Giving Waylon Jennings The Legacy Era He Never Had

February 17, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  39 Comments

One thing that sets country music apart from many other genres is that it’s like a family. Unlike hip hop and pop where many times aging acts are tossed aside for what’s new, in country music the artists grow old with their fans, and the genre. Or at least that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

The “legacy act” as it is often referred to is a staple of country music: the elder statesman or stateswoman whose arena tours and radio play are long since gone, but the respect and attention from core country music fans still remains strong. In the twilight of their careers, many of country’s biggest stars of the past are rewarded with the rekindling of attention and accolades.

But unfortunately Waylon Jennings was never awarded a traditional legacy era. Passing 10 years ago from complications with diabetes at 64, Waylon never had a chance to fulfill that elder statesman role in country music in a similar way his fellow Highwayman Johnny Cash did with the re-emergence of his career in the mid-90’s, or as another Highwayman Willie Nelson does today. What might have been the beginning of Waylon’s legacy era in the early 90’s was abridged by the genre’s obsession with Garth Brooks and the ushering in of “young country”, which seemed little interested in keeping country music’s legacy strong or alive.

Even Waylon’s death had to struggle for attention as the United States was in the upheaval following 9/11. The news on February 13th, 2002 had to battle with news from the War in Afghanistan, and the debate of the possibility of opening up a new front in Iraq. And even in the years before his death, Waylon’s diabetes and health problems kept his performing abilities limited.

Waylon Jennings’ legacy in country music is firmly cemented, but he never received the proper legacy era his storied country music career deserved. There still might be a chance for one however. With a treasure trove of songs and albums, with a mythos and legacy and image that is timeless and rife to be renewed by young fans looking for authenticity and substance, a Waylon posthumous legacy era seems well within reach, if not a given.

What would it take? A lot of big things, and a lot of small things. This week it was announced that a new Waylon album tentatively titled Goin’ Down The Road Rockin': The Final Recordings will be released sometime this year. It will feature 8 unreleased tracks recorded at steel guitarist Robby Turner’s studio before Waylon’s death.

“The Waylon Fund” Set Up for Diabetes Research

The release will be part of a bigger effort by the Jennings estate to re-ignite Waylon’s legacy, which according to Waylon’s son Shooter, will include a new line of clothing and memorabilia, and hopefully a biopic in the vein of Johnny Cash’s Walk The Line. “There will be Waylon shirts next to the Cash shirts at Hot Topic, and our shirts will be cooler,” Shooter said jokingly to the Associated Press. “I do feel like it’s time for him to have a presence. It should have been before, but I don’t think anybody was ready to take it on. I certainly wasn’t. I know this year we’re about to bring him back, you know what I mean?”

Certainly a renewed push from the Waylon estate can help give Waymore the legacy era he never had, but so can a parallel push from his fans. The flying “W”, the leather-clad guitar, the legendary career of a man larger than life will be an easy sell to anyone with an open heart, and a yearning for something real. It’s just up to us all to push it.

39 Comments to “Giving Waylon Jennings The Legacy Era He Never Had”

  • And yet I still cannot move past the fact that they wiped away his waylon.com website like he never existed, bringing in a new one to sell tribute albums.

    • The new Waylon site for fans is http://www.thewaylonfund.org. Jessi and Shooter have established The Waylon Fund, in honor of Waylon, to accelerate diabetes research. Check it out! There’s a great write-up by Lenny Kaye, great photos, you can share your Waylon story and contribute to fighting the disease that took Waylon away from us.

  • Half of Hank3’s Ghost To A Ghost seemed like a tribute to Waylons legacy. Maybe he has the same idea…

    • That ALMOST makes me want to buy ghost of a ghost.

  • Wasnt Waylon Forever the last recordings from Waylon? Thats how I thought it was billed when it first came out. I would love to see Waylon reach the same status as Cash has. To me, Waylon is the true definition of Country Music, and I always wondered why Jessi and Shooter were not doing more for his name after he passed. I am glad that Shooter now feels he is up to the task of doing this as I thoguht the world might have been overlooking one of the greatest american artists of all time.

  • good. looking forward to the CD. regardless.

  • Waylon jennings is the all time greatest in my opinion and his without his music i wouldnt be on this site here today. I was a kid and thought the shit they played on the radio was country music. That is until the first time i heard Dont You Think This Outlaw Bit Has Done Got Out Of Hand. It turned me on to real country music and iv been hooked ever since. He deserves more recognition than some fuckin tribute album where rascal flatts and brantley gilbert are singin his songs. Its a disgrace and a shame. Thank you Waylon for everything you did for country music and your legacy will always live on for us fans of REAL country music.

  • Great artist with a really solid discography as well.

    His logo is so iconic and so well recognized. That’s one thing I kind of miss about today’s artist they often times forgot how important a well thought out logo is.

  • Maybe it’s just what I’ve observed in my inner circle, but I feel like Waylon is plenty well-known and revered…not just amongst those that are privy to genuine country music. Sure, it would be a great thing for even more people to be exposed and have their lives touched by this great man’s music contribution…but it seems like the point is being made that he had somehow slipped under the radar and was never truly recognized. As with any genre, you need to dig deeper than what is on the surface to get to the real “meat” and the good artists. But I don’t think you’d have to dig all that deep to unearth Waylon. I can think of countless modern acts that either drop his name in songs, write tribute songs for him, or just rip him off entirely.

    I’m all about more Waylon in my life and everyone else’s…but not in the sense that his legacy should be some sort of commodity. How many Johnny Cash shirts purchased at your local Hot Topic are worn by kids who have only ever heard “Ring of Fire” and wear the shirt strictly because it’s become the uniform for all the cool rockabilly kids?

  • I honestly can’t name my favorite country artist. There are too many good ones to choose from. But Waylon Jennings definitely gets a nod. I’ve always been a Waylon fan, even before I really knew who he was. I grew up watching Dukes of Hazzard reruns and that theme song is probably the most memorable song from my childhood. When I finally got into real country music last year I listened to Honky Tonk Heroes for 4 days straight. More recently I’ve been trying to immerse myself in the albums that came before that. I love every song I’ve heard of his. The thumping bass line is probably my favorite part of his music. I can’t wait for this release.

  • I think Waylon doesn’t get the respect he deserves. When people say country music his name should be one of the first to be mentioned. “He did more for our kind of music than anybody” brought it to higher heights. Glad Shooter is doing this, even if hipsters in the mall are buying shirts just cuz its cool, it keeps the name alive and makes it more likely that a new generation gives the music a chance. His voice, his story, his music, his legend. Shouldn’t be hard to sell, Waylon is the greatest in my mind

  • Waylon iS God. He broke far more boundaries than Johnny Cash. He revolutionized honky tonk music.

  • I am extremely excited about all of this. I hope it doesn’t fall through. Waylon is THE legend in country music. Well, to me at least. That’s why I have his symbol tattooed on my forearm. I have seen my other heroes in concert like Wille and Coe, but I was never afforded the oppurtunity to see Waylon. I wish I could have seen them all in their prime, but since I’m only 25, I wasn’t around for that. Waylon deserves a lot more credit than these phony outlaws and music row give him. Say what you want to about Shooter, but I’m glad he’s finally pushing his dad out there harder than he has in the past.

  • I spoke to Shooter tonight about a lot of this, but I can’t go into any further details.

    As for the legacy thing, from my own experience I think it’s telling that the girl I’m kinda dating(ish) at the moment had no clue who Waylon was until I played the “Lonesome On’ry and Mean” album for her. She has a great taste in music in general and definitely knew who Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson were, but Waylon just wasn’t on her radar.

  • Seems like Everyone is on a Waylon kick nowadays. Just like everyone was apeshit about Cash 6 or 7 years ago. That ok with me.I think Waylon is amazing. I was five years old when the dukes of hazzard first appeared on TV. I loved the Image of the guitar in the opening credits. And the countrifried sound of his voice everytime the frame paused, “now folks . . . .you know the rest” so I guess for me Waylon was a big part of my childhhood. I didn’t know it at the time. One of my favorite things about the man is how soooo many people have said that the Waylon you saw onstage was absolutely do different than the man you met in real life. I have alot of respect for that.
    Rest in peace hoss. thanks for all the great songs!!!!!

    • I still have a tape of me singing the Dukes’ theme song when I was 4 or 5. I know what you mean!

  • Much respects to Waylon and all the elders!

  • At the risk of sounding ignorant, which boundries did Waylon break? What contributions did he make to outlaw country. I think that it would make an interesting blog. The sontributions of Willie, Cash, and Hank Sr are obvious and reiterated tirelessly.Nnoone ever specifies what all Waylon did, other than fighting Nashville and having loud drums.

    • Waylon was country music’s first million seller. He basically bypassed the Nashville way of doing things and performed shows like Rock ‘n’ Roll concerts rather than traditional country barn dance type things. He used much bigger amps and speakers etc. and brought country into a whole new realm. At the time, country would have been like a garage band and Waylon brought it like the Rolling Stones. At least, that’s what I’ve gathered.

    • I agree with Chad’s points and I’m sure there are many other deep behind the scenes that none of us will ever know the ground he broke.

      I will say beyond the musical boundaries Waylon broke, he broke business boundaries as Chad eludes too. From what I know and understand, Waylon simply did everything his way and always pushed for the artists interest first. Waylon had a much better skill set musically as well, in my opinion. He could carve up the guitar, sing like God, and his stage precense was rediculous ( I never saw him live, but from videos.. he was in charge and had command of the show) without moving from his spot.

      I would agree the contributions of Willie, Cash, Hank Sr. are obvious and timeless, but Waylon did them all as one artist.
      Like Hank Sr., he sang heartache songs with deep emotion.
      Like Cash he sang songs about pop culture and the times
      Like Willie he sang timeless songs that resinate today more than ever.

      – And for me, the coolest thing is Waylon isn’t Willie or Cash or Hank. He is kind of that guy when you argue who is the best of the best, and everyone tosses out Cash, Willie, Merle, Hank… then someone remembers “Waylon”, and the discussion kind goes to who is 2nd best.

  • I have a lot more Cash, Hank and Willie in my collection than Waylon, but I do grant him his place in country music. And he certainly deserves to be in a bit more spotlight than he has been since his death.
    However, somehow I see Waylon also at the beginning of country getting more mainstream, eventually getting to the bullshit they try to sell as country today. Not to blame him, absolutely not, but sometimes you put something in motion, only to discover that you have no control on the direction. And eventually he got pushed aside by Nashville, to be replaced by better looking younger guys with cowboyhats, who never even got close to the real country of Willie and Waylon and Cash. Isn’t that what we’re looking for? New kids bringing the real music and finding a larger audience. Wasn’t that what we hoped for with Jamey Johnson? Or this Wolf-character on the big talent-show? And isn’t that what Shooter hopes to achieve with XXX?
    And by the way, to give credit where credit is due, Billy Joe Shaver wrote Honky Tonk Heroes. And he is still around.

  • waylon was one of the first to use his touring band to record on his albums… he showed everyone he could make his own music and sound and didnt need to sellout

    he did break boundries

  • I have been meaning to get a Waylon T-shirt but I don’t think I’ll buy one from hot-topic. Sadly I only own the 2 disc essential collection and a couple tribute albums… I am a “johnny-come-lately” to his greatness but I much prefer him to Cash or Nelson, though I love their stuff as well.

  • i have great respect for waylon and what he did and still does for country music. i’m just adding this to the conversation. “Basically, you wouldn’t have had Waylon Jennings, you wouldn’t have had all of that outlaw movement without Gram Parsons. He showed them a new approach, that country isn’t just this narrow thing that appeals to rednecks. He did it single handed. He wasn’t a crusader or anything like that. He loved country music, but he really didn’t like the country music business and didn’t think it should be angled at Nashville. The music’s bigger than that. It should touch everybody.” ~ Keith Richards autobiography, “Life” ~

  • Waylon should be (and IS in many times) right up there with all the LEGENDS of the genre, because he IS in the country music world.

  • This really is good to see. I remember when my father took me to Nashville when I was 15. We went in and out of so many damn stores and there wasn’t a Waylon shirt to be found anywhere. Pops was dead set on finding a black shirt with a flying W on it but never could.

  • It was and still is the best. Have been a true fan for over 30 years, Glad to see Shooter doing this.

  • The best thing about being a little older is that I’ve been around since Waylon first hit it big. Have bought every recording since “Honky Tonk Heroes” and have some of the earlier ones too. Waylon, George, Johnny, Willie and Merle are the greatest of my lifetime but someone has to be number one and to me that is Waylon!

  • It is kind of funny, Trigger you have ripped some other “older” artists for hanging on with the legacy act, yet here you wish Waylon had one? I guess I can agree, but it is based on the idea he would be the way you think/hope he would be…i.e. agree with what we here today think is right/real country music.

    Example, what if Waylon really dug Kid Rock like Hank Jr. does?
    What if Waylon did duets with Jamey Johnson?
    What if Waylon cut a song with his grandson “Struggle” a hip hop artist?

    Waylon fought the industry to the end his way. Not taking anything from Cash, but Rick Rubin brough him back. Willie caught fire again (no pun intended) when he got into the ragae. Waylon was cutting songs his way, right up until the end.

    For my money, you want a tribute/legacy to Waylon- listen to these three songs
    “Eyes of Waylon” by Hank Jr.
    “First Time I Saw Waylon” by Roger Alan Wade
    “More Than One Year At a Time” Eric Lee Beddingfield

    They say it all about who he was, became and passed on as. Simply Waylon.

    • Is this Struggle person shooters son? Or is he a nephew?

      • I believe it’s his nephew. Definitely not his son, Shooters son I think is about a year old.

      • Struggle is Shooter’s nephew. I first heard him when on Shooter’s XM show he played Struggle’s mix of “Outlaw Shit” featuring Yelawolf.

        Now it wasn’t my cup of tea, but music styles touch different folks in different ways. I.E. being what the legacy is of your dad or grandad was may not be for you, and that is fine. Maybe as you get older and around the block a bit, you might gravitate back to the “family business”. I think we have seen that a bit with Shooter and Hank3.

        I guess my point is that if Waylon were around today, who’s to say what he would think of what is going on? I don’t think he would be calling Sugarland or Luke Bryan country, but I also don’t think he would be as upset as some of us think. Waylon was country, that was his wheelhouse, but IMHO, his legacy is how he showed the way for an artist to control his own music. So maybe if Sugarland is making the music they want, how they want, hey, that was because of Waylon’s influence. Do they make the same music as Waylon? No. But influenced nonetheless.
        I don’t know that Waylon was fighting solely for country music as much as fighting for the rights of any artist.
        Genres and playlists on radio stations are corporate creations. Making music your way no matter the genere… well, then tip your cap to Waylon for that freedom.

  • I thank God that I grew up listening to Waylon Jennings in my grandmother’s home. I thank her for leaving me her complete Waylon Jennings collection when she passed away.

    • Interesting! Sounds like same thing my equally cool grandma did for me – left me a Waylon collection, along with some Willie Nelson, Marty Robbins, and Conway Twitty, amongst others. I guess our grandmas knew where it was at, huh? :)

  • Hi,

    I am sick & tired of producers bringing out CDs with the same songs that Waylon did again & again. What is needed is to produce ALL the music he made during his life. It could be The Sixties Waylon, The Seventies Waylon etc. Then they could arrange the TV appearances & put them on DVDs.

    Regarding Waylon’s health. We all know he was addicted to cocaine, but his BIGGEST drug was Nicotine. His smoking addiction MUST be highlighted, so that young people will realize its dangers.

    Waylon’s diet is another thing that escalated his bad health.

    HFCS – High Fructose Corn Syrup is killing Americans in their thousands. Corn is over produced in America & is put into EVERYTHING. Its time farmers stopped growing this crop & started growing proper vegetables for the American market.
    I hope Jessi & Shooter take these thoughts on board. As a Waylon Jennings fan for many years, who has Diabetes & Diabetic neuropathy in both feet & pain 7/24 & GOUT in my knee, I feel I know what I am talking about & I think its time people heard the Truth. I am 61 years of age.

    American farmers need to clean up their act & stop killing the consumer. Get back to old farming methods in animal rearing & quit the industrial methods. Quit injecting antibiotics into animals & feed them the way nature designed them to eat – cows need GRASS not CORN & all the other crap. The same goes for crops. If you grow lots of crops & not just one, you won’t have so many bugs & parasites.

    Yo, Jessi & Shooter, put that to music!

    I know Waylon would if he had the chance!

    Do it for him!

  • As Bill Parcells says… “We are what our record says we are.” In this case… Waylon is what his record says he is.

    This article is pathetic. Nobody GAVE Cash a resurgence. He made a great album and it sold. It didn’t sound like country so it didn’t get on current country radio. But it was great and people who like that sound bought it. I know Cash fans who didn’t like it. It didn’t sound like the old Cash and they thought it sucked. It happened to be more marketable to people outside of current country and/or old Cash fans and there’s alot of those. It didn’t hurt that Cash giving the finger to the country music industry was a brilliant marketing ploy that “Cash”ed in on his image.

    Waylon’s music would actually be more popular NOW than it would have been in the late 80’s or 90’s of country music. Garth, George Straight, Reba, Alan Jackson, etc… were the artists that took country music back from the embarrassing 70’s. Hell, Garth even made country music popular which really ticked off the hard core fans who apparently wanted to keep country music unpopular. But Waylon’s music with it’s tele, lack of fiddle, steel or banjo would have fit in great with this new breed.

    Maybe he could have had a resurgence during this current sound of country music. Even Willie and Hank Jr are getting some stage time on the awards shows now as their sound has come to the forefront of country music after decades of being the “outlaw” country hidden in the corner while the likes of Kenny Rogers and Dolly shined in the lights.

    Shooter is right to honor his dad. It’s about the only thing going good for Shooter these days. He’s tried about every style out there and even his own version of “outlaw” country didn’t catch on. Which is odd… because the outlaw look, style and sound of his dad happens to be the IN thing in country music currently. Things go in cycles. Right now the “outlaw” thing to do would be to don a rhinestone suit made by Nudie, get a string section, and a church choir and do a tv show with either two options… Kenny Rogers or Hee Haw.

    Who knew… doing a show like Hee Haw would one day be the equivalent of outlaw country…

    Anyway, point being… I hardly see Waylon wanting anything to do with a resurgence based on “past accomplishments” vs current product. He’d probably punch you for suggesting it and then write a song about it that might make it on current radio.

    • You make some good points, but I think who wholesale missed the tenor of this entire article.

  • Resurrecting this article, because I just found it. Waylon will always be my favourite country artist, period. As much as I respect what Cash did in the last few years of his life, Waylon was the superior musician, and knew music better. I wish Waylon got all the accolades that Cash has gotten posthumously, but in a way, I’m happy we didn’t get a whole bunch of 5-minute Waylon fans, like the 5-minute Cash fans we got. I think both of them would have been pissed about those types of posers.

  • Deb Sheplic ~ Of all the comments posted here, yours hit it right on the head. I too still cannot move past the fact that as you wrote, “…they wiped away his Waylon.com website like he never existed, bringing in a new one to sell tribute albums” “They” kicked it completely out of the way in place of thewaylonfund.org. I agree that “The Waylon Fund” which is dedicated to diabetes research is very important. Know what else I think? I think that even in death, WAYLON JENNINGS is still in somebody’s way.

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