With Texas blood and Arizona roots, Waylon Jennings is one of a handful of towering figures in country music. He has influenced instrumental and vocal styles, shaped attitudes and launched major trends, all by staying true to himself and his vision.
Born in 1937 in Littlefield, Texas, he grew up listening to folk songs and the music of seminal artists like Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams. He was a disc jockey at 14, and had already formed his own band at the age of 12, making guest appearances on local radio station where he met Buddy Holly in 1955.
He moved to rural Coolidge for a radio job in the early 60’s, then on to Phoenix, playing small clubs around town. When JD’s night club opened for business in 1964, Waylon and The Waylors were an instant success. We played all kinds of songs,” Jennings said, “I just didn’t sing country music. We did rock ‘n’ roll and some folk music and some blues. We played the things the cowboys liked as well as the students, the professors, the baseball players and the rock ‘n’ rollers.”
After signing with RCA Records in 1965 he continued to headline at JD’s. On this stage he honed his writing and performance skills, and at Audio Recorders he made his first records before heading to Nashville. There he was dubbed an Outlaw for demanding and eventually getting the right to record the material he wanted, in the studio he wanted, with the musicians he wanted. It was, he said, a simple matter of artistic freedom.
Waylon recorded more than 60 albums, had 16 No. 1 country hits and was the first artist to have a platinum album in the four decades of music he helped shape. He joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in October 2001.