Waylon Jennings’ Birthday Present from Buddy Holly

June 15, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  14 Comments

Out on the road, Waylon’s crew was known for pulling some pretty elaborate pranks for the big man’s birthday. For a while, a staple of Waylon’s live show was to have Waylon’s wife Jessi Coulter walk out from the side of the stage near the end of a show singing the duet “Suspicious Minds” on a wireless microphone. Well one night in Salem, OR, the crew dressed up tour manager David Trask in one of Jessi’s dresses with a wig, and while Jessi sang on the wireless microphone backstage, the transvestite-looking Trask sashayed out of stage left toward Waylon holding the core of a paper towel roll. “I almost swallowed my guitar pick,” Waylon said later.

But possibly the most memorable Waylon Jennings’ birthday moment came when Waylon kickstarted a vintage 1958 Ariel Cyclone motorcycle inside a hotel room at midnight in 1979.

As a lot of Waylon Jennings fans know, Waylon and Buddy Holly were big friends back in Lubbock, TX in the late 50’s. Waylon played bass for Buddy when Buddy’s Crickets took a hiatus, and Waylon was the one that gave up his seat to The Big Bopper on that fateful night in 1959 when a plane crash took Buddy, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens lives, memorialized as “The Day The Music Died” and put to song in Don McLean’s “American Pie.”

1 1/2 years before in May of 1958, Buddy Holly and his original Crickets flew in to Dallas’s Love Field airport on a connecting flight back to Lubbock after a big tour.

“They loved Marlon Brando in “The Wild One,” and when they got to Dallas…they decided on the spur of the moment to buy motorcycles and drive back home on them.” Waylon recalled. “They took a cab into the city and walked into a Harley-Davidson shop. They had their eyes on a trio of 74-inchers, but the proprietor didn’t think they had any money and treated them like a bunch of bums. “Hell, you boys couldn’t even begin to handle the payments on that.”
“Then they went over to Miller’s Motorcycles, which specialized in English bikes. There, Joe B, and J.I. (Allison) bought a Triumph each, a TR6 and Thunderbird, respectively, while Buddy picked out a maroon and black Ariel Cyclone, with a high compression 650cc Huntsmaster engine. They paid cash, bought matching Levi jackets and peaked caps with wings on them, and rode home through a thunderstorm.”

Buddy Holly’s father had kept the motorcycle until 1970, when he sold it to someone in Austin, TX. Then in 1979 for Waylon’s 42nd birthday, the two remaining Crickets Joe B. and J.I. tracked down the 1959 Ariel Cyclone, bought it back, and had it hand delivered to north Texas where Waylon found it sitting there in the middle of his hotel room after walking off stage that night.

“What else could I do? I swung my leg over it, stomped on the kickstarter, and it burst into roaring life. First kick. It was midnight, and it sounded twice as loud bouncing off the walls of that hotel room. I knew Buddy wouldn’t mind.”

Buddy Holly, and Crickets Joe B, and J.I. Allison on their brand new bikes in front of Miller’s Motorcycles in Dallas.


Buddy Holly’s 1958 Ariel Cyclone on display in Waylon Jennings’ home (circa 1979)

Buddy Holly home movie footage riding the motorcycle in Lubbock:

(Waylon quotes from “Waylon, An Autobiography” by Waylon Jennings and Lenny Kaye. Photos from bikemenu.com and Steve Bonner, Receipt from J.I. Allison.)

14 Comments to “Waylon Jennings’ Birthday Present from Buddy Holly”

  • Nice way to celebrate his 75th! I had never heard this story, so thanks for passing it on. I wonder if the Harley salesman ever found out what he had missed. I was expecting you to write that they had gone back to his shop to rub it in.


  • Regarding the immortailizing song, you’re talking about the Don McLean’s American Pie, right? I’m old enough to remember it being a new song on the radio.


    • Sorry, I worded that dumb. “The Day The Music Died” was the event, “American Pie” was the song. Hopefully it makes more sense now. Thanks for the heads up.


  • Awesome story – THIS is the kind of stuff I like to see on here, I don’t think anybody can start a bickering match over this lol….we’ll see!


  • great story. as much as i love waylons music my favorite thing about him is that he was buddys friend.


  • great story. thanks. happy birthday, waylon.


  • The bike is an Ariel Cyclone. Triumph is a different, unrelated brand. Calling it a “Triumph Ariel Cyclone” is like calling a Corvette a “Plymouth Chevrolet Corvette”.

    Please fix this.

    More on the Cyclone (a one-year only model produced in small quantities) here:



    • Knowledge aint bickering, Great info!


  • Well, let the bickering begin. Anyway, love the story, love the clip, loved Waylon but Buddy sang my life’s sound track. And Triggerman your blog is required reading.


  • Two of my all-time favorite singers. There’s just something magical about Lubbock, and Texas, in general.


  • When Waylon moved to Arizona, he had a big auction of stuff from his home in Nashville “Southern Comfort”. This bike was one of the things sold, I always wondered who wound up with it.

    He also had an original General Lee that the producers gave him.

    Always a great story, I recommend Waylon’ Biography… you will laugh… and be amazed at his cocaine intake.



    • and be amazed at the amount of cigarettes Waylon smoked. If he wasn’t doing a line, he was smoking. And somewhere between all that he lived an entire legendary life. How he made it as long as he did is shocking. Very glad he did though.

      Happy Birthday Hoss.


  • They say hank sr was the king of country &mike gag jackson th king of pop- but ole waylon was THE KING of music. Jus sorry i never met him but somethan in his music makes it feel like i personaly knew him my whole life. Wonderful manh


  • gawd help me and may the Hossette Angels forgive me…as big as a WAYLON Fan as I am…I never realized until 6-15- 2013…that I was wed on WAYLON’s Birthday…somehow the answer to 2+2 has escaped me…for 17 years! HAPPY BIRTHDAY WAYLON!…Happy Anniversary too my wife!…woop woop


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