on when they met (the date Lennon gives is “MARCH SOMETHING (year of our ford),” though it does say “75 etc.” below), they likely met on March 1st, 1975 at the Uris Theater in New York City during the year’s Grammy Awards. Waylon was up for Best Country & Western Vocal Performance for his song “I’m A Ramblin’ Man,” and Lennon was a resident of New York at the time.

The letter seems to be prefacing Lennon sending Waylon a song or songs he wrote but never released. From misspelling Waylon’s first name (and correcting it with pen), to Lennon’s Liverpool accent coming out in his typing (“TWAS GOOD TA MEETYA”), to the self-portrait squiggle of his own visage, the John (Lennon) letter to Waylon may offer as much insight into the true personality of the legendary Beatle than any other artifact he left behind on this mortal coil. And it’s one that is given special meaning because of who it was sent to.

john-lennon-letter-to-waylon-jennings

Aug
22

More Waylon Jennings Artifacts Revealed in Estate Auction

August 22, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  4 Comments

remebering-waylon-auctionIn early August it was revealed that Guernsey’s Auctions out of New York City was preparing to auction off 2,000 items from the Waylon Jennings estate in Chandler, Arizona, with the proceeds going to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. The items are being offered for sale by Waylon’s widow, Jessi Colter, who was married to Waylon for over 30 years. The auction is set to transpire on October 5th at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. Now even more details of the auction items have been revealed as the auction house has made a detailed auction guide available for pre-order.

The items will be made available for preview in Phoenix at the Musical Instrument Museum starting on October 3rd. Out of the 2,000 items, there will also be 500 lots, or groups of items that will be auctioned together. Telephone and online bidding will also be available.

Included in the auction is a pair of ornate leather boots once worn by Hank Williams. There’s also an authentic set of Willie Nelson’s famous Indian braids given to Waylon in 1983 by his long-time Outlaw friend to celebrate Waylon’s newly-found sobriety. There’s also the original contract signed by Waylon that officially formed The Highwaymen supergroup with Willie, Kris Kristofferson, and Johnny Cash, and a letter to Waylon from John Lennon. There’s also a leather-clad Telecaster being sold (though not the main one Waylon played). But the crown jewel of the collection will be the Ariel Cyclone motorcycle previously owned by Buddy Holly, and given to Waylon Jennings as a birthday present in 1979 (read more).

Though Waylon was originally from Littlefield, TX, his Phoenix history runs deep. Waylon got his start as a solo performer at JD’s in Phoenix. Owner Jimmy D. Musiel pattered his club around Waylon and his Waylors as the house band. Waylon’s Arizona estate in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler is where he spent much of his time, and where he passed away on February 13th, 2002.

For more information on the auction, visit www.guernseys.com.


Braids Willie Nelson gave to Waylon after he found sobriety.

waylon-jennings-willie-nelson-braids

“Storms Never Last” Bronze Bust

waylon-jennings-storms-never-last-bronze-bust

Waylon’s Stage Chair

waylon-jennings-stage-chair

Waylon’s Personal Rolex Submariner Watch

waylon-jennings-rolex-submariner-wristwatch

Porsche Design Sunglasses & Case

waylon-jennings-porsche-sunglasses-case

Porsche Design Sunglasses

waylon-jennings-porche-designed-sunglasses

Partner Desk Given to Waylon by Johnny Cash in 1985

waylon-jennings-partner-desk-johnny-cash

Original contract forming the supergroup The Highwaymen.

waylon-jennings-original-highwaymen-contract

Photo Display from the Music Row Museum

waylon-jennings-music-row

Muhammad Ali’s Training Gloves

waylon-jennings-muhammad-ali-training-gloves

Muhammad Ali’s Ring Robe Presented to Waylon Jennings by Ali in 1978

waylon-jennings-muhammad-ali-robe-1978

Letter from John Lennon To Waylon

waylon-jennings-letter-from-john-lennon

Original Black Crayon Drawing of Johnny Cash by William Nelson

waylon-jennings-johnny-cash-drawing

Hat Worn by Hank Williams Jr. During a Live Performance

waylon-jennings-hat

Nomination Plaque for “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys”

waylon-jennings-grammy-plaque

Fender Custom Shop Waylon Jennings Telecaster

waylon-jennings-fender-custom-telecaster

Waylon’s Favorite Pair of Lucchese Boots

waylon-jennings-favorite-pair-lucchese-boots

Engraved ST Dupont Black Chinese Lacquer and Gold Lighter c. 1970s

waylon-jennings-engraved-lighter

Hank Williams’ Custom-made Nudie Cowboy Boots

waylon-jennings-custom-made-cowbouy-nudie-boots-hank-williams

Costume Worn by Jennings in Sesame Street’s Follow That Bird

waylon-jennings-costume-sesame-street-follow-that-bird

“The Buddy Holly Days”

waylon-jennings-buddy-holly-days

Baume Mercier Watch

waylon-jennings-baume-mercier-watch

Nashville Rebel Poster with Autograph

waylon-jennings-autographed-nashville-rebel-poster-2

Autographed Nashville Rebel Poster WITH ORIGINAL SHARKEY’S POSTER

waylon-jennings-autographed-nashville-rebel-poster

1943 Martin Guitar 00021

waylon-jennings-1943-martin-guitar-00021

The Highwayman Goes Gold

waylon-highwayman-gold-record

Ariel Cyclone motorcycle previously owned by Buddy Holly, and given to Waylon Jennings as a birthday present in 1979.

waylong-motorcycle-ariel-cyclone-auction

Aug
13

10 Badass Alan Jackson Moments

August 13, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  46 Comments

alan-jackson

As one of the primary members of country music’s “Class of ’89″ that’s regularly given credit for veering country music into a too commercial direction, Alan Jackson seems to never be given enough credit for being one of the genre’s staunch traditionalists that has stood up for the roots and the legends of country music arguably more than any other mainstream star, and just as much (if not more) than The Outlaws of the 70′s did. When you sit back and reflect on his now legendary career that has seen the sale of over 80 million records and seen Alan amass dozens of industry awards, there is no question Alan Jackson deserves the distinction of being an ultimate country music badass.

More in this series:

 


1. Starting His Career in the TNN Mailroom

young-alan-jacksonWillie Nelson and Waylon Jennings got their start in music as DJ’s. Kris Kristofferson started out as a janitor in the Columbia studios. For those with music in their blood, they will do whatever it takes to get their foot in the door of the music business. For Alan Jackson, it was getting a job in the mailroom of The Nashville Network’s offices.

Jackson was born in Newnan, Georgia, and grew up in a house built out of his grandfather’s old tool shed. Jackson’s mom still lives in the house to this day. Jackson had been married to his high school sweetheart Denise for 6 years before deciding to move to Nashville to pursue music full time. Once they hit Music City, Jackson needed to do something to support the household, and TNN was hiring. He later met Glen Campbell and the rest is history.


2. Wearing a Hank Williams T-shirt on the 1994 ACM Awards

Today this would be no big deal. In fact it would probably be considered an upgrade from some of the ridiculous regalia many modern-day country stars get duded up in on award shows. But in 1994, country music’s prime time presentations were still very much black tie affairs. And here comes Alan Jackson walking out for his performance wearing a Hank Williams T-shirt with the sleeves cut off. It would pale in comparison to what would happen next on the show (see below), but Alan bucking the black tie dress code was scandalous on its own, and was probably meant as its own protest against the ACM’s stuffy atmosphere and a presentation that showed little reverence to the roots of the music.

Executive producer Dick Clark in a backstage interview during the show asked Alan, “Here you are on television in front of millions of people. Why do you have a Hank Williams T-shirt on?”

Jackson’s response was, “Well, I love Hank, and a fan…I get a lot of gifts on the road playing, and a fan gave me this shirt, and I just saw it in the closet before I came out here this weekend and I grabbed it and said, ‘I’m gonna wear it for my song,’ you know, ‘Gone Country.’ Hank’s country.”


3. Protesting The Backing Track on the 1994 ACM Awards

The 1994 ACM Awards were in many ways Alan Jackson’s oyster. Held at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles on May 3rd, Alan walked away that night with the Top Male Vocalist award, and co-hosted the event with Reba McEntire. But when it came to performing what would be his upcoming #1 single and one of the signature songs of the era “Gone Country”, Alan Jackson couldn’t sit right with the charade most country award shows pull on their audience.

Before the show, producers told Alan that he had to play to a pre-recorded rhythm section track, which Jackson clearly felt was tantamount to lying to both his fans and the audience. So instead of playing along with the charade, Jackson tipped off the audience to the subterfuge by telling his drummer Bruce Rutherford to play without sticks. So as the performance transpires and everything sounds perfect, there is Alan Jackson’s drummer, swinging his arms like he’s playing the drums, but with no sticks in his hand.

Trust the ACM’s never asked Alan Jackson to play to a backing track again. And this wouldn’t be the last time Alan Jackson would pull a fast one on award show producers….

-


4. The “Pop A Top / Choices” George Jones CMA Awards Protest

Just before the 1999 CMA Awards, George Jones was asked to perform an abbreviated version of his song “Choices”. George, feeling that he wasn’t a “baby act” as he put it, refused, and boycotted the show. And in a super act of class, Alan Jackson, while preforming his song “Pop A Top”, cut his own song short, and launched into George’s “Choices”.

‘We were all so nervous,” Alan Jackson later recalled. “The guitarist had this solo in the middle of ”Pop a Top’, and the song sort of modulates up at the end of the solo. I signaled to him that we were going to do it, and he just stopped. I looked over at him and he was sweating. The boy looked like he was going to bite his lip off. Then I hit that C chord to start ‘Choices’. ”

As you can see in the video, the crowd began to roar and rise to their feet when Jackson launched into the George Jones’ comeback hit.

Read More About Alan Jackson’s CMA Protest


5. Releasing Under The Influences Tribute Album

alan-jackson-under-the-influencesDuring the height of Alan Jackson’s commercial success, he decided to do something rarely seen in modern day country from a superstar: he released an album made entirely of classic country covers. Including two songs from Johnny Paycheck, a cover of Merle Haggard’s “My Own Kind Of Hat”, and Hank Williams Jr.’s “The Blues Man”, Jackson’s label heads must have thought he was crazy. The album was Jackson’s way of pushing back against the pop-ification of country that was becoming a hot topic in the genre at the time.

What was the result?

It was a big success. Though it can be argued that an album of more original music might have done better, Under The Influences went Platinum, and included two hit singles. Nat Stuckey’s “Pop A Top” ended up at #6 on Billboards Country Songs chart, and Bob McDill’s “It Must Be Love” first made famous by Don Williams went all the way to #1. Alan Jackson proved that the classic country sound was still relevant, and commercially viable if given a chance.


6. Recording and Writing “3 Minute Positive Not Too Country Up Tempo Love Song”

Not since Willie Nelson’s “Sad Songs & Waltzes”, and arguably no other song since has protested pop country’s propensity for commercialization and shallowness as well as this loquaciously-titled song written by Alan Jackson himself for his 2000 release When Somebody Loves You.


7. Recording “Murder On Music Row” with George Strait

Arguably one of the most important country music protest songs in the history of the genre, “Murder On Music Row” written by Larry Cordle and Larry Shell became a big success when Alan Jackson joined up with George Strait to release the song in 2000. The duo first performed the song in 1999 at the CMA Awards, and the next year the performance won the CMA for “Vocal Event of the Year.” Then the following year when it was released on George Strait’s Latest Greatest Straitest Hits album, it was awarded the CMA for “Song of the Year.” That’s right, a song talking about how country music had been murdered on Music Row walked away with the genre’s highest distinction for a song.

Even though the song was never released as a single, unsolicited airplay still saw the song chart on Billboard at #38. At George Strait’s final concert in June of 2014, the duo performed the song again to the largest crowd to ever see an indoor live music event


8. “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)”

In stark contrast to the inflammatory nature of Toby Keith’s post-911 über hit “Courtesy Of The Red, White, & Blue”, Alan Jackson did his best to humanize and come to peace with the tragedy of 9-11 through song, and it resulted in both his most critical and commercial success of his career. Written by Jackson himself, when he first played it for label executives, there was complete silence in the room for a full minute after it stopped. Jackson was scheduled to perform his current #1 song “Where I Come From” at the 2001 CMA awards in November, but mere days before the presentation, he decided to play “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)” instead. The four CMA heads were not happy about this decision until Jackson’s tour manager Nancy Russell played the song for them. They were all crying by the time the song ended.

After Jackson played the song on the CMA Awards, demand for it skyrocketed. The song was so new, his label hadn’t officially released it as a single yet, but stations already with a copy started playing it, and the song shot to #25 on the Billboard Country Songs chart almost immediately. By the next week it was at #12, and by the end of the year, it was #1 where it stayed for five weeks. It also charted on Billboard’s Hot 100 at #28.

Jackson’s label couldn’t make the song a commercial single fast enough to meet demand, so they instead decided to move up the release date of his album Drive from May of 2002 to January 15th. When the album was released, it went to #1 on both Billboard’s country and all-genre charts, and stayed there for four weeks off the strength of the song. “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)” eventually won both the “Single of the Year” and “Song of the Year” from both the CMA and ACM Awards, as well as the Grammy for “Best Country Song.” It also helped propel Alan Jackson to be awarded both “Male Vocalist of the Year” and “Entertainer of the Year” by the CMA Awards in both 2002 and 2003.

Jackson said about the song, “I think it was Hank Williams who said, ‘God writes the songs, I just hold the pen.’ That’s the way I felt with this song.”


9. Being Nominated For The Most CMA’s Ever In One Year

Bolstered by his song “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)”, Alan Jackson received a total of ten CMA nominations in 2002—the most in CMA history. Jackson won five of them.

  • 2002 Album of the Year – Drive (Won)
  • 2002 Male Vocalist of the Year (Won)
  • 2002 Entertainer of the Year (Won)
  • 2002 Single of the Year “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)” (Won)
  • 2002 Song of the Year “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)” (Won)
  • 2002 Song of the Year “Drive (For Daddy Gene)” (Nominated)
  • 2002 Single of the Year “Drive (For Daddy Gene)” (Nominated)
  • 2002 Vocal Event of the Year  – “Designated Drinker” w/ George Strait (Nominated)
  • 2002 Video of the Year “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)” (Nominated)
  • 2002 Video of the Year “Drive (For Daddy Gene)” (Nominated)

 


10. Keeping Virtually The Same Band & Producer Throughout His Entire Career

Every single one of Alan Jackson’s 15 major label album releases has been produced by Keith Stegall. Even when Jackson switched labels from Arista, Stegall stayed on board.

Jackson has also kept virtually the same band the entire time, aside from using a few bluegrass ringers for The Bluegrass Album. The loyalty Alan Jackson shows in his people, and his people’s loyalty in him, is both a sign of integrity and success.

  • Monty Allen – acoustic guitar, harmony vocals
  • Scott Coney – acoustic guitar, tic tac bass, banjo
  • Robbie Flint – steel guitar
  • Danny Groah – lead guitar
  • Ryan Joseph – fiddle, harmony vocals
  • Bruce Rutherford – drums
  • Joey Schmidt – keyboards
  • Roger Wills – bass guitar

 


More in this series:

Aug
11

The Most Important Drum Set in Country On Display At Cash Museum

August 11, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  10 Comments

johnny-cash-museumSince the Johnny Cash Museum opened in downtown Nashville in May 2013, it has become one of Music City’s must-see spots and an international destination point for country music fans and Johnny Cash fans alike. Barely a year has passed since its initial opening and the museum is already tackling its first new addition. On August 15th, the museum will unveil its “Legends of Sun Records” exhibit celebrating the legendary Memphis studio that gave rise to Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and of course, The Man in Black himself.

“Johnny Cash began his musical career at Sun Records,” says Johnny Cash Museum Founder Bill Miller. “Sun was the launch pad for several young men whose music would forever impact the world. Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Johnny came from similar backgrounds and humble beginnings. Once they walked through the door at the Memphis Recording Service, their lives would never be the same. We are proud to showcase Johnny’s labelmates from this historic period in rock and roll history.” 

The Legends of Sun Records exhibit will showcase many artifacts and much information about the original class of Sun Records stars, but one man, and one particular piece of memorabilia might be worth paying a little bit of extra attention to.

W.S. “Fluke” Holland is not a name that is as familiar to music fans as the other big Sun Recordings stars, but his significance to early country and rock & roll cannot be overstated.

w-s-hollandW.S. Holland was Johnny Cash’s drummer for 40 years, and is considered by many as the “Father of the Drums.” When he joined Johnny Cash’s band in 1960, the famous “Tennessee Two” officially became the “Tennessee Three,” but it was a fluke the drummer joined the band at all, leading to his now inseparable nickname.

W.S. Holland never intended to be a drummer. He was raised in Bemis, TN and worked for an air conditioning company after high school. He was a big music fan, and would go out after work to see Carl Perkins play with his two brothers at a local bar. Holland used to beat his hands on the side of the upright bass to the rhythm of music, and on a whim the Perkins clan invited Holland on a trip to Sun Records, and told him to borrow a drum set to play. One thing led to another, and W.S. Holland became one of Sun Records’ go-to session drummers.

W.S. Holland was the drummer for the famous “Million Dollar Quartet” session that matched up Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis (he got paid $11.50 for the gig—union scale at the time). He played on many other famous Sun Records recordings, including Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, and “Ring of Fire”, not as a member of Johnny’s band, but as a session player. Holland also played on many other famous Sun recordings, including “Blue Suede Shoes.”

Later W.S. Holland would take the same drum set used in many of those famous Sun Studios sessions, and they would become the first full drum set ever used on The Grand Ole Opry. Though Bob Wills back in 1945 brought his Texas Playboys to the Ryman, including their full-time drummer, The Opry forbade Bob from playing the drum set on stage. An argument ensued, and eventually The Opry caved and allowed the drummer to play a partial set behind a curtain. It’s said that Bob at one point said, “Move those things out on stage!” and the drums made a quick and controversial appearance, barring Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys from the Opry for life. But the set owned by W.S. “Fluke” Holland, and the set that is on display as part of the Johnny Cash Museum’s “Legends of Sun Records” is the first full drum set, and the first officially approved set to ever grace The Grand Ole Opry’s hallowed stage.

The biggest “fluke” occurred for W.S. “Fluke” Holland when he was hired by Johnny Cash to play a quick two week run of shows in New York and Atlantic City. That two weeks lasted 40 years in Johnny Cash’s band, and the rest is history. Later when Johnny Cash formed The Highwaymen with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson, W.S. “Fluke” was the supergroup’s full-time drummer. “Fluke” also played on Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” and “Sunday Morning Coming Down”, played on the Live at Folsom Prison and Live at San Quentin albums, and was also the session player for Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline record.

The quaint, four-piece drum set on display at the Johnny Cash Museum could be considered the most important drum set in this history of country music—and rock and roll music for that matter, or American music in general. Along with all the other important artifacts that make up the “Legends of Sun Records” exhibit, it makes this new museum addition a worthy visit for music fans of all stripes.

W.S. “Fluke” Holland still plays drums and tours today in his W.S. Holland Band.

Photos by Jarrett Gaza

johnny-cash-museum-sun-studiosw-s-holland-drums-johnny-cash-museum

Jul
19

Why Tompall Glaser Never Became As Famous As Willie & Waylon

July 19, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  25 Comments

tompallglaservest

When the compilation album Wanted! The Outlaws was released in 1976, it became country music’s first million-selling record and made huge stars of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Jessi Colter was already a big star because of her big #1 hit “I’m Not Lisa”. But why did Tompall Glaser never find the big success his fellow Outlaws did? Why wasn’t Tompall able to ride the Outlaw momentum to become one of the biggest names in country music?

the-great-tompall-biography-of-tompall-glaserA recently-released biography on Tompall Glaser called The Great Tompall: Forgotten Country Music Outlaw finally looks to tell the life story of one of the most important figures in the history of country music, but one of the most forgotten. Because Tompall’s impact was mostly felt behind-the-scenes, he arguably has never received proper credit for how he revolutionized country music in the mid 70′s with his renegade studio that broke the major label monopoly on country, and allowed creative freedom to finally reign in Nashville.

The new book, written by blood relative Kevin Glaser who is the nephew of Tompall, includes many interviews with important country music figures from today and from the time of Tompall’s greatest influence; people like Kinky Friedman, “Cowboy” Jack Clement, and Marty Stuart. Kevin Glaser also speaks to influential critic and professor Dave Hickey who spent significant time at Glaser Studios in Nashville during the height of the Outlaw movement. In the new biography, Hickey helps explain why Tompall never became as famous as his Outlaw brothers while painting a picture of what the Glaser Sound Studios were like.


From “The Great Tompall”:

Hickey first came to Nashville with an assignment to write a book about Waylon and Willie. He never got around to it since he existed in a “fog of cocaine and dope” during his time at Glaser Sound Studios. He considers the time he spent there as a “studio internship,” and mentioned that because he lived two blocks away, he would sometimes sleep in the studio.

dave-hickey

Dave Hickey

According to Hickey, “Glaser Sound Studio became ‘ground zero’ for the Outlaw Movement (a phrase that Dave claims to have coined), due to the fact that people like Tompall, Waylon, Willie and Neil Reshen were there during this time. This was the moment that country music artists discovered that they didn’t need to ask Chet Atkins’ permission before they could go to the bathroom. The old-time studio system (Acuff-Rose, etc.) could be bypassed. Everyone took control of their own destiny. They had their own publishing companies, studios, managers, etc. They weren’t beholden to record companies or to Billy Sherrill’s idea of what a good song was.”

In Hickey’s mind, the “Rebellious Center of Nashville” during this time included Roger Miller, John Lomax, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver, Tompall, Billy Swan, and Kinky Friedman, among others. However, Tompall was the “improviasrio of the scene” and the scene was very valuable to a great many people. Tompall was a force to be reckoned with, and he was willing to take chances. A lot of studio time was provided pro bono and involved experimental types of activities…

Hickey said that drugs were the culture of this time period (pre-1985). Glaser Studios certainly wasn’t a “drug alley,” but drugs were certainly there. Tompall got into cocaine later in his career, but he (Hickey) doesn’t think that Tompall was into speed the way Willie and Waylon were. Waylon once said that “speed is pot for people who have to work two shifts per day.” Hickey also remembers that a professional cleaning company once came in to clean up all the smoke from pot and cigarettes that had become attached to the underside of the studio soundboard….

In Hickey’s opinion, Tompall didn’t become as well known as Waylon and Willie because “the obligation of having the recording studio created somewhat of a burden for Tompall, and he was not willing to leave and go on the road for eight weeks and live in a bus, etc. It just wasn’t his thing … and that is the thing that makes performers successful. However, Tompall seemed to be comfortable with the way things were.” Also, Hickey felt that Tompall wasn’t really comfortable with the place he found in the group that included Waylon, Willie, and Kris Kristofferson. There there is a tragedy to the story of Tompall, maybe this is it. Hickey compared Tompall’s place in this group to Bill Wyman’s place in the Rolling Stones, opposite of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

Purchase The Great Tompall from Kevin Glaser

Purchase The Great Tompall from Amazon

 

Jul
15

The Waylon Jennings Quote About Garth Brooks – Real or Fake?

July 15, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  36 Comments

garth-brooks-waylon-jennings

“Garth Brooks did for country music what pantyhose did for finger fucking.”

This is the quote that has been attributed to Waylon Jennings that you are likely to see in much greater frequency now that Garth Brooks has come out of retirement. For some, it is the totality of their argument against Garth. Forget all his music, past and future, whatever merits his music might have beyond the flashy stage show, however much the test of time has validated his music or not. To tens of thousands, or maybe hundreds of thousands of people, the totality of their Garth hatred, the alpha and omega of their anti-Garth argument, rests on this quote. And if you don’t believe me, just mention Garth’s name in the right (or wrong) company, it it will come flying out at you unsolicited.

The problem is there’s no verifiable records of Waylon ever saying it. And if he did ever say it, that he is the originator of the quote. But just like the urban myth that Kentucky Fried Chicken had to legally change their name to KFC because the birds they use are so genetically altered they can’t be classified as chickens, if you parrot something enough, people take it as fact.

If I had a hunch, not based on fact or research whatsoever, I would say that at some point Waylon Jennings probably did utter those words about Garth, and they probably made it out to the greater world through his son Shooter Jennings. But I’ve also heard from some who say that Poodie Locke—Willie Nelson’s long-time stage manager and one prone to such humor—was the first to say it. Maybe Waylon picked it up there. But I can’t verify that Poodie Locke said it either. There are records of the “_____ did for ____ what pantyhose did for finger fucking” phrase being used for other purposes way before Garth Brooks had even released his first album, so is it really fair to attribute the analogy to anyone?

When you start to try and find the origination point of the quote, and any factual information on if Waylon truly said it or coined it, you start finding a tremendous amount of fiction. The simple fact is the quote is so juicy, and many people just want it to be real so badly, they’re willing to look the other way and proffer it up for human consumption regardless of the truth.

ethan-hawke

Ethan Hawke

The first record of the quote being used goes back to of all places, Willie Nelson’s 70th Birthday Party in 2003, and from of all people, actor Ethan Hawke. In April of 2009, Ethan Hawke penned a feature on Kris Kristofferson for Rolling Stone. In the feature, Ethan Hawke recounts a story from 2003 where Kris Kristofferson and Toby Keith get into a verbal argument, and Kristofferson says the Waylon quote in response to Toby Keith’s demand, “None of that lefty shit out there tonight, Kris.”

Here’s the complete interchange from Rolling Stone, as dictated by Ethan Hawke:

“Up from the basement came one of country music’s brightest stars (who shall remain nameless). At that moment in time, the Star had a monster radio hit about bombing America’s enemies back into the Stone Age.

“Happy birthday,” the Star said to Willie, breezing by us. As he passed Kristofferson in one long, confident stride, out of the corner of his mouth came “None of that lefty shit out there tonight, Kris.”

“What the fuck did you just say to me?” Kris growled, stepping forward.

“You heard me,” the Star said, walking away in the darkness.

“Don’t turn your back to me, boy,” Kristofferson shouted, not giving a shit that basically the entire music industry seemed to be flanking him.

“You ever worn your country’s uniform?” Kris asked rhetorically.

“What?”

“Don’t ‘What?’ me, boy! You heard the question. You just don’t like the answer.” He paused just long enough to get a full chest of air. “I asked, ‘Have you ever served your country?’ The answer is, no, you have not. Have you ever killed another man? Huh? Have you ever taken another man’s life and then cashed the check your country gave you for doing it? No, you have not. So shut the fuck up!” I could feel his body pulsing with anger next to me. “You don’t know what the hell you are talking about!”

“Whatever,” the young Star muttered.

Kristofferson took a deep inhale and leaned against the wall, still vibrating with adrenaline. He looked over at Willie as if to say, “Don’t say a word.” Then his eyes found me. “You know what Waylon Jennings said about guys like him?” he whispered.

I shook my head.

They’re doin’ to country music what pantyhose did to finger-fuckin’.”

- – - – - – - – - -

Yes, as a traditional country fan, maybe you’re pumping your fists. “Hell yeah, you tell ‘em Kris!” The problem is, Ethna Hawke’s story is, and was, complete bullshit, including the Waylon Jennings quote. And this was verified later by both Kris Kristofferson, and Toby Keith.

In the aftermath of the Ethan Hawke story, Kris Kristofferson told The Tennessean: ”I have to say, I have no memory of talking so tough to anyone at Willie’s birthday party — least of all to Toby Keith, (if that’s who the nameless star is), for whom I have nothing but admiration and respect.”

As for Toby Keith, he was a little more heated about the situation, as can be seen in this clip from the 2009 ACM Awards that happened right after the story was published.

But the damage had already been done. The Waylon quote was so juicy, and the clarifications about the story so buried compared to the reach of the original Rolling Stone article, the quote became a matter of public record. In fact some people want the Waylon Jennings quote about Garth Brooks to be true so bad, as well as the fictitious Toby Keith vs. Kris Kristofferson interchange, that they say the clarifications by Toby Keith and Kris Kristofferson are just saving face, and if fact both the quote, and Ethan Hawke’s story are still true.

Of course beyond Kris and Keith’s clarifications, Ethan Hawke and the story’s defenders also have to figure out how to resolve the fact that Toby Keith, flag waver or not, is and was a registered Democrat. So for Keith to say “None of that lefty shit,” seems very unrealistic. Also the quote from Kris from the story, “Have you ever killed another man?” seems to allude that he has. But this gives into the common misconception that Kris Kristofferson saw combat as a helicopter pilot in the Army when in fact he was stationed in Germany during The Vietnam War, and never exchanged live fire.

Though Ethan Hawke’s fictitious story had the Waylon Jennings quote about Garth Brooks going down in 2003, it wasn’t until 2005 when we find the first documented source of the quote in print—at least that can be found on the internet. It comes from an East Bay Express feature on Shooter Jennings, but interestingly, Shooter isn’t giving the quote, it is used to preface the Shooter interview and is recounted by the author of the story. This was 3 1/2 years before the quote would wind up in Rolling Stone and become a matter of public record. Again, it’s very likely that Shooter probably did hear his father use the quote, but was Waylon the originator?

This also opens up the second problem with this supposed Waylon Jennings quote, which is that it is no longer relevant in the forum of public discourse. For example, in the 2005 feature, Shooter says he thinks country music became more about show through Garth. But later in 2013 in an interview with the Charleston City Paper, Shooter says,

“Garth Brooks is as country as shit. Back then it was like, what the fuck is going on. This guy is terrible. This isn’t country music.” Jennings says. “I would take that any day now. That means the bar has been lowered so far that we’re like, please. I would listen to only Garth Brooks all day if that’s what I could get.”

As Saving Country Music once spelled out in detail, time has been kind to the music of Garth Brooks, and this change of heart by Waylon’s son has played out in the hearts of many country fans over time. In fact when Shooter first spoke on Garth in 2005, Garth had already been retired for half a decade. Garth hasn’t even been around for 13 years to hate on. But some, including many who have the Waylon quote top-of-mind and at-the-ready any time Garth’s name is uttered, use it as a crutch to continue their war on Garth Brooks.

Another die-hard Garth Brooks hater turned apologist has been singer-songwriter Todd Snider. Todd had a beef with one of Garth’s songwriters after a dispute over the song “Beer Run”. Todd also interfaced with Garth’s alt. rock character Chris Gaines at one point, and told defaming stories as part of his stage schtick for years. But in Todd’s new book released in 2014 called I Never Met A Story I Didn’t Like, Snider reconciles his Garth hatred, and says from his personal interactions with the entertainer, he was more kind to him than most in the music business.

I loved Garth Brooks. I was, and am, a very big fan. I think Garth Brooks fucked up country music for a while, through no fault of his own: he made music so good and so successful that tons of people came along after him trying to imitate what he did. Garth fucked up country music like Kurt Cobain fucked up rock.

Because of Garth’s massive success, there’s a bit of a push and pull in Nashville about him. When you sell more records than anyone has ever sold, you tend to make more people jealous than have ever been jealous of a singer.

It’s a crock that I think prevails in this country: we bully the people who entertain us. We get on the computer and bully them. We buy magazines with pictures of them where they look fat or drunk or imperfect. And we suppose that those people’s success excuses our meanness.

Read The Full Story

Another interesting thing about the Waylon quote about Garth, and something that leads to speculation if it’s true or not, is that the exact same quote has been attributed to different people. It has been attributed to Willie Nelson and David Allan Coe for example, and to Kris Kristofferson directly because of the Rolling Stone piece.  In 2012, the alt-country band Deer Tick took to Facebook and attributed the quote to Merle Haggard, illustrating the urban myth nature of the Waylon/Garth quote.

Interestingly, in January of 2012, Merle Haggard was read the supposed Waylon Jennings quote by 11th Hour, and Merle’s response was,

Well. I think, Waylon got dumber with age. I don’t know. I love Waylon, but he was awful critical of different things. He just got grouchy. I love listening to Waylon and Willie and Johnny. They still set my ears to burning … I think what Waylon meant by that statement was that somebody ought to be able to walk out on a stage with a guitar and put on a good show that people can enjoy. We don’t really need explosions to enjoy a concert do we?

Whether the quote is completely true and coined by Waylon Jennings himself, was borrowed by him from someone else, or the entire thing is a total fabrication of urban myth, the simple fact is that the Waylon quote about Garth is no longer a statement that in any way does the complex perspective that one needs to understand Garth Brooks any bit of justice. Garth started his career a quarter century ago, and hasn’t released a new album in over 13 years. And Waylon Jennings has been dead for a decade.

Here’s some quotes that can be verified that they actually came from Waylon Jennings because they can be found in his autobiography. They’re nearly 20 years old, but relevant as ever to the conversation.

Of course, the next generation better not believe everything they hear. At this point, I’ve been accused of all manner of carousing. Mostly, it’s something that I might have done, or would have done, or couldn’t even imagine doing. Pretty soon it’s etched into stone. If I led the life that people think I did, I’d be a hundred and fifty years old and weigh about forty pounds …

The thing is, we’re in this together, the old, the new, the one-hit wonders and the lifetime achievers, the writers and the session pickers and the guy who sells the T-shirts. The folks that come to the shows, and the ones that stay at home and watch it on TNN. Those who remember Hank Williams, and those who came on board about the time of Mark Chestnut, who named his baby boy after me …

My friends. This town is big enough for the all of us.

Waylon Jennings

Jul
12

10 Badass Kris Kristofferson Moments

July 12, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  25 Comments

kris-kristofferson

Kris Kristofferson may have never shot anyone or spent time in prison, but when you look at his life and accomplishments, it is an absolute marvel of the American experience. From starting off as a Rhodes Scholar, to becoming a helicopter pilot in the Army, to being responsible for a Hall of Fame career in country, to becoming a Hollywood superstar and dating singers and actors to making daring moves to further his career, Kris Kristofferson is not just a country music badass, he’s one of the most badass Americans to ever be born.

More in this series:

 


1. Becoming a Rhodes Scholar

Kris Kristofferson is a smart one to say the least. The Rhodes Scholarship is an Oxford University postgraduate distinction that is considered the world’s most prestigious academic scholarship and scholastic accolade. Created in 1902, and the first international scholarship program of its kind, Rhodes Scholars are considered to have any job available to them throughout their lives, and many have gone on to be Presidents, Prime Ministers, and prominent business leaders. Only about 80 scholars are selected each year from around the world, and Kris Kristofferson was one of them to be bestowed with the Rhodes Scholar honor in 1958. While at Oxford, Kristofferson studied literature at Merton College—the same college J.R.R. Tolkien was a professor at during the period. Kristofferson also earned his “Blue” in boxing as a collegiate athlete.

It was at Oxford that Kristofferson first tried his hand in the music business. He recorded for a label called Top Rank Records under the name Kris Carson, and was dubbed the “Yank at Oxford”. But the pursuit didn’t go anywhere after a record company in the United States claimed they owned Kristofferson’s rights.


2. Flying Helicopters as a Captain in the Army

kris-kristofferson-armyPossibly country music’s most well-known veteran, Kris Kristofferson came from a strong military family. After college at Oxford, his parents pushed him to enlist and Kristofferson went into the United States Army as an officer, attending Ranger school and achieving the rank of Captain as a helicopter pilot. Kristofferson received his training at Fort Rucker, Alabama before being deployed to West Germany as part of the 8th Infantry Division. After serving out his tour of duty, Kristofferson was scheduled to become an English Literature professor at West Point, but decided to pursue a career in songwriting instead. The American Veterans Awards named Kris Kristofferson “Veteran of the Year” in 2003. His first successful songwriting hit was called “Viet Nam Blues” originally recorded by Dave Dudley.

Kristofferson later flew helicopters commercially, especially in Louisiana, traveling back to Nashville to pitch songs. He wrote “Help Me Make It Through The Night” on an oil platform in the gulf, and “Me & Bobby McGee” also while in Louisiana.


3. Taking a Janitor Position to Help Become a Songwriter

Being from a proud military family, Kris Kristofferson was not only expected to do his duty to his country during his youth, but to follow a military career throughout his life. Flying helicopters and spending five years in the military apparently wasn’t enough, and when Kris relayed his plans to move to Nashville and become a songwriter, Kristofferson’s family officially disowned him. They never completely reconciled.

Cut off from his support network, Kris Kristofferson struggled. This Rhodes Scholar and Oxford graduate that could fly helicopters resorted to taking a janitorial position at the studios of Columbia Records simply to be one step closer to his dream of becoming a songwriter. Kristofferson was in the studio when Bob Dylan was cutting his album Blonde on Blonde, but was too bashful to approach him. He did get the courage to befriend Johnny Cash, who was warm to Kristofferson and considered some of his songs, but never took the young songwriter seriously until….


4. Landing a Helicopter on Johnny Cash’s Lawn to Deliver Demos

johnny-cash-kris-kristoffersonAt the time, Kristofferson was working as a janitor at the offices of Columbia Records where Johnny Cash was signed. Kristofferson had met Cash a number of times, in the studio and backstage at The Grand Ole Opry, but Cash wouldn’t show any attention to young Kristofferson’s songwriting aspirations. Kris would slip Cash demos of his work, or give them to June Carter or Luther Perkins when he had a chance, but according to Cash, he would take them home to the Hendersonville house and toss them into Old Hickory Lake.

Kristofferson took part-time work with the National Guard to help pay bills, and desperate to get Johnny Cash’s attention, decided to deviate from his flight plan while on a training run and land his helicopter in the Hendersonville property’s front yard. What happened next depends on who you ask. According to Cash, Kristofferson came sauntering out of the helicopter with a beer in one hand, and his demo tapes in another, demanding to be heard. But Kristofferson paints a more subdued picture. “Y’know, John had a very creative imagination,” Kristofferson recalled. “I’ve never flown with a beer in my life. Believe me, you need two hands to fly those things.” In fact Kristofferson doesn’t even remember Cash being at the house at the time, though he does say, “I still think I was lucky he didn’t shoot me that day!”

What was the result of Kris Kristofferson’s aeronautical attention grab? It got Johnny Cash to invite him up on stage at the Newport Folk Festival later that year, which put Kris Kristofferson on the country music map.

(read more)


5. Writing “Sunday Morning Coming Down”

There are songs that are hits, and then there are songs that change the whole course of music. “Sunday Morning Coming Down” was one of those songs, and it cemented Kris Kristofferson’s place in history. Simply about the lonliness of a Sunday morning when you have no friends or family and the bars don’t open until 1 PM, the song touched a nerve and in a poetic way country music had never done before.

Ray Stevens was the first to cut the song in 1969, but it stalled at #55 on the charts. Kristofferson’s own version didn’t chart at all. It was Johnny Cash’s take on “Sunday Morning Coming Down” that took it all the way to #1 in 1970, and eventually to becoming the Song of the Year by the Country Music Association. Johnny Cash had the credibility and undying loyalty of the country music community to sing what was a controversial song at the time, and have people listen through the controversy to the heart of the story that Kristoffersoon had so eloquently captured.


6. Opening Up Country Music To More Risque Themes

Where Kris Kristofferson played a seminal role in the history of country music, and specifically in the Outlaw movement of the early 70′s was by opening up the music to new themes that previously had been considered risque in the family friendly environment of country. Though country had contained risque and adult themes previously, the Countrypolitan movement taking over Nashville at the time looked to appeal to the opposite crowd of the counterculture, and anything suggestive was regularly written out of country songs, if they even got cut at all when they including something thought to be objectionable.

It wasn’t just the “stoned” word in the song “Sunday Morning Coming Down” that Johnny Cash helped Kristofferson normalize in country music when Cash performed the song on his The Johnny Cash Show. Other suggestive lyrics like “Lay your warm and tender body close to mine” from the song “For The Good Times” stretched the boundaries of country music, and allowed other songwriters and performers to tackle subjects previously off limits.

Many of Kristofferson’s songs were banned from country radio early on. But as his performance career suffered, his peers continued to push to be able to cut Kristofferson songs until the rules keeping Kristofferson’s songs down had been completely broken.


7. Dating Janis Joplin and “Me & Bobby McGee”

janis-joplinWe all know Janis was the one to make Kris Kristofferson’s “Me & Bobby McGee” into an American standard, but their relationship went much deeper than songwriter and performer. Before Kristofferson fell in love with Rita Coolidge, and right before Janis would eventually die of a heroin overdose, the two Texas natives engaged in a wild relationship with “Me & Bobby McGee” as the backdrop.

Kris and Janis were introduced by songwriter and performer Bobby Neuwirth. Kristofferson had just played in Greenwich Village, and Neuwirth suggested they fly out to Larkspur, California where Janis was currently staying. The three ended up residing there for weeks, and Kristofferson immediately became the apple of Joplin’s eye. “I’d a split there,” Kris recalls. “I dug her, but I had itchy feet. I’d get up intending to get out, and in she comes with the early morning drinks and pretty soon you’re wasted enough and you don’t care about leaving. She’d definitely let ya know when she was being abused, and she thought so a lot. She was always jangling around talking about how everybody was living off of her, but she had people she’d bring into the house and then she’d bitch because she was giving them bed and board.”

It was 1970, and Kristofferson was finally beginning to make it as a songwriter. He wanted Joplin to cut “Me & Bobby McGee” to help pay bills, but sources close to the steamy couple insist Kristofferson didn’t shack up with Janis simply to convince her to record the song. Joplin truly loved the song, and decided to release it on her next album, which ended up being her last. After Kristofferson left, Janis fell back into heroin use. Kristofferson tried to come to her aid, but Joplin’s demons ran much deeper than her short-term relationship with Kris. “You won’t be around,” Janis retorted to Kris. “None of ‘em will be.”

Joplin recorded “Me & Bobby McGee only a few days before her death in October of 1970. When her final album Pearl came out in January of 1971, and “Me & Bobby McGee” became Joplin’s only #1 hit.


8. Winning a Golden Globe for Best Actor

a-star-is-born-movieThere are a lot of actors who have become musicians, and musicians who have become actors. But few have excelled at both disciplines to the point where they’re awarded some of the highest distinctions the respective industries can bestow. Already a decorated Captain in the Army, already a Rhodes Scholar, already a winner for the CMA’s Song of the Year, Kristofferson gets into acting, and eventually is given the Golden Globe of Best Actor to put on his mantle.

Kristofferson’s acting credits are too numerous to list, and depending on who you talk to, they rival if not exceed his musical contributions. But in 1976, Kristofferson delivered the performance of his lifetime across from Barbara Streisand in A Star Is Born. Though the film was a remake and had been released two times previous, it became a blockbuster and made $80 million, partly from the savvy casting right as Kristofferson was coming into his prime as a Hollywood heartthrob. The movie sent his hunk status into hyperdrive, and Kris became ‘A’ list material. The film also won four other Golden Globes, and an Academy Award.

Kristofferson loved receiving the distinction, but he hated making the movie. He later expressed it was “worse than boot camp.”

Overall Kris Kristofferson has acted in over 100 films.


9. Playing The Very Top Mob Boss in the Movie Payback

kris-kristofferson-paybackIn the 1999 movie Payback starring Mel Gibson, Mel’s character Porter is looking to get the $70,000 owed to him after an underling of a criminal syndicate does him wrong in a deal. As the movie transpires, Mel keeps killing off underlings and bosses in the syndicate, working higher hand higher up the chain looking for his payback. “One man. You go high enough, you always come to one man,” Porter keeps saying throughout the movie. Eventually Porter does get to the very top, and who does he find? None other than Kris Kristofferson, playing the role of Bronson, the very top mob boss.

What makes the role work and the scene where the top boss is finally revealed so powerful is because of the weight that the simple sight of Kris Kristofferson holds.


10. Having Over 450 Artists Cover His Songs

Just think about that. When you talk about imitation as the sincerest form of flattery, it doesn’t get any more flattering than that. Some of the most notable artists that have covered Kris Kristofferson songs include:

Dave Dudley, Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Faron Young, Roger Miller, Ray Stevens, Ray Price, Waylon Jennings, Sammi Smith, Bobby Bare, Joe Simon, Patty Page, O.C. Smith, and pretty much any other performing artist who has any taste in music.

“The great thing about being a songwriter is you can hear your baby interpreted by so many people that have creative talents vocally that I don’t have,” Kris once said.

- – - – - – - – - – - – -

Jun
29

Johnny Cash, Joseph Stalin, & The Great Morse Code Crack

June 29, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  18 Comments

johnny-cash-military-air-force-2

The badass stories about Johnny Cash abound, and here over a decade after his death, his prominence as a man of cultural greatness still looms as large as it ever did. But arguably the first moment of greatness for Johnny Cash happened off the stage, well away from the spotlight, and before he was known to anyone as a musician.

In 1950, at the age of 18, Johnny Cash did what many young men of the time did, he enlisted in the United States military, specifically the Air Force, and was shipped off from his home in Arkansas to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. While there, he met what would be his future first wife Vivian Liberto at a roller rink, but the couple wouldn’t be married for another four years. After dating Vivian for only three weeks, Johnny received his deployment papers and was shipped off to a base in Landsberg, West Germany for a three-year tour. The base served as one of the forward outposts in the outbreak of the Cold War the world found itself in after World War II in the face of Soviet aggression.

johnny-cash-air-force-militaryOver Johnny’s enlistment period, he rose to the rank of Staff Sargent and became a crack Morse Code Operator in a Security Service unit. Because Cash showed such skill at deciphering Morse Code, he was put in a prominent seat at his Landsberg post to listen in on Soviet communications.

The Landsberg, Germany experience was an important marker in the life of the Man in Black. During his three years at the base, he exchanged hundreds of love letters with Vivian Liberto, and formed his first ever band, The Landsberg Barbarians. Though many people attribute Johnny Cash’s inspiration for writing one of his biggest hits “Folsom Prison Blues” to seeing the infamous prison first hand, he actually wrote the song while stationed in Landsberg, and seeing the film Inside The Walls of Folsom Prison. Johnny felt like he could relate to life in the clink because of his top secret military position. The sensitivity of his job necessitated that he couldn’t talk to anyone about what he did specifically, not even his love Vivian back in Texas, and Johnny’s off-base privileges were severely limited.

But all this secrecy also led to one of Johnny Cash’s biggest accomplishments. While manning his post on March 5th, 1953, Staff Sgt. Cash transcribed what would be a very important communique from the Russians. At the time, Soviet Premier Leader Joseph Stalin was in very poor condition. As the man at the head of the Soviet Empire, Stalin’s health status was of critical importance to the United States intelligence community and all Western Powers. While monitoring the Soviet Morse Code chatter on March 5th, Johnny Cash became the very first American to hear of the death of the Soviet supreme leader. Cash then relayed the important info to his superiors, and the rest is history.

Oh course, Johnny Cash couldn’t tell anyone of his accomplishment until years later because of the top secret nature of his job, and eventually the fact would just become a footnote of history to Johnny’s more famous musical efforts. Though Johnny Cash’s mastery of Morse Code and the Stalin death intercept may not seem to have much to do with his music on the surface, Cash’s ability to pick out important rhythms and tones in sometimes garbled, busy, and concealed communications lent later in life in his ability to find that unique sound that would speak to America, and eventually the world, in a language everyone could understand.

Apr
23

Kristofferson Coming Down: Landing a Helicopter on Cash’s Lawn

April 23, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  3 Comments
Johnny Cash's Hendersonville, TN lake house

Johnny Cash’s Hendersonville, TN lake house

On Tuesday April 22rd, the lakefront property on Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville, TN just north of Nashville that was Johnny Cash’s home for 40 years, was sold to a real estate holdings company. The previous owner, Bee Gee’s frontman Barry Gibb bought the house on four lots in January of 2006 to make it a songwriter’s retreat, but his plans were foiled when a house fire burned the seven-bedroom “nature house” to the ground in April 2007 during the renovation process, leaving any hope for a future country music Graceland up in smoke.

Aside from supplying a roof over Johnny Cash and June Carter for so many years, the Johnny Cash lakehouse became famous for some of the most legendary guitar pulls and songwriting parties popular music has ever seen. As an example, in 1969, Johnny Cash hosted Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, and Shel Silverstein all in the same sitting. “That night in my house [was] the first time these songs were heard…” Johnny Cash recalled. “Joni Mitchell sang ‘Both Sides Now,’ Graham Nash sang ‘Marrakesh Express,’ Shel Silverstein sang ‘A Boy Named Sue,’ Bob Dylan sang ‘Lay Lady Lay,’ and Kristofferson sang ‘Me & Bobby McGee.’” The gathering has since been coined by Saving Country Music as the “Million Dollar Songwriter Circle.”

And that’s just where the stories about Cash’s Hendersonville home begin. Arguably the most legendary tale transpired earlier in 1969 when Kris Kristofferson, a former helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, landed a National Guard chopper on the lawn of of the Hendersonville house to hand-deliver demos to Cash in an act of desperation.

At the time, Kristofferson was working as a janitor at the offices of Columbia Records where Johnny Cash was signed. Kristofferson had met Cash a number of times, in the studio and backstage at The Grand Ole Opry, but Cash wouldn’t show any attention to young Kristofferson’s songwriting aspirations. Kris would slip Cash demos of his work, or give them to June Carter or Luther Perkins when he had a chance, but according to Cash, he would take them home to the Hendersonville house and toss them into Old Hickory Lake.

johnny-cash-kris-kristoffersonKristofferson took part-time work with the National Guard to help pay bills, and desperate to get Johnny Cash’s attention, decided to deviate from his flight plan while on a training run and land his helicopter in the Hendersonville property’s front yard. What happened next depends on who you ask. According to Cash, Kristofferson came sauntering out of the helicopter with a beer in one hand, and his demo tapes in another, demanding to be heard. But Kristofferson paints a more subdued picture. “Y’know, John had a very creative imagination,” Kristofferson recalled to UnCut. “I’ve never flown with a beer in my life. Believe me, you need two hands to fly those things.” In fact Kristofferson doesn’t even remember Cash being at the house at the time, though he does say, “I still think I was lucky he didn’t shoot me that day!”

What was the result of Kris Kristofferson’s aeronautical attention grab? It got Johnny Cash to invite him up on stage at the Newport Folk Festival later that year, which put Kris Kristofferson on the country music map. Cash would finally go on to give some attention to those Kristofferson demos, and eventually cut Kris’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” The song went on to become a #1 hit. It also won the CMA’s Song of the Year in 1970, and is given credit as one of country music’s first “Outlaw” moments of stretching the lyrical boundaries in the genre.

No word of what the new owners have in store for the hallowed ground on Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville, but one hopes it respects the history of that place. And maybe they should consider installing a helipad.

-

Mar
18

10 Badass Wanda Jackson Moments

March 18, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  18 Comments

wanda-jackson-coolUp until this point Saving Country Music’s “10 Badass Moments” series has only featured men. But can women be badasses as well? Well if you look at the life and times of one Wanda Jackson, the answer would most certainly be “yes”. Whether it’s from a country or a rock & roll perspective, Wanda Jackson had a significant impact on both, and certainly deserves to be considered a badass right beside her male counterparts. Here’s 10 reasons why….

 


1. Paying Dues in Hank Thompson’s Brazos Valley Boys

wanda-jackson-hank-thompsonWanda wasn’t a boy, but while she was still attending Capitol Hill High School in Oklahoma City, Hank Thompson heard Wanda performing on her own radio show she had on KLPR-AM. She was awarded the show for winning a talent contest. Hank Thompson was so impressed, he recruited her to sing in his Brazos Valley Boys band. Eventually she went on to record a duet with Billy Gray—the bandleader of the Brazos Valley Boys—called “You Can’t Have My Love”. The song was released in 1954, and went to #8 on the country chart. Wanda Jackson was well on her way to making a wide impact on the music world.

 


2. Proving The Boys At Capitol Records Wrong

wanda-jackson-capitolAfter the success of her duet with Brazos Valley Boys’ bandleader Billy Gray on the song “You Can’t Handle My Love” on Decca Records, Wanda asked Capitol Records if she could sign with them as a solo artist. That’s when Capitol producer Ken Nelson uttered the immortal words, “Girls don’t sell records,” emboldening Wanda Jackson even more to make a career in music. Rival label Decca Records was happy to have Wanda, and she went on to prove old Ken Nelson wrong many times over. After Wanda started having success, Capitol eventually did sign her.

Fighting the male establishment became a theme of both Wanda’s music and career, and her feistiness and tenacity finally won her much respect from many of her male counterparts, including a very big one . . .


3. Breaking Up with Elvis

WandaJackson-ElvisAfter signing with Decca Records, Wanda Jackson went on tour opening for Elvis Presley. This is when Wanda became the female nexus between the country and rock & roll worlds. Elvis encouraged Wanda to develop a rockabilly sound and to push herself creatively, and she did. Wanda began writing her own songs and putting her own personal stamp on the music world. And then their professional relationship went further. “It wasn’t traditional dating,” Wanda explains. “My dad liked Elvis a lot, and it was okay with him that I could hang out a little bit with Elvis after a show.” Eventually Elvis asked Wanda Jackson to “be his girl” in early 1956, but Wanda, always the strong, spirited, independent woman, said no. When asked if Elvis was a good kisser, Wanda once said, “No, I was the good kisser.”


4. Being The First Woman To Record Rock & Roll

Wanda Jackson, despite being known as the “Queen of Rockabilly”, openly criticizes them term “rockabilly” herself. Her website to this day proclaims her more simply the “Queen of Rock.” What’s for sure is that Wanda was one of the very first, if not the first females to knowingly record rock & roll songs. Though other females like Rose Maddox certainly can claim an early stake in the rock game, Wanda, working right beside “The King” Elvis Presley, was knowingly mixing the emerging styles of country and rock & roll, many times on the same record, and sometimes in the same song.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the song “I Gotta Know.” The song starts off sounding like a syrupy, slow country ballad, and then shockingly launches into a boogie woogie beat, and then reverts back. “I Gotta Know” is Wanda proving her prowess with both styles. The song also shows off Wanda’s strong womanhood with which she approached many of her songs.

-


5. The Growl

According to Wanda, her father and manager Tom Jackson told her during an early studio session, “Wanda, rear back and sing that thing like it should be done!”  As soon as Wanda did this “the growl was just there.” It has gone on to become Wanda’s signature, and just as significant and influential of a contribution to both country and rock & roll music as anything else Wanda is known for.


6. Having A #1 Hit …. in JAPAN!

Wanda Jackson recorded “Fujiyama Mama” on September 17th, 1957, and released it to the public to some concerns about the insensitivity of the lyrical content. A mere 10 years removed from the controversial nuclear bombings of Japan by the United States, and here Wanda was using the incident as hyperbole about an angry woman, with sexual undertones nonetheless. So what happened with the single? It blew up … in Japan! Jackson became an international superstar from the song, and briefly toured Japan in 1959.

“Fujiyama Mama” wasn’t Wanda’s only dalliance in international success. She also released a handful of singles in Germany between 1965 and 1970, including songs like “Komm Heim, Mein Wandersmann” and “Wer an Das Meer Sein Herz Verliert”. Her courting of international markets would prove to be savvy, as later in her career and even today Wanda Jackson enjoys great international recognition and acclaim.


7. Growing Old Gracefully

So many female music performers and actors feel the pressure to stay forever young, succumbing to procedure after procedure until their visage is almost a caricature of their former selves. But not Wanda. She’s grown old with gracefulness and dignity, never trying to be younger than she is, or trying to be anything she’s not.

wanda-jackson-4


8. Recording Albums with Jack White and Justin Townes Earle

wanda-jackson-jack-whiteWhen Wanda wanted to make a comeback record, she took a play out of Loretta Lynn’s playbook and recruited rocker and world-class record producer Jack White to work with. The result was 2011′s The Party Ain’t Over which presented Wanda Jackson to a brand new generation of fans and revived her career domestically and abroad.

When Wanda wanted to keep the party going, she worked with another young, rising star in Justin Townes Earle in 2012′s Unfinished Business. Where Jack White went in a more flashy direction, Justin Townes Earle took a more songwriter, tasteful approach. Both albums were critical successes, and stand right beside all of Wanda’s other works as career accomplishments.


9. Recording Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” 

When Jack White was producing Wanda Jackson’s comeback album The Party Ain’t Over, he needed a bullet, and decided that Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” would be a good fit. Wanda initially refused to record the song because of some questionable content in the lyrics, so Jack White rewrote some parts, and wala, The Queen of Rock was covering Amy Winehouse, adding her custom growl to the popular composition.

The Party Ain’t Over was released in January of 2011. Less than six months later, Amy Winehouse died of a drug overdose. Wanda continued to perform the song in tribute to the troubled British songwriter.


10. Being Herself, Always

As a pretty young woman with a unique voice, surrounded by all the temptations of the music world and many different directions she could go, Wanda Jackson simply followed her heart, and stayed true to herself throughout her career, and does up to today. She loved country music and rock & roll equally, and shared her time with both, approaching both genres with respect, appreciation, and knowledge for their roots, knowing where to keep the line between the two. Though she was always sexy, she never sexualized herself simply as image to make up for musical shortcomings. And though she did her time in L.A. and Nashville, Wanda never truly left her roots in good old Oklahoma, and still lives there today.


BONUS 11. Never Losing Her Cool

wanda-jackson-cool-2

Mar
5

10 Badass Billy Joe Shaver Moments

March 5, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  35 Comments

billy-joe-shaverYou can’t go long talking about badasses in country music without bringing up the one, the only Billy Joe Shaver. Though he may have never received the recognition of Willie, Waylon, or even Coe or Paycheck, his influence is arguably just important. When you have Elvis cutting one of your songs, Willie Nelson calling you his favorite songwriter, have Bob Dylan name dropping you, and had none other than Waylon Jennings record an entire album of your work, there’s no doubt you’re a badass.

Here’s 10 Badass moments from Billy Joe Shaver.

 


1. Growing Up In Honky Tonks …. Literally

If Billy Joe Shaver is anything, he’s the real deal, and as cliché as it may sound, his life was like a country song if there ever was one. Shaver was born in Corsicana, TX, and his dad left his mom before he was even born. Left to fend for herself, Shaver’s mother would leave him with his grandmother in Corsicana so she could work in honky tonks in Waco, but sometimes the young, impressionable Shaver would accompany his mother to the big town.

For a while Shaver’s mom ran a Waco honky tonk called Green Gables. According to Waylon Jennings, “She was a good-looking woman, red-headed and tough, and it was a classic dive, a dance hall with sawdust on the floor, spittoons, and a piano in the corner.” Billy Joe would run around the place bumming nickels from soldiers from nearby Fort Hood, and by the time he got a little older was known as quite a dancer and ladies man. His whole Green Gables childhood experience was later recapped in the song “Honky Tonk Heroes” that became the title track of Waylon Jennings’ famous 1973 album featuring all Billy Joe Shaver songs except for one.


2. Getting Four Fingers Lopped Off At A Lumber Mill

billy-joe-shaver-fingersTalk about tough and gritty, Billy Joe Shaver has the scars to prove it. He didn’t get involved in music seriously until he was nearly 30, and it’s partly due to a lumber mill accident he suffered back in the 60′s when he severed off a good portion of two fingers and parts of two others when his right hand got hung up in a piece of machinery. A post-accident infection eventually made it even worse. Since Shaver was a right paw, it made him virtually worthless as a general laborer, and so he turned to music as a living.

According to Waylon Jennings, Shaver has a sense of humor about his missing digits.

“He was sitting on a bed one time playing guitar,” Waylon recalls. “And a guy who worked for me came in and said, ‘Billy Joe, if you don’t mind me asking, what happened to your fingers?’ Billy started glancing around and digging in his pocket. ‘Damn,’ he said. ‘They were here just a while ago.’”


3. Hitchhiking to Los Angeles … and ending up in Nashville.

When Billy Joe Shaver decided to give country music a serious go, he got advice from old friend Willie Nelson to head out to Nashville. But Billy Joe Shaver didn’t listen, and instead decided to point his nose towards Los Angeles. Not having a car, and without any money for a bus, Billy Joe stood on the side of Interstate 10 in Texas, waiting for someone westward bound to pick him up. And he waited, and waited, and nobody stopped. Eventually Shaver got so frustrated, he switched over to the other side of the highway heading east. The first car that passed him stopped, picked him up, and took Shaver all the way to Memphis, TN. He then made his way to Nashville, where he soon had a job writing songs for $50 a week. The rest is history.

The experience was later recalled in part in the Billy Joe Shaver song, “Ride Me Down Easy”.


4. Threatening to Kick Waylon’s Ass If He Didn’t Record His Songs

Waylon Jennings decided to record an entire album of Billy Joe Shaver songs in 1973 called Honky Tonk Heroes, and that was the turning point in both men’s career. Waylon was finally flexing his creative freedom, and Billy Joe would forever be on the country music map. But it didn’t happen pretty. Bobby Bare introduced Shaver to Waylon and after Waylon heard “Ride Me Down Easy,” he fell in love with Shaver’s music and first floated the idea of recording an entire album of his songs. Later at the Dripping Springs Reunion in Texas, Waylon heard “Willie & The Wandering Gypsy,” and loved that one too. But for one reason or another, Billy Joe was always one step behind Waylon, even though Waylon insisted he loved Billy Joe’s songs and wanted to record them, it was beginning to look like it was never going to happen. At one point Billy Joe Shaver began to bug Waylon so bad, he reportedly offered Billy Joe $100 just to leave him alone.

“…I was always in a meeting or on another call or ‘not in.’” Waylon recalls. “This went on for months….He caught me one night at RCA recording. ‘I got these songs,’ he said, ‘and if you don’t listen to them, I’m going to kick your ass right here in front of everybody.”

“He could have been killed there and then by some of my friends lining the walls,” Waylon continues. “But I took Billy Joe in a back room and said, ‘Hoss, you don’t do things like that. I’m going to listen to one song, and if it ain’t no good, I’m telling you goodbye. We ain’t never going to talk again.’ Billy played me ‘Old Five and Dimers,’ and then kept on going. He had a whole sackful of songs, and by the time he ran out of breath, I wanted to record all of them.”


5. Being The Father of Eddie Shaver

The name may not ring a bell to you right off the bat, but for those familiar know that Billy Joe Shaver’s son was one of the best country music shredders to ever fill the spot. Aside from being his father’s right hand man for many years, Eddie Shaver studied under Dickey Betts of The Allman Brothers, played with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Guy Clark, The Eagles, and was Dwight Yoakam’s guitar player for the first two years.

It’s only because of Eddie’s untimely death that he’s not better known. He was scheduled to release his first solo album in 2001 when he died of a heroin overdose on New Years Eve of 2000. Though Billy Joe Shaver is known most for his songwriting, and Eddie as a guitar slinger, it only takes a glimpse at either to see that the musical talent runs very deep with the Shaver clan.


6. Surviving the Death of His Mother, Wife, and Son In a Very Short Period

Shaver has been tested many times in his life and suffered through some rough patches, but few have suffered through what shaver did near the turn of the Century. In 1999, Billy Joe Shaver lost both his mother, Victory, and his wife, Brenda, to Cancer. The next year is when his son, guitar player, and right hand man Eddie Shaver died of a heroin overdose. It was a very dark period for Shaver, and it became even darker when he was performing at Gruene Hall in Texas on Independence Day in 2001 and suffered a massive heart attack on stage. Shaver nearly died, and had to undergo quadruple bypass surgery.

But he soldiered on, releasing a new album called Freedom’s Child in 2002.


7. Shooting A Man in Self Defense at Papa Joe’s (“Where Do You Want It?”)

Shooting a man in the face could be either very badass, or not badass at all depending on how you look at it. But when you take into account Billy reportedly did it in self-defense and was so found by a jury of his peers and acquitted of all charges, it’s hard not to include the story here, especially seeing how the whole incident inspired its own famous song.

On March 31st, 2007, Billy Joe was in a saloon called Papa Joe’s in Waco, TX drinking when a man by the name of Billy Bryant Coker came up to Shaver and stirred Shaver’s drink with a knife. After some words were exchanged, Shaver decided it was time to leave, and Billy Coker followed. Out in the parking lot, Billy Joe Shaver was overheard asking Coker, “Where do you want it?” while brandishing a small handgun. Shaver later testified in court he actually said, “Why do you want to do this?” to Coker, but either way, eventually Shaver shot Billy Coker in the face.

The news made it down to Austin where Dale Watson decided to write a song about it. “We were making jokes about what kind of song he’d write about this ’cause he writes songs about everything,” says Gloria Tambling, the owner of Papa Joe’s that’s been an I-35 landmark for around for 19 years.

Billy Coker’s wound was not life-threatening, and Shaver was arrested on April 2nd, 2007 for aggravated assault, later to be found not guilty for acting in self-defense in a trial that saw Willie Nelson and Robert Duvall as a character witnesses. Dale Watson wrote “Where Do You Want It?”, but Whitey Morgan & The 78′s were the first to cut it on their self-titled album with Dale’s blessing. Dale later cut it on his album El Rancho Azul. Willie Nelson also wrote a song about the incident called, “I Want My Bullet Back.”


8. Singing the Opening Theme to The Squidbillies

When Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim launched a series about anthropomorphic hillbilly squids living in the Appalachian portion of Georgia, who better to contract for the theme song than Billy Joe Shaver? The song itself is actually called “Warrior Man.”


9. Being Deemed a Hero by Willie Nelson

Long-time friend Willie Nelson has never turned his back on Billy Joe, even in his darkest hour. When Billy Joe was accused of shooting a man in Waco, Willie offered himself up as a character witness. Willie has called Billy Joe Shaver his favorite songwriter. A couple of years ago Willie offered his services up to cut a duet with Billy Joe called “Wacko from Waco.” And Willie proved his love and loyalty for his long-time friend on his 2012 comeback album on Sony called Heroes. The default title track of the album “Hero” not only features Billy Joe Shaver, but is about Billy Joe Shaver and how it seems he’s been forgotten by time.

-


10. Being The Most Badass Country Music Performers in His 70′s

If you have seen Billy Joe Shaver perform recently, you know what I mean. And if you have never seen Billy Joe Shaver perform, you better get on it.

At 74, with a replaced knee, bum shoulder, and quadruple bypass, Billy Joe Shaver comes out kicking, punching, gesticulating like crazy, putting on one of the best, most-energetic country music shows from a performer of any age. It isn’t one of those shows with a solitary spotlight shone on a stool at stage center, it is full tilt country rock, rowdy and rambunctious, fueled by one of the best young bands you will find backing up a legend.

 

Feb
24

10 Badass George Jones Moments

February 24, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  35 Comments

george-jones

George Jones. The Possum. Possibly the man whose life and story embody the themes of a country song better than anyone. From rags to riches, back to rags, and eventually onto rehabilitation and redemption, George Jones was a man that faced demons more fierce than any of us can imagine, and eventually came out on top. Was he a badass? You bet, and here’s 10 reasons why.


1. Flipping the Dinner Table at Tammy Wynette’s House

George+Jones++Tammy+WynetteBefore George and Tammy were married, George went over to Tammy’s house one night to have dinner with her and her then husband, songwriter Don Chapel. George knew Tammy through their mutual booking agent. While fixing dinner, Tammy and Don Chapel got in a heated argument, resulting on Don calling Tammy a “son of a bitch” in front of George. George, secretly hiding his admiration with Tammy, lost it.

“I felt rage fly all over me,” Jones said in his autobiography. “I jumped from my chair, put my hands under the dinner table, and flipped it over. Dishes, utensils, and glasses flew in all directions. Don’s and Tammy’s eyes got about as big as the flying dinner plates.”

George professed his love for Tammy right then and there, and the country music couple were soon married.


2. Helping To Found ACE — The Association of Country Entertainers

George Jones was never considered an Outlaw, but he participated in one of the most significant precursors to country music’s Outlaw revolution in the mid 70′s. Some know the story of Charlie Rich burning the envelope announcing John Denver as Entertainer of the Year at the CMA’s in 1975, but it was the year prior when the stink had begun about performers outside of the country genre walking away with the industry’s accolades. Olivia Newton-John’s win in 1974 for Female Vocalist of the Year caused such a stir that traditional and even pop-leaning country performers at the time organized behind the acronym “ACE” that stood for “Association of Country Entertainers”.

Spearheading ACE was George Jones and then wife Tammy Wynette, and the inaugural meeting of ACE was held at their Tennessee residence. Other participants in ACE included Dolly Parton, Bill Anderson, Porter Wagoner, Faron Young, Conway Twitty, Hank Snow, Mel Tillis, Barbara Mandrell and more than a dozen others. ACE demanded more representation of traditional artists on the CMA’s Board of Directors, and more balance on country radio playlists (does any of this sound familiar?).

Just how successful ACE was can be argued, but it was the precursor to future organizations looking to restore balance and better representation from the CMA, and helped usher in country music’s Outlaw movement and the return to a more traditional sound that the mid 70′s saw in country.


3. Riding a Lawnmower to the Liquor Store

george-jones-riding-lawnmower-john-deereThis is probably the most notorious George Jones story, but what a lot of folks don’t know is that George Jones chose this slow-moving mode of transportation to procure alcohol more than once.

The first and most well-documented lawnmower incident was the late 60′s. George Jones was living 8 miles outside of Beaumont, TX with his then wife Shirley Ann Corley. Jones had experienced a few #1 hits by that time, and his success fueled his wayward ways with alcohol. He was drinking so bad, his wife Shirley resorted to hiding all the keys to the vehicles before she would leave the house so George wouldn’t drive to the nearest liquor store in Beaumont.

But that didn’t stop him. After tearing the house apart looking for a set of keys one time, George looked out the window to see a riding lawnmower sitting on the property under the glow of a security light. “There, gleaming in the glow, was that ten-horsepower rotary engine under a seat. A key glistening in the ignition,” George recalled in his autobiography. “I imagine the top speed for that old mower was five miles per hour. It might have taken an hour and a half or more for me to get to the liquor store, but get there I did.”

The second, lesser-known incident of George Jones’s escapades on a riding lawnmower happened when he was married to Tammy Wynette. Taking a cue from George’s previous wife Shirley, Tammy hid all the keys from George, but George had been down that road before. Wynette woke up one night at 1 AM to find George missing. “I got into the car and drove to the nearest bar 10 miles away,” Tammy recounted in 1979. “When I pulled into the parking lot there sat our rider-mower right by the entrance. He’d driven that mower right down a main highway. He looked up and saw me and said, `Well, fellas, here she is now. My little wife, I told you she’d come after me.’”

The George Jones lawnmower incidents later went on to be memorialized in many country videos, including Hank Williams Jr.’s “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight,” Vince Gill’s 1993 hit “One More Last Chance”  that includes the line, “She might have took my car keys, but she forgot about my old John Deere,” and John Rich’s “Country Done Come to Town,” and George’s own “Honky Tonk Song.”


4. Recording “He Stopped Loving Her Today”

Yes, it could be easy to highlight George’s signature song and say it was awesome for him to cut it, but the story behind “He Stopped Loving Her Today” goes much deeper. The song not only saved George’s career, it potentially saved his life, and all of this is from a song that at first he didn’t want to record because he thought it was too depressing, too long, and nobody would play it. It eventually became his first #1 in six years, salvaged his career, introduced him to a new generation of fans, and solidified his place as one of country music’s biggest ever superstars. Jones himself says about it, “A four-decade career had been salvaged by a three-minute song.”

Written by Country Music Hall of Famer Bobby Braddock (who you can argue would not be a Hall of Famer if it weren’t for the song), along with Curly Putnam, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” went on to spend 18 weeks at #1, won the Grammy for Best Male Country Performance in 1980, both the ACM for Single and Song of the Year, and was the Song of the Year from the CMA’s for 1980 and 1981. After George’s death, the song re-entered the charts at #21. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” deserves to be in that elite class of songs that can be argued are the greatest country music songs of all time.


5. Being The Best Male Duet Partner in the History of Country Music

When you have the best voice in country music, your services as a duet partner are going to be called on early and often. And despite George’s body of solo work being worthy of a Hall of Fame career, his work as a duet partner is unparallelled itself. Country music stars young and old, male and female lined up to take advantage of his voice over many decades, and duets accounted for five of the fourteen #1 hits George had over his storied career. Here’s a rundown of just some of the people George performed duets with over the years:

•Tammy Wynette •Loretta Lynn •Buck Owens •Waylon Jennings •Willie Nelson •Johnny Cash •Dolly Parton •David Allan Coe •Jerry Lee Lewis •Hank Williams Jr. •Patty Loveless •Lynn Anderson •Emmylou Harris •Ricky Skaggs •Garth Brooks •Tracy Lawrence •Charlie Daniels •Marty Stuart •Merle Haggard •Ralph Stanley •Randy Travis •Vince Gill •Alan Jackson •Sammy Kershaw •Shelby Lynn •Mark Chesnutt •Travis Tritt •Barbara Mandrell •Brenda Lee •Shooter Jennings •The Staple Singers •Keith Richards •B.B. King


6. Walking out of the CMA Awards

Ahead of the 1999 CMA Awards, George Jones was enjoying yet another resurgence in his career. Jones was slated to perform the song “Choices” on the CMA’s, but when producers insisted he must sing an abbreviated version, he walked out of the ceremonies and boycotted the show.

In a super act of class and solidarity, Alan Jackson halfway through his performance of “Pop A Top,” stopped down and shifted gears to perform “Choices” in protest. The event has gone on to be considered one of the biggest moments of country protest in the history of the genre.


7. Recording “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?”

Throughout his career, George Jones held fast to the ideals of traditional country music, and wasn’t afraid to fight for them, or speak out about what was happening in the genre. And as one of the few artists who registered hits in multiple decades (according to Billboard, Jones had more “hits” than any other country artist), when George Jones spoke, people listened.

George’s song “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” comes from the 1985 album of the same name, and was written by Troy Seals and Max D. Barnes. It’s a poignant tribute to the history of country music and its previous greats, while calling attention to the abandonment of country’s roots. The song was so potent, the phrase “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” has become one of the most popular go-to colloquialisms concerning the state of country. The song was also a hit, rising to #3 on the Billboard country chart in 1985.


8. Overcoming His Personal Demons

Some people assume that becoming a rich celebrity solves many of your problems, when for many artists it exposes and fuels their problems. Such was the case for George Jones, who had major issues with alcohol, and later in his career, drugs. At one point in 1979, despite being one of the best-selling artists in the history of country music, he was bankrupt and destitute, living in his car, weighing around 100 pounds and living off of junk food. George spent time in mental institutions tied to his drinking multiple times and had to be straighjacketed on numerous occasions. He became known as “No Show Jones” because he missed so many engagements over his career.

But in many ways George Jone’s bad behavior only helped his reputation. His fans didn’t turn on him, they loved him more because they could relate to him and their own personal struggles, and because he was such a great artist and performer when he would show. Alan Jackson once said about Jones, “…what I like most about George is that when you meet him, he is like some ole guy that works down at the gas station…even though he’s a legend!”

Waylon Jennings and others first helped get George Jones sober in the early 80′s, and the result was a resurgence in his career. However later in life George Jones would fall back into his old habits. George gave up drinking and drugs for good in 1999 after wrecking his car and spending two weeks in the hospital. After the crash he pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges. Jones told Billboard later, “…when I had that wreck I made up my mind, it put the fear of God in me. No more smoking, no more drinking. I didn’t have to have no help, I made up my mind to quit. I don’t crave it.”


9. Wanting to Die Performing

Some artists perform because they want to, others perform because they have to. In March of 2012, George Jones was hospitalized with an upper respiratory infection. The 80-year-old performer was having trouble breathing, and it was thought that he didn’t have much more time before his lungs would fail him. Instead of heading home to recuperate and potentially prolong his life, George set to planning a 60-date farewell tour, culminating in a star-studded event set to transpire at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena in November of 2013 with over 50 special performers.

According to George’s wife, before he even left on the tour, he knew he would not make it to the finale. Doctors said he was in no condition to perform or tour, but he did anyway. On April 18th, 2013 George Jones was hospitalized in Nashville, missing tour dates in Alabama and Salem. He eventually passed away on April 26th, 2013 at the age of 81.


10. Having The Greatest Male Voice in the History of Country Music

  • “When people ask me who my favorite country singer is, I say, ‘You mean besides George Jones?’” — Johnny Cash
  • “The greatest voice to ever sing country music.” — Garth Brooks
  • “The second best singer in America” — Frank Sinatra
  • “If we all could sound like we wanted to, we’d all sound like George Jones,” — Waylon Jennings
  • “Anyone who knows or cares anything about real country music will agree that George Jones is the voice of it.” — Dolly Parton
Feb
15

10 Badass Marty Stuart Moments

February 15, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  35 Comments

marty-stuartWhen it comes to the preservation of the history and sound of country music, you can make the case there is nobody who does it better and with more passion and dedication than Marty Stuart. Tireless and true to his convictions, from his music, to his archive of memorabilia, to his presence on television and the Grand Ole Opry stage, and to some of the thankless things he does well out of the public eye, Marty Stuart embodies everything behind the idea of Saving Country Music, and is a badass of the genre if there ever was one.

 


1. Paying His Dues with Johnny Cash & Lester Flatt

marty-stuart-johnny-cashUnlike many of the country music prima donnas who’ve set up shop in country music recently, Marty Stuart comes from the school that believes you have to pay your dues in country music before it’s your turn in the spotlight. Marty Stuart started playing professionally as a sideman in Lester Flatt’s bluegrass band in the early 70′s at the tender age of 14 under the tutelage of legendary mandolin player Roland White. Marty stayed with the band until 1978 when it split up because of Lester’s failing health.

After spending a couple of years working with Vassar Clements and Doc Watson, Marty joined Johnny Cash’s band in 1980, and stayed there for half a decade as both a sideman and a studio musician. Stuart also married Cash’s daughter Cindy in 1983. The two divorced five years later after Marty left Cash’s band to pursue a solo career.


2. Keeping One of the Biggest Archives of Country Music Memorabilia

Marty’s vast collection of country music memorabilia is one of the biggest in country music. It has been featured at the Tennessee State Museum, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and pieces are regularly loaned to the Country Music Hall of Fame for exhibits.

I went to the first Hard Rock and I saw The Beatles, The Stones, Otis Redding, The Who, all their stuff on the wall. And in my mind I went, ‘Well that’s just as important if it’s Porter Wagoner, Hank Williams, George Jones, and who on.’ And so when I came back to America, I made it a mission. I mean it became my whole focus at that time. Get a record deal, start a band, make them look cool, and get all of the country music artifacts you possibly can and preserve them, lock them down, because they’re getting away fast.

“Everything was changing in country music. The look of it, the sound of it, and this stuff was just a throwaway…The ultimate mission is not just to preserve this stuff, protect it, promote it, save it, but to get the music into the hands and hearts of young people that are coming through and [saying), “Well I want to do that, but they tell me I have to be like so and so.” But we’ve already got one of those. Be who you are, at any cost.” (read full story)


3. Inviting Cool Artists Onto The Grand Ole Opry

Playing the Grand Ole Opry stage is one of the biggest thrills and highest honors any artist within the country music realm can be bestowed, but it is not an easy one achieve. One way to grace the stage is to be invited up by a standing member to play during their set, and that is how young, up-and-coming stars like Sturgill Simpson, to one of the oldest living country stars still around, the 90-year-old Don Juan Maddox of The Maddox Brothers & Rose both made their first appearances on the hallowed stage of the storied institution. Marty was also the man who officially invited Old Crow Medicine Show recently to become The Opry’s newest members; the first traditional -leaning band to be invited in the last half decade.


4. Hummingbyrd & The Clarence White Guitar

As explained above, Marty Stuart has many pieces of country music memorabilia, but none of them may be as prized as his guitar affectionately called Hummingbyrd. The 1965 Fender Telecaster was originally owned by famous guitarist Clarence White—a studio musician, member of The Kentucky Colonels, and most-famously, the guitarist for The Byrds (hence the “Y” in the name).

Hummingbyrd is no ordinary guitar. It was the original prototype for what is know as a “B-Bender” guitar—a custom job invented by Clarence White and Byrd drummer Gene Parsons, who happened to also be a machinist. The point of the custom job is to be able to mimic the moaning sounds of a steel guitar by bending the B-string up a whole tone through a series of levers activated by pushing on the guitar’s neck, body, or bridge. When Clarence White passed away, his wife sold the legendary guitar to Marty Stuart, who uses it as his primary instrument.

Included on Marty’s 2010 album Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions is a instrumental called “Hummingbyrd” where Marty Stuart puts on a clinic on how to use this unique instrument. The song went onto win the Grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance. Hummingbyrd shows both Marty Stuart’s passion for the preservation of country music’s history, and his prowess as a guitar player matched by few in the genre.


5. Standing Up To CBS / Columbia For Dropping Johnny Cash

A running theme in these 10 Badass Moments has been the firing of Johnny Cash from CBS Records in 1985. Merle Haggard mouthed off to CBS Executive Rick Blackburn about the firing, saying, “You’re the son-of-a-bitch that sat at that desk over there and fired Johnny Cash. Let it go down in history that you’re the dumbest son-of-a-bitch I’ve ever met.”

When Marty Stuart left Johnny Cash’s band, he signed to Columbia (previously CBS), and in 1988 recorded his second album for the label called Let There Be Country. However Columbia refused to release it. Though some have surmised it was because Marty’s first self-titled Columbia album didn’t sell well, in James L. Dickerson’s 2005 book Mojo Triangle, he explains Columbia didn’t release the album because Marty Stuart had a heated exchange with a Columbia record executive about the Johnny Cash firing. Columbia shelved the album in retribution, and Marty eventually left the label without recording another album for them. Marty then signed to MCA where he had his greatest commercial success, and amidst this success, Columbia decided to finally release Let There Be Country in August of 1992.


6. Hosting The Marty Stuart Show

marty-stuart-showPatterning itself around the classic country music variety shows of the past like The Porter Wagoner Show, Flatt & Scruggs, and Hee Haw, The Marty Stuart Show is one of the last bastions for true, classic country music on television. Carried by RFD-TV, this weekly show features Marty and his Fabulous Superlatives, his wife Connie Smith, and just about the coolest variety of country music artists you can see on TV—artists from the new generation like Justin Townes Earle, Brandy Clark, Sturgill Simpson, Hank3, and The Quebe Sisters, to older artists like Don Maddox, Del McCoury, and Stonewall Jackson, and to artists in between like Jim Lauderdale, and Corb Lund. If they’re good, they appear on The Marty Stuart Show, and after five seasons, it has become its own country music institution, and an important distinction for the artists invited to play the show.


7. Playing with Lester Flatt on the Porter Wagoner Show at 14

Are you kidding me? That’s Marty Stuart folks, playing mandolin and singing!


8. Releasing Badlands: Ballads of the Lakota

badlands-ballads-of-the-lakotaSimilar to his mentor and hero Johnny Cash who released what was arguably the first country music concept album with his tribute to the American Indian called Bitter Tears in 1964, Marty Stuart released a concept album also in tribute to the American Indian called Badlands: Ballads of the Laokota in 2005. Recorded with his backing band The Fabulous Superlatives, it focused on the struggle of Native Americans, and was entirely written by Stuart except for one song, “Big Foot,” written by Johnny Cash. It was also recorded at the Cash Cabin in Hendersonville, TN, with John Carter Cash as co-producer.

But this album wasn’t just Marty patterning himself after Johnny Cash. Stuart has spent much time in the Dakotas learning about the Lakota Sioux, including studying at the Oglala Lakota College. For Marty, the poor treatment of Native Americans is a very real issue.


9. Marrying Connie Smith

marty-stuart-wife-connieWhy would a handsome young Marty Stuart marry a woman 16 years his senior? Well first off, have you seen Connie Smith? Aside from how good time and country music has been to her, she is bona-fide country music royalty and one of the most familiar faces of the Grand Ole Opry. But this isn’t some celebrity sham marriage, the matrimony speaks to Marty’s undying appeal for all things country music and the love between the two country stars is deep. Together, they’re a classic country dynamic duo that is hard to stop (and I have my suspicion at night they dress up as superheroes and do battle with Music Row’s most evil villains).


10. This Quote:

“Today the most outlaw thing you can possibly do in Nashville, Tennessee, is play country music.” –Marty Stuart

 


Feb
9

Willie Nelson Had It Right About Russia & the Olympic Rings

February 9, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  5 Comments
Bruce Bennett - Getty Images

Bruce Bennett – Getty Images

The Winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia have been much maligned for being unprepared, behind schedule, and a potential security risk to athletes and patrons alike as the host country worked feverishly to finish important infrastructure before the beginning of the games. The hilarity of double-bowled toilet stalls, and the not-so-funny matter of stray dogs being killed in droves was capped during the Opening Ceremony Friday night when the five Olympic rings were relegated to four and a misappropriated snowflake showed up during an important segment of the presentation. Though the rest of the evening went off without a hitch, the missing link has come to symbolize Russia’s mishandling of their Olympic duties.

Interesting enough, an old photo of Willie Nelson on a golf course has surfaced, with the country legend wearing a T-shirt with a corresponding missing link, and the caption, “Let the Russians play with themselves,” leaving some wondering if along with all of Willie’s other esoteric powers, divination is a gift he possesses.

More than likely though, it is simply an artifact of its time. The photo was taken in 1984 during the height of the Cold War when the year’s Summer Olympics came to symbolize the global struggle between the two super powers of the United States and the USSR. In 1980, the United States led a boycott of the Summer Olympics held in Moscow, and in 1984, the USSR returned the favor by boycotting the Olympics in Los Angeles. Willie was just showing off his patriotic spirit in 1984 in a T-shirt commemorating the boycott, while enjoying one of his favorite pastimes.

Nonetheless, it’s a cool little piece of Outlaw country music history.

willie-nelson-olymic-ring

Originally the photo was taken by The Associated Press. It was published by the Willie Nelson blog Still Is Still Moving in April of 2013, and attributed to The Houston Chronicle.

Feb
7

10 Badass Merle Haggard Moments

February 7, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  65 Comments

merle-haggard-001Merle. The Hag. Of all the country music greats, Merle’s story might be the most symbolic of the American experience: from growing up in California as the son of Okie parents during The Depression, to spending time in prison, to becoming a rags to riches story. His legacy is sometimes overshadowed by his peers like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, whose influence has spread much farther than country’s borders. But when it comes to influencing country music itself, few this side of Hank Williams can say they’ve left a bigger footprint.

Here’s 10 moments that make Merle Haggard one of country music’s most preeminent badasses.

 


1. Being Born In A Boxcar

Merle's converted boxcar home. bakersfieldcalifornian-com

Merle’s boxcar home after his father slowly converted it into a house. bakersfieldcalifornian.com

Now if that ain’t country….

James Francis and Flossie Mae Haggard moved from Oklahoma during The Depression after their barn burned down in 1934, and settled in an apartment in Bakersfield with Merle’s two older siblings Lowell and Lillian. Merle’s father got a job working for the Santa Fe Railroad as a carpenter, and soon went to work converting a boxcar parked on a piece of land in Oildale, CA, just outside of Bakersfield that eventually became the family’s homestead. Merle Haggard was born in that boxcar on April 6, 1937. The Haggard’s eventually purchased the land around the boxcar, and expanded it to include two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a breakfast nook.


2. Telling Off A CBS Records Executive for Firing Johnny Cash

merle-haggard-kern-riverIn 1985 Merle released the song “Kern River” and it reached #10 on the country charts. But if it was up to CBS Records executive Rick Blackburn, the song would have never been recorded at all. Blackburn hated the song, and apparently went out of his way to tell Merle as much at every opportunity he had. Then at some point, Merle had enough. Blackburn mouthed off to Merle about it, and Merle lost it.

“That’s about the third time you’ve told me that.” Haggard said, “It’s more like five times. Well, I’m about five times short of telling you to go to hell.”

Then Haggard continued:

“Who do you think you are? You’re the son-of-a-bitch that sat at that desk over there and fired Johnny Cash. Let it go down in history that you’re the dumbest son-of-a-bitch I’ve ever met.”


3. Watching Johnny Cash Play at San Quentin Prison

Johnny Cash’s most famous prison appearances were in 1968 and 1969 at the Folsom State Prison and San Quentin Prison, but these concerts weren’t the first time Johnny Cash played at a correctional institution. His first ever was New Years Day 1958 at San Quentin in California, and a 20-year-old Merle Haggard was in the audience. After a few other run-ins with the law, being arrested for the first time at age 11,  and after having participated in multiple of jailbreaks (see below), Merle Haggard got sentenced to 15 years for burglary in 1957 to the notorious California lockup. He was just 18.

Merle ended up only serving two years of his sentence though, in part because the Johnny Cash concert changed his life. At the time, Haggard was conspiring with his cell mate “Rabbit” on an escape plan, but Merle’s fellow cell mates convinced him he had a brighter future in country music. Rabbit eventually did escape, killed a cop, and ending back at San Quentin on Death Row.

“He had the right attitude,” Merle recalls of Johnny Cash;s appearance. “He chewed gum, looked arrogant and flipped the bird to the guards—he did everything the prisoners wanted to do. He was a mean mother from the South who was there because he loved us. When he walked away, everyone in that place had become a Johnny Cash fan.”


4. Escaping From Jail 17 Times

That’s right. As impossible as that sounds, this is what Merle Haggard claims. His criminal record over the years has been a source of much debate about just how hardened the young Merle was. More than likely most of his crimes were quite petty hooliganism stuff, and were bred out of growing up and not having a father to keep him in line, and not having any money and resorting to stealing for his daily bread. But apparently he became pretty adept at giving the local jailers the slip, and that’s why he eventually ended up at San Quentin.

“I was scared to death,” Merle recalls. “I was just 19 at the time, and I’d already been in a lot of jails. San Quentin is the last place you go. I wasn’t really that bad a guy. They just couldn’t hold me anywhere else. I escaped 17 different times, so they sent me there because I was an escape risk. When I walked out on the grounds of San Quentin, I was scared. I was there two years and nine months.”


5. Recording Tribute Albums to Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills

merle-haggard-same-trail-different-time-jimmie-rodgersIt’s one thing to record a tribute album to one of the greats of country music’s past. It’s another to do it at the height of your professional career when your talent and attention could be more financially lucrative elsewhere.

After landing his first #1 hits “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive” and “Branded Man,” and before releasing his big 1969 hits “Workin’ Man Blues” and “Okie From Muskogee,” Merle Haggard released the 1969 LP Same Train, A Different Time: A Tribute to Jimmie Rodgers — a massive, two-record tome of 25 Jimmie Rodgers songs recorded to critical acclaim. The project took a total of 6 months to complete and is given credit for a revitalization of interest in the Singing Brakeman’s career.

Same could be said for Bob Wills, when Merle made time to record and release A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World the very next year. Even more cool, Merle rustled up the last 6 remaining members of Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys—Johnny Gimble, Alex Brashear, Johnnie Lee Wills, Eldon Shamblin, Tiny Moore, and Joe Holley—to participate in the record along with Haggard’s backing band The Strangers.


6. Kicking Cancer’s Ass

Merle Haggard was diagnosed with lung Cancer in May of 2008. Not wanting to make a big deal or publicity stunt out of the matter, he kept it hush hush. On November 3rd, 2008, Haggard had surgery to remove part of the upper lobe of his right lung that had a lemon-sized tumor growing on it. Five days later, he finally spilled the beans to the public about his diagnosis and treatment. Merle had been a smoker early in his life, and had quit cigarettes in 1991, and marijuana in 1995. But doctors said smoking had nothing to do with Merle’s condition.

How did Haggard pull through? Less than two months later he was playing shows at The Crystal Palace in Bakersfield. “I feel like I’ve extended my life,” Merle said at the time. “I’m in better shape than when I went in.”


7. The “Me and Crippled Soldiers Give a Damn” Protest Song

Merle Haggard has written and recorded many politically-charged songs over his career spanning both sides of the isle. From his conservative-leaning anthems like “Fighting Side of Me” and “Okie From Muskogee” (though he’s said this song was written to be a somewhat humorous portrait), to the more recent anti-war song “America First.” But “Me and Crippled Soldiers Give a Damn” might be his crowning, politically-charged moment.

Incensed by the Supreme Court’s decision to allow flag burning under the First Amendment, Merle penned this controversial tune in 1989 and tried to release it, but his label CBS Records refused. So Merle, determined to have the song see the light of day, bought himself out of the stipulations of his CBS contract simply so he could release the song. And just so nobody was confused of where Merle’s heart was in the matter, he gave all the proceeds from the song to the Disabled Veterans of America.


8. Recording Pancho & Lefty with Willie Nelson 

Merle Haggard isn’t known especially for being a legendary duet partner, but when he paired up with Willie Nelson in 1983 to record Pancho & Lefty whose title track is the famous Townes Van Zandt song, a strange magic ensued. The song “Pancho & Lefty” went straight to #1, and so did the album. It also launched another Top 10 hit, “Reasons to Quit,” written by Haggard. Willie & Merle went on to be named the Vocal Duo of the Year by the CMA in 1983.


9. Helping to Define The Bakersfield Sound

As the bean counters on Music Row out in Nashville decided that for country music to survive, strings and choirs needed to be added, and that they needed to “refine” the sound of this rural art form to appeal to older audiences, the country music rebels out in California said “screw that” and we’re slinging their telecasters around, playing way too loud, and pushing boundaries. Right beside Buck Owens at the forefront of this movement was Merle Haggard with his hard-driving, hard-edged sound, embellished by Ralph Mooney’s blaring steel guitar.

Not only did The Bakersfield Sound keep Nashville’s “Countrypolitan” in check, it also showed many of Bakersfield’s rock and roll neighbors in places like LA and San Francisco that country music could be cool, and next thing you know you have bands like The Byrds and The Grateful Dead cutting country records.


10. Recording 38 #1 Hits… 38 OF THEM!!!

  1. “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive” (1966)
  2. “Branded Man” (1967)
  3. “Sing Me Back Home” (1968)
  4. “The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde” (1968)
  5. “Mama Tried” (1968)
  6. “Hungry Eyes” (1969)
  7. “Workin’ Man Blues” (1969)
  8. “Okie from Muskogee” (1969)
  9. “The Fightin’ Side of Me” (1970)
  10. “Daddy Frank” (1971)
  11. “Carolyn” (1971)
  12. “Grandma Harp” (1972)
  13. “It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad)” (1972)
  14. “I Wonder If They Ever Think of Me” (1972)
  15. “Everybody’s Had the Blues” (1973)
  16. “If We Make It Through December” (1973)
  17. “Things Aren’t Funny Anymore” (1974)
  18. “Old Man from the Mountain” (1974)
  19. “Kentucky Gambler” (1974)
  20. “Always Wanting You” (1975)
  21. “Movin’ On” (1975)
  22. “It’s All in the Movies” (1975)
  23. “The Roots of My Raising” (1975)
  24. “Cherokee Maiden” (1976)
  25. “Bar Room Buddies” (with Clint Eastwood) (1980)
  26. “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” (1980)
  27. “My Favorite Memory” (1981)
  28. “Big City” (1981)
  29. “Yesterday’s Wine” (with George Jones) (1982)
  30. “Going Where the Lonely Go” (1982)
  31. “You Take Me for Granted” (1982)
  32. “Pancho and Lefty” (with Willie Nelson) (1983)
  33. “That’s the Way Love Goes” (1983)
  34. “Someday When Things Are Good” (1984)
  35. “Let’s Chase Each Other Around the Room” (1984)
  36. “A Place to Fall Apart” (with Janie Frickie) (1984)
  37. “Natural High” (1985)
  38. “Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Star” (1987)

Del Maguey
Old Soul Radio Show
Lucette
Elam McKnight

Categories

Archives