10 Badass Waylon Jennings Moments
Some of the new “Outlaws” in country music will have you believe that getting some mud on their tires or drinking a little too much is tantamount to years of paying dues and sewing your true Outlaw oats like the original Outlaws did. So here’s ten reasons why today’s “Outlaws” will never live up to the legacy of one of the biggest country music Outlaws, Waylon Waymore Watashin By God Hoss Tecumseh Jennings.
1. Walking Off The Tom Snyder Show
In September of 1998, Waylon was scheduled to appear on the Late Late Show hosted by Tom Snyder. Going into the taping, Waylon was already a little bit sideways with the situation because he thought he deserved a full hour slot, but instead the show’s producers had him share the show with Dr. Laura. When Dr. Laura’s segment began to eat into Waylon’s time even more, he walked off the set, leaving Tom Snyder hanging.
2. Walking Out On Chet Atkins – The $25,000 Piss.
It was early 1972, and Waylon Jennings wanted control of his music. He hired a New York lawyer named Neil Reshen—the same lawyer that helped Willie Nelson get out of his RCA contract—to renegotiate his with the Music Row giant.
“It was down to a $25,000 sum, and they we’re not going to give it to me. We were sitting there, not a word spoken, and the silence got unbearable. After a while, I couldn’t take it anymore. ‘Chet,’ I said, reaching over to a bowl on his desk, ‘where’d you get these peanuts?’ Neil glared at me. ‘Shut up, Waylon.’
You could hear a clock tick in the room. It got even quieter. Minutes passed. I rose up, never said a word, walked out. I went to the bathroom to take a leak. When I came back, Neil greeted me in the hall. ‘You’re a fuckin’ genius,’ he said.
‘Walking out like that. That sewed it up. That was a $25,000 piss,’ said Neil. ‘They asked me where you went and I told them I didn’t know. ‘Waylon’s mad, I’m sure. He’s crazy. He’s liable to do anything.’ ‘Will he be back?’ they wanted to know, and I shrugged. ‘I guess he’s gone, so we may as well call this to a close.’ And that when they gave us the money.”
3. Walking Out of the 1970 CMA Awards
“It was Kris Kristofferson’s night; he was a shoo-in for several categories. I had been scheduled to perform ‘Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line.’ They said they were strapped for time, and they wanted me to cut the song to one verse and chorus. I said, ‘Why don’t I just dance across the stage and grin? Maybe do one line. That’ll give you a lot of time.’ They told me to not get smart. Either I did it or I got out. They said, ‘We don’t need you.’ I decided that was true, and I left.”
4. The 1975 CMA Awards
“Now they needed me again, because I was up for Best Male Vocalist, Song of the Year (‘I’m A Ramblin’ Man’), Album of the Year, and Entertainer of the Year. As I walked in with Jessi [Colter], scratching at my tuxedo, her telling me I should have hit them, Neil [Reshen] came over to me. ‘You won Male Vocalist,’ he whispered. ‘Jessi didn’t win anything.’ So much for secrecy. If nobody’s supposed to know the awards before they opened the envelope, how did word get around? My heart went out to Jessi, and though my first instinct was to get the hell gone, I thought that maybe by staying I could raise some of the larger problems that faced country music, such as its closed-mindedness and suspicion of change.
“I tried to be nice in my acceptance speech, thanking everybody for their support, though I knew that block voting and mass trading between the big companies—we’ll give you two hundred votes for your artist if you give your four hundred votes to our writer—probably had more to do with it than anything else.”
Waylon’s 1975 Male Vocalist Certificate (note Waylon’s embellishment):
5. Singing with Big Bird on Sesame Street
Because real Outlaws have the balls to show their gentler side.
6. Playing “Ironhead Haynes” on Married With Children
7. Corrupting Clint Black
“Joe Galante from RCA once called me and said, ‘Clint Black really likes you. Can we go to lunch and you can tell him some old Waylon and Willie stories?’ We met up with his manager, Bill Ham, and I started recounting. I told him of all the phones I used to destroy, dialing a number, putting it to my ear, and walking off. He listened to tales of Hillbilly Central and Dripping Springs, and Joe would keep encouraging me, saying, ‘Tell this story, Waylon, tell that one.'”
“After I got through talking, Clint pushed back from the table. ‘I can let you know one thing I’ve gotta do,’ he said. ‘I’ve got to get rid of this goody-two-shoes reputation I’ve got.’ Both Bill and Joe looked at him in horror. ‘No, no! We just wanted you to hear the stories!'”
8. Starting Up A Motorcycle in a Hotel Room At Midnight
For Waylon’s birthday in 1979, former Buddy Holly Cricket Joe B. Mauldin tracked down a vintage 1958 Ariel Cyclone motorcycle that used to belong to Buddy Holly, and put it inside of Waylon’s hotel room as a surprise.
“I walked into my hotel room after the show and saw it sitting there. 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.”
9. Meeting Billy Ray Cyrus
“You never do know where the stones you throw will land. One time, I was at an awards show, and I heard a voice behind me saying, ‘Mr. Jennings, you’re like a god to me.’ I turned around and it was Billy Ray Cyrus, offering his hand for me to shake. All I could think of was, if I’m your god, what does your devil look like?”
10. Writing and Recording “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?”
All quotes from Waylon – An Autobiography.
December 7, 2013 @ 10:22 am
That book is such a great read. I’ve been meaning to go back and read it again because it’s been 8 years since I read it first go-around. I read it right after I read “Cash” and it was fun to see all the parallels. It was unexpectedly (and very often) hilarious. His wit could have given him a career in comedy. I better go track down a copy.
June 17, 2015 @ 4:53 am
Waylon’s book changed my life. It was just so inspiring. Many will tell you he was the nicest man with a huge heart. He also was a “man’s man” and held strong to his convictions. Any artist today with creative control owes a huge debt to this man. His chapter on how he kicked coke just kills me every time. Typical Waylon, he said he would never do drugs again, and kept his word. Great man
December 7, 2013 @ 12:34 pm
Love the site. Have found some good real country here over the past year or so (though this is my first comment). And I agree with most of your opinions. I also love Waylon’s music.
All that said, I think you should remove this post. If anyone is to look at this post – supposedly Waylon’s top “outlaw” moments – with clear/non-tinted eyes, they’ll be able to see that some of the non-music stuff you rail against today’s artists for on the regular, is no different that Waylon. Because besides maybe point #8, ain’t nothing much here so crazy it’s worthy of “outlaw” either. Let’s look point-by-point:
1. And I’ll group this with #3. Yes, you could make a point that this is a so-called, “Outlaw” move. You could also call it egotistical and/or overly sensitive. I.E. he had such an over-inflated view of himself that he couldn’t possibly be asked to cut any time of his own short in favor of someone else. This isn’t Alan Jackson standing up for someone else (like with the CMA/Geoge Jones incident). This is a man crying and because he perceived he had been wronged. God forbid, someone else might deserve more time than him on a show! This is a classic, “I’m taking my ball and going home,” move. Bitter is not a good look.
2. Nothing here is the result of him pulling some crazy, rebel move. He went to take a piss, for God-sakes and got lucky.
3. Already covered in #1
4. Height of hypocrisy. If he was a real ‘outlaw’ he wouldn’t have even shown up after the incident from #3. But, no, because he was up for a bunch of awards he goes. Ohhhh, but he THOUGHT about leaving when his wife was done wrong? Ok, that makes up for it! I could see if he ACTUALLY left. But he didn’t. Because it wasn’t HIM that the perceived wrongs were against (just the woman he loves) he stay…selfish to the max, and reinforces the ego argument from #1. He went up and, in his own words, “tried to be nice.” Real bad ass move. Oh wait! He wrote a couple of cuss’ words on the plaque. Wow. That’s like getting pulled over for speeding, going through all of the ‘Yes, sir’s” when the officer is at your window, and then saying “F*** you” under your breathe after he walk away…
5. If any of today;s top male ‘country’ singer did this, you would crucify them. I know you will say you would’t…but you would. This wasn’t some tough-guy-show-them-I’m-comfortable-in-my-manhood moment. This is a marketing/publicity move. Even if it was the former, then you can’t make fun of Luke Bryan for wearing sparkly pants, then….that’s just him showing he has a softer side. And he can’t break Aldean’s balls for singing duets with Kellie Clarkson. You can rip the music – because it does suck – but we’re not talking about music in most of this post…we’re talking personal choices and acts.
6. Same as above. I saw you giving Erich Church the other day crap for his sly marketing. Waylon could pimp himself out there with the best of them, too. The late night shows (i,.e. in #1), Dukes of Hazard, the Sesame Street appearance, this role. Nothing saying ‘rebeling against the status quo’ that being being a media whore, right?
7. What is so ‘outlaw-ish’ about this. If anything he caved to the man. If he was SOOO against the record companies he would of told RCA to f-off with requests like this. Nope, gave a ‘yes, sire’ and showed up and did exactly as he was told.
8. I’ll give you this.
9. Again he “thought this.” Didn’t say it. Thought it. Real tough guy move. Similar to my police officer example above.
10. Great song. But as we know from Eric Church (Still Gotta Lot of Boot Left to Fill; Country Music Jesus), words don’t always equate with actions.
I’ll admit, I haven’t read the whole book. And there might very well be more to each of these. But my point here is that you post didn’t achieve it’s goal of getting the point across that Waylon was any more bad-ass than the bros today.
December 7, 2013 @ 1:05 pm
I really appreciate your in-depth analysis of this and your concern, but I think you’re trying to read too much into this. This post is not meant to make some stirring point about new “Outlaws” like Eric Church or is attempting to delve into some intellectual deeper meaning behind the behavior of artists. It’s just a stupid list of some things Waylon did in his career that are kind of cool and refer to his personality and perspective. The main goal of this is to hopefully inform people about some of the things Waylon did in his career. and that’s it. Some people may have already known about the CMA stuff, but didn’t know he appeared on Sesame Street, or vice versa. The opening paragraph was just to set the stage.
There were a couple of things Waylon did, like giving a football team cocaine and a few other instances I could have included here, but I didn’t really want to broach the subject of morality. If I did have a secondary motive, it was to try and illustrate is that being a “badass” or an “Outlaw” is a lot more than surface appearance. Waylon Jennings was a badass because he was himself, with no pretense, no desire for self-promotion or belittling himself to get ahead. Just because you do some things outside of the music realm doesn’t mean you’re “selling out.” Sesame Street is not “selling out.” One could argue it’s stupid, but it didn’t help increase his brand.
I hope this makes sense.
December 7, 2013 @ 8:47 pm
I love the site and the music, and waylon, but I agree with BigASteve. You’d crucify any one if they did that kind of stuff now. Yea I et that the intent is different and more genuine here, but most of this stuff just makes me think Waylon was more of an asshole than anything else.
December 8, 2013 @ 1:50 am
I would crucify someone for standing up against the CMA for cutting song times or fixing votes? I would stand up against someone taking control of their music? These are founding principles of Saving Country Music, and I would praise any artist for doing these things, even if I didn’t like their music. See recent articles on Jake Owen and Sheryl Crow criticizing mainstream country.
Many pop country artists otherwise in my crosshairs have appeared on Sesame Street. Show me where I criticized them for it. Walking out on Tom Snyder, I think Waylon had a legitimate beef. Appearing on a TV show? Maybe, but I’m not sure you can draw a parallel in time like that. Shows are different, and artists are different.
October 28, 2021 @ 12:37 pm
But he didn’t stand up. He just thought about it. And remained quiet.
December 7, 2013 @ 11:20 pm
Great Post Triggerman! Some folks look for the negative side of every coin toss when it don’t flip “their” way. Too hell with spur of the moment actions in life and the 20/20 hindsight. I guarantee ya if Waylon had said,”yes sir” to the CMA awards in 1970 and played the bidding of the CMA BigASteve woulda found just as much fault in Waylon doing something to help support his friend Kris.
December 9, 2013 @ 8:18 am
I love Waylon and I enjoy this site, but I kind of agree with BigASteve too.
The title suggests, and I hoped, you would cover some of his outlaw ways toward music making.
Not his ego on Tom Snyder show or his getting lucky going to take a piss (with his lawyer by his side…I can imagine how you would roast a current guy for having a lawyer protecting them.)
And the male vocalist, you basically showed that Waylon “earned” the award as much as a Blake Shelton has. Had Waylon said in his ‘acceptance speech’ that the award voting is rigged and left the award behind…well, that would be badass outlaw.
There’s a whole lot more Waylon learned from Buddy that molded his outlaw music making ways that you could have mentioned besides starting a motorcycle in a hotel. Jesus, that isn’t much more outlaw than Luke Bryan drinking beer in his truck.
Meeting Billy Ray only shows how much respect Billy Ray had for him. Yet we know how Billy Ray is ripped up and down on this site.
Great topic/idea, but epic failure and not doing Waylon any favors.
December 9, 2013 @ 9:17 am
Epic failure? Yes, Waylon’s legacy will be forever tained now by this stupid article.
When you take this site more seriously than I do, that’s when you know you REALLY need some perspective.
December 21, 2020 @ 4:26 pm
There’s always people that drink the kool aid. Too lazy to check the REAL facts..
December 9, 2013 @ 10:14 am
Actually, Waylon agreed to appear on Sesame Street on the condition that Shooter would have a private meet and greet with Elmo.
October 28, 2021 @ 12:35 pm
Love Waylon but most of these acts aren’t badass but either petty or common.
TX Music Jim
December 7, 2013 @ 1:49 pm
Waylon Jennings was the ultimate Texas music outlaw because his music blazed a trail at a time when that was forbidden by the Nashvegas system. He did it anyway and it worked. There is no comparison to todays ass clowns like Eric church and Luke Bryan. The people that remind me of Waylon the most today are Strugill Simpson, Jamey Johnson and Jason Boland. I just wish Waylon could have goten clean sooner so we could have enjoyed more greatness. To me Waylon is the ultimate outlaw and my musical hero. I saw Waylon 3 times once in the very early eighties once in the 90’s and once within a year of his passing. all of those shows were great. Honky Tonk Hero’s is one of hte greatest albums of all time period. Waylon is a as important to country music as John Lennon was to Rock and Roll.
December 8, 2013 @ 1:05 pm
I agree with TxMusicJim.
Waylon’s influence is incalculable.
I also like this article a lot.
At the conclusion of the Tom Snyder video is a link to a 1 hour documentary on Waylon, which I stongly encourage.
One of my very best friends was a non-musician running buddy of Waylon’s.
They did a lot of cocaine together and a considerable amount of both until my friend got clean and sober.
Waylon did the same a little bit afterward.
December 7, 2013 @ 1:49 pm
I was hoping the Clint Black segment was going to read something like :
” Waylon walked over to Black’s table , slapped him senseless twice and said ; ” The first one’s for you being a Glee Club cowboy , and the second for Garth for taking a shit on our industry . “
December 7, 2013 @ 2:53 pm
Great list, Trig. I’d forgotten about the “Ironhead Haynes” bit…hilarious. But, inevitably, as with any list-making activity, here comes a $0.02 bit: I would’ve included his recording of the “Honky Tonk Heroes” LP on the list. To me that was one of his ballsiest moves as a recording artist–a firm two-finger salute to RCA. In any case, though, great list!
December 7, 2013 @ 5:07 pm
love articles like this on some random moments in country music history reading #8 made my day i got kicked outta a hotel with my buddies for doing that exact thing guess i got 1/1000 waylon in me or so id like to think
strait country 81
December 7, 2013 @ 7:17 pm
Isn’t there a story about Police raiding his studio for drugs or was it Cash?
December 7, 2013 @ 7:39 pm
Yep, that’s what his song “don’t you think this outlaw bit’s done got outta hand” is about.
December 7, 2013 @ 11:23 pm
Indeed they did. The story, which is retold from Waylon’s own pen in his autobiography, has the feds and local police on the trail of a package of cocaine that was shipped to Waylon’s studio. Waylon was in the vocal booth with the package and could hear them inside the booth, as the engineer had wisely cut on the monitors to the booth for him to hear what was transpiring. Waylon took the slender package and slid it between the wall and a baseboard. The lawbirds tore up the studio, but found no contraband. Though they knew it was there and threatened to arrest Waylon for possession, even though they couldn’t find anything, he said something like, “Where I’m from ‘possession’ means you got it, and clearly, I ain’t got it.”
December 7, 2013 @ 11:28 pm
http://youtu.be/crAuVBBmoXo caught this great moment following some of your links and just thought I’d share it. Some real Hossified comments here. woop woop.
December 8, 2013 @ 1:44 am
I wrote an article exclusively about that a while back. Stimulated some pretty interesting discussion.
December 8, 2013 @ 2:50 am
YEP, I remember that post well. I was refering to the 1:35 portion of the video, I was sure you had posted something on that as well…
December 8, 2013 @ 12:30 am
Love the list!! Waylon is my favorite of all time!! I sadly discovered him 5 years after his passing, but there has never been anyone better in country music. IMO Thank goodness we have Jamey Johnson, Jason Boland and Jackson Taylor to somewhat fill his shoes.
December 8, 2013 @ 3:09 am
…and J.B. Beverley,Whitey Morgan, Lucky Tubb, Billy Joe Shaver,Wayne Hancock…
December 9, 2013 @ 10:22 am
Do we still have Jamey Johnson? He seems content now days just getting high and not working on new material.
December 8, 2013 @ 3:15 am
I can’t help but feel that Waylon Jennings’ outlaw credentials pale in comparison to those of Johnny Cash (I mean…………..being sued by the federal government for starting a forest fire, illegally picking wildflowers from private property late at night, candidly acknowledging trying every drug there was to try on national television, his Nickajack Cave experience, and so forth…………and then evolve his artistry to more somber and socially-conscious tones…………..how much outlandishly outlaw can you get?) 😉
Still, I understand the not-meant-to-be-taken-very-seriously intent behind that and it still reinforces how Jennings was still quite the character that is sorely missed.
December 9, 2013 @ 2:03 pm
I wouldn’t say actually pale in comparison…Waylon was the real deal. I am actually surprised to not see the story of when Waylon blew up an empty club after the owner refused to pay his due. Billy Joe Shaver was there.
Here is a link to the video of him talking about it:
December 9, 2013 @ 3:44 pm
That’s a good one.
Tom The Polack
December 8, 2013 @ 5:11 am
Good article. The 3rd moment is my favorite one. The 5th reminds me of Johnny Cash’s appearances in Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, which everyone knows, I guess.
December 9, 2013 @ 6:15 am
You left out the time he walked out of the “We are the world” song in the mid-1980s.
Red Desert Strangler
December 11, 2013 @ 6:27 am
Pay them no mind, Trigger. Great list!
December 11, 2013 @ 12:28 pm
What book are you referring to?
March 5, 2014 @ 8:06 pm
trig, despite all else, this made me smile. just saw it now.
April 30, 2014 @ 3:21 pm
The Billy Ray meeting obviously took place after a 1992 concert I went to at the Saddleback in San Jose, CA, where Waylon told the following story (slightly paraphrased, of course, as it’s been 23 years)…
“I was talking with Travis Tritt the other day, he’s in a little war with Billy Ray Cyrus…I told Travis, why don’t you kick his ass? Travis said my manger won’t let me…So I told Travis, well kick his ass too!”
Of course it should be noted that at Waylon’s memorial at the Ryman, Travis & Billy Ray hugged away the hatchet.
June 15, 2014 @ 7:33 pm
I am a huge Waylon fan and I was lucky enough to see him live back in 1983 with Jerry Reed and Jessi Colter opening for him. As a TV producer, I have to be honest and say there was nothing cool or badass about #1 and 3.
July 5, 2018 @ 11:13 pm
Anyone remember the story he told-I think on Ralph Emery show- about borrowing someone’s old truck to drive once? It was so funny- oldbeat up truck, rusted out floorboard-and “crazy things growing in the bed”.