Remembering The Final Big Concert from Waylon Jennings
Unlike many of the country music greats that have passed away recently or even in the more distant past, Waylon Jennings never really got the opportunity to enjoy a true victory lap. Succumbing to diabetes complications on February 13th, 2002 at the age of 64, and ailing for a few years before, the once high-flying country music Outlaw rode off into the sunset without an official farewell tour or a whole lot of fanfare.
But there was a moment that if you look back in history, it did constitute a proper final bow. On January 6th, 2000, Waylon Jennings played what many consider was his final major concert, and it was one for the ages. The second night of a two-night residency at the The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville—a.k.a the “Mother Church of Country Music”—Waylon Jennings held court with a now legendary band, and numerous special guests. Though it wasn’t necessarily meant to be a farewell concert at the time, it ultimately became one. And lucky for all of us, there were both film and audio crews on hand to capture it all.
In the middle of 1999, it became obvious to Waylon and his closest friends and family that his health was failing and was unlikely to improve, even though he kept that information mostly close to the vest, and kept battling. Years of abusing his body with cocaine, and then bad eating habits after he’d weened himself off had taken its toll. Though the last thing Waylon would do is stage a farewell tour, he did assemble what he called his “hand-picked dream team” of musicians that he named The Waymore Blues Band, and began booking shows.
Waylon took long-time members from his original backing band The Waylors—including his legendary right-hand man and drummer Richie Albright—and adding other ringers to the mix such as the steel-guitar and mandolin/acoustic player Robby Turner and legendary session guitarist Reggie Young, Waylon also conscripted a complete horn section to back him up. In total, there were 13 players in the Waymore Blues Band. It was ambitious, and defiant.
Only appropriate Waylon opened the final Ryman show with the song “Never Say Die”—a song Waylon wrote, which would go on to become the name of a 2-CD and DVD set that was released from the performance in 2007, dubbed “The Final Concert.” Waylon was ailing, and had to sit as opposed to stand to perform, but his voice and his attitude was as strong as ever.
“I guess y’all noticed I’m sittin’ on this chair,” Waylon said to the crowd after the second song. “And that ain’t all old age. I kinda hurt my back and my legs. But I’m gettin’ around. Y’all don’t worry about me. I can still kick ass. You’ve just got to bring ’em up here … I don’t want you girls worrying about me either, ’cause once you’ve had a cripple, you never go back.”
During the evening, Waylon ran through some of his most memorable hits like “Good Hearted Woman” and “Amanda.” But at the time, Waylon was also very much playing music for himself with a hot shot band behind him, and he performed a large handful of cover songs, from “Suspicious Minds,” to “I’ve Never Been to Spain,” to “The Weight,” and one of his favorite songs to play live, Toy Caldwell’s “Can’t You See.”
Also joining Waylon on stage during the two night stint at the Ryman were his wife Jessi Colter who sang her signature song “I’m Not Lisa,” along some of the hottest names in popular traditional country at that time, including John Anderson who joined Waylon for “Waymore’s Blues,” Travis Tritt who traded lines on “I’ve Always Been Crazy,” and Montgomery Gentry who joined Waylon on “I’m a Ramblin’ Man.”
Waylon would go on to play some more shows after his January 6th, 2000 appearance at the Ryman Auditorium, but not many, and perhaps none more memorable. He underwent surgery later in the year to help improve the circulation in his legs, and then in 2001, had his left foot amputated due to diabetes.
Waylon was never one to make a big “to do” about himself. He skipped his own Country Music Hall of Fame induction in October of 2001, saying the distinction meant “absolutely nothing, if you want to know the truth about it,” sending his son Buddy to accept the award on his behalf. But at the time, Waylon’s health was in such serious decline, perhaps he was in an ornery mood, or didn’t want to be seen in public, or couldn’t make the trip from Arizona.
But the late-era Waylon Jennings his fans will always remember is the one captured on the Ryman stage on those two dates in early January of 2000, even if he was sitting down instead of standing at center stage. Still defiant, still making country his way, Waylon went out in style.
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Purchase Never Say Die: The Complete Final Concert
January 6, 2021 @ 10:12 am
A killer show for sure. So good, I have watched it a few times for good measure. Loved seeing the guests, John Anderson was great as was Jessie and of course Tritt. Also enjoyed seeing him jam on some Memphis sounding stuff with horns. And there is bonus footage at the end with rehearsals and interviews. Well worth watching. Gotta say, not all Waylon sets were equal, but this was a good one. He left us too soon, unfortunately.
January 6, 2021 @ 10:13 am
He was one of a kind-
January 6, 2021 @ 10:25 am
I wish he could have had the sendoff that Johnny Cash had with the American recordings. Their have been some cool projects come up but not to this magnitude.
January 6, 2021 @ 4:51 pm
I had the honor of meeting Waylon when I was stationed at Camp Lejuine NC, hospital. I was given the task of escorting him whenever our troops was bombed in Bireut. There was No Smoking signs every where. He said “does that mean I can’t smoke” I told him he was Waylon Jennings and he could smoke any where he wanted. I miss him.
Keepin it Country
January 6, 2021 @ 10:57 am
I wish Waylon would come back and kick Kane Clown’s ass.
Been awhile since I posted. Glad to be back!
January 6, 2021 @ 11:45 am
Man, his voice was still strong, even if he was starting to have health issues. He was always my favorite compared to the other Highwaymen, because his voice was just unmatched to my ears.
January 6, 2021 @ 12:57 pm
“Never Been to Spain” is one of my favourite songs ever! I really like Waylon’s performance of it – although I think Elvis’s version of the song is the best! Anyway it’s written by Hoyt Axton who has got to be my favourite non-country singer (although you could argue that a lot of his songs are country and it looks like they did get on the country charts although I’ve always thought that his songs are more folk music). Hoyt Axton’s own version of it has got to be the second best in my opinion – Hoyt Axton has so many good songs himself it’s amazing although his most famous ones were the ones covered by other artists. Interestingly in the third verse everyone sings “In Oklahoma, not Arizona” or variations thereof but in Hoyt Axton’s own version of the song he sings “In Oklahoma, born in a coma” instead. I don’t know why it was changed but I think the line “born in a coma” is an interesting thought to end a song on in which he talks about places he thinks he knows but for whatever reason won’t go to – Spain, England, Las Vegas and his birth state (Oklahoma) from which he moved away from at an early age (with him comparing his experiences there as the same as being there in a coma as he doesn’t have any conscious memories but possibly feels some unconscious memories or connection). But then I think saying “In Oklahoma, not Arizona” also conveys his opinion that he’s thinking it doesn’t matter what state he was born in (he might as well have been born in Arizona) but then feels he has a special connection to Oklahoma (he implies there’s a connection between it and heaven earlier on in the verse).
January 7, 2021 @ 7:38 am
I won a case of beer once, by knowing that Hoyt Axton wrote “The Pusher.” I always liked Hoyt Axton. Della and the Dealer is a great song.
Sir Adam the Great
January 8, 2021 @ 7:44 am
Hoyt Axton was extremely talented and underrated. One of my favorites.
January 8, 2021 @ 11:51 am
You do ramble on. I have always been as big a fan of Hoyt as of Waylon. Saw both of them live, Hoyt in about 1980 in a blip on the map place in Idaho, and Waylon in ’84 at Opryland. Hoyts show was better, actually.
January 6, 2021 @ 1:46 pm
Hoyt Axton was so damn cool, I guess having a mother who wrote Heartbreak Hotel kind of helps. His album Southbound featured: James Burton, Doug Dillard, John Hartford, George Clinton as well as Cheech and Chong!
January 6, 2021 @ 2:16 pm
The No No song is hilarious!
January 6, 2021 @ 2:09 pm
There is not much I can say that hasn’t been said about Waylon, he remains THE legend amongst legends. What I can say from personal experience is that he was kind and welcoming to his fans: back in October of “87, my cousin, her roommate, and myself drove from Las Cruces, NM the four hours to Carlsbad, NM in a tiny Toyota pick-up to see Waylon perform. Waylon gave an exceptional show along with Miss Jessie; after the show and after everyone left the auditorium, three college kids with more nerve than brains boldly walked backstage to the area of the dressing rooms, the gentleman at the door asked what we wanted, we asked if we could get a picture, his response was, “Well, I’m sure you don’t want one of me.” and walked us in. Inside Waylon came over to greet us, we asked to take some pictures and without hesitation Waylon responded with a booming “Sure! Come on over here.” From what I’ve read and seen, this was just one of the many instances that Waylon demonstrated his deep appreciation for his fans….that ticket stub, picture, and memory are still cherished to this day.
Charlotte j Lyons
January 6, 2021 @ 5:19 pm
Waylon Jennings is the Best Entertainer I have ever listened to and I love I’ve got all this music there will never be another Waylon Jennings
January 6, 2021 @ 3:43 pm
Waylon was a REAL KUNTRY SINGER.. I started listening to Waylon at 10 would baby sit or cut grass even clean someones house to get money to buy his music. I am a GEORGIA girl, to ,me Waylon was one FINE looking man I never did like pretty boys. Loved the way Waylon did his on thing didnt care if you Iiked it or not. He would not let Nashville control him or his music in my heart WAYLON will live for ever. Yes I am grown with grown sons of my own an yes they know WAYLON and all the OUTLAWS of the 70’s and listen to them, for christmas my oldest got me a WAYLON shirt best gift ever. Keep on keeping on WAYLON
January 6, 2021 @ 4:02 pm
He’s still the king imo
January 7, 2021 @ 10:28 am
That would be Bob Wills. Waylon said so 😉
Marc t Cohen
March 10, 2021 @ 3:20 pm
Ryan the funny things is Waylon did not like Bob Wills. He wrote that song because he was made at Willie.
David Lee Wooten
July 3, 2021 @ 2:49 pm
Not about Waylon, although he was great! But what does Gene Watson have to do to get the hall? He’s been at it for 60 years, I’ve been to 11 of his concerts
January 6, 2021 @ 4:23 pm
I named my son after Waylon. One of the all time greats and a true Texan.
January 6, 2021 @ 4:24 pm
Waylon for me is the best of the best the show recorded here was amazing. I saw Waylon 3x in the 80’s later in the early 90’s and then it was either 1999 or 2000 not long before or after the Ryman shows. Seeing Waylon in his home state of Texas at a legendary club like Billy Bobs in Fort Worth was a sight to behold. Even that last show I saw were he played seated his legendary voice and Charisma were in full display. RIP MAESTRO!!!
January 6, 2021 @ 4:39 pm
I absolutely idolize Waylon, no problem there. Have watched the video so many times. One point, cant say I like it a lot where he says…
“I don’t want you girls worrying about me either, ’cause once you’ve had a cripple, you never go back.”
Not sure if I’m reading it right, or somewhat to sensitive. Would like to edit that line out if it was possible.
January 6, 2021 @ 6:27 pm
I liked Waylon from the first time I heard him- before there was an outlaw thing-
But, watching him at a couple of the Highwaymen shows gave me a different perspective and respect for him as a person- when Willie and Kris did Loving her was easier, he was their biggest cheer leader- one of the shows, he made a show of applauding Willies guitar playing and that raised him up a notch or two in my book- and, his sense of humor was pure west Texas-
January 6, 2021 @ 7:03 pm
omg he has a horn section
January 6, 2021 @ 8:21 pm
Thought of the whole “Great Horn Scare” around Sturgill’s “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth” when writing this retrospective.
January 6, 2021 @ 8:47 pm
Horn section? That ain’t no part a nuthin’! 😉
January 6, 2021 @ 7:25 pm
I think his last recording “The Dream” that was released after he died was his very best. Never tire of listening to him but especially that one. Would love to find a live performance of it.
January 6, 2021 @ 7:43 pm
Waylon is at the top of my list. His expanded live album is a must own.
Pick it Moon !!!
Sir Adam the Great
January 8, 2021 @ 2:23 pm
The first time I heard that album it was being played in a music store in Hixson, TN. I liked Waylon then, but that one made me a fan. Can not recommend this one enough.
January 6, 2021 @ 8:36 pm
One can debate who the king of country is, or the coolest, luckiest, or richest.
But there is only one HOSS! His shoes have been retired. There is no one, nor will be anyone, who can fill them.
January 7, 2021 @ 6:18 am
I watched a *documentary* last night on you tube of the Highwaymen rehearsal in a studio- one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen- each one was a great personality- you’d be hard put to say which was better, but Kris, Willie and Waylon had a much easier going personality than Cash- they did a song called “Everyone Gets Crazy Now and Then” I’d never heard- each had a verse and each verse fit each individual perfectly-
Waylon came across as a cut up- Kris and he didn’t get along politically but had a good rapport nine the less- Willie, or Kris (don’t remember which) said Waylon had to have something to worry about and they always made sure he had it- LOL
January 7, 2021 @ 7:37 am
Yep, a horn section. As did Merle Haggard and Hank Jr, Bob Wills and Asleep At The Wheel and even sometimes Willie. Ive no beef with horns now and then. Not saying they belong in every song, but now and then they add something fun to the mix. Saw Jamey Johnson a couple years back and he had horns in the band too. Nobody complained. He still sounded country as Apple pie.
January 7, 2021 @ 7:42 am
I’ve always liked a song or two, here and there, that features horns, especially if its got a Dixieland sound.
January 7, 2021 @ 8:12 am
I like these retrospectives. But damn, it’s sometimes depressing to be reminded of how much things have changed, not for the better.
January 7, 2021 @ 9:10 am
There will never ever be another HOSS. Go watch any Highwaymen performance and tell me that he doesn’t stand out. Waylon was and is Immortal.
January 7, 2021 @ 12:04 pm
I was working at the ED the night he came in and died. Quite a punch in the gut when we found out who the patient was and the media circus that grew!
January 7, 2021 @ 2:46 pm
I was lucky enough to meet Waylon Jennings at an ice machine in hotel in Lake Tahoe in 1978. I had no clue who this scruffy, raspy voiced guy was but he was so friendly. Imagine my shock that night at the Johnny Cash concert when he introduced Waylon to join him for their new song “Working on a Chaingang”….My four friends thought I was kidding until after the show; there was Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings and their entourages walking past our room to theirs across the hallway! Waylon tipped his hat and said”Surprise lil lady!” Shocked was more like it….I had told him that morning at the ice machine that I was there for Johnny Cash but wished it was Waylon or Kris Kristofferson!! Yes I blushed.
January 9, 2021 @ 9:34 pm
“Chain Gang” a/k/a “Working on a Chain Gang” was a song by the great R&B vocalist and writer, Same Cooke, released in 1960, and later covered by Jim Croce. (Both of whom died in their early 30’s, for different reasons.)
Waylon and Cash recorded “There Ain’t No Good Chain Gang.”
January 7, 2021 @ 3:51 pm
Waylon welcomed a mutual friend of ours to Heaven on New Years Day- specifically, an old friend from Knoxville named Bobby K.
Waylon and Bobby ran in low circles for years chasing whiskey and cocaine.
Until Bobby got clean and sober in 1981.
Waylon (and I) both saw the light a few years later and we all straightened up.
The number of people that Bobby helped over the next 40 years is incalculable.
He was as certainly a friend and mentor to me.
My loss is Waylon’s gain.
I still listen to Waylon and Jessie all the time.
January 8, 2021 @ 2:44 am
I saw Waylon several times in New York: Once solo at the Bottom Line, with Jessi opening. Ad twice with the Highwaymen–at Nassau Coliseum when “Silver Stallion” came out, and then in Central Park, in the summer, when “The Road Goes On Forever” was issued.
Waylon was the star of the Highwaymen act: The emcee–whether by design, or he just assumed the role–the cut-up, the entertainer, the only one who really spoke to the crowd.
It’s a shame that Waylon did no enjoy the late career resurgence that Cash did. Cash’s late career resurgence continued after his death and even to this day. Waylon put out some excellent albums in the ’90s–“Too Dumb for New York City, Too Ugly for L.A.,” “Waymore’s Blues (Part II),” “Right for the Time,” and “Closing In on the Fire,” and unlike Cash and Willie, his albums from that era consisted mostly of sharp, new, original material that he wrote himself–songs like “Endangered Species,” “Wild Ones,” “Up in Arkansas,” “Out of Jail By Now” –but they never got much attention.
Waylon was a great singer and a pretty damn good electric guitar player as this clip from the Highwaymen’s epic Nassau Coliseum concert shows.
January 9, 2021 @ 6:08 am
Always loved Waylon’s music and still do. Always wanted to see him and Willie in concert. That opportunity finally arose and it was the worse concert of my life. Waylon had carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists at the same time so he couldn’t play guitar and when Willie came on stage he plugged in his guitar and sent feedback throughout the whole arena and it went downhill from there. But I still love Waylon’s music. He sang my life.
January 9, 2021 @ 8:07 pm
Trig, appreciate you posting this. It seems to be so long ago since this show aired but also like yesterday. I always felt like this was going to be Waylon’s farewell show and it turned out to be. Most of us him miss him dearly and this was a great memory of The Hoss. Thanks again and I’ll miss good ole Waylon. -R
March 15, 2022 @ 3:24 pm
Waylon took the “o” in country music with him when he passed. Those days will not come again. He WAS the genre, in my mind. RIP
Brad from Kansas
January 31, 2023 @ 11:03 am
I saw Waylon Jennings at Camp Lejeune as well. He wanted to eat Marine Corps chow during his visit. I was doing a month of mess duty when he and his entourage ate in the 10th Marines mess hall. No time to relax when he visited though, because they came in during normal chow hours along with every hungry Marine in our regiment.