Jessi Colter was born Mirriam Johnson on May
25, 1943 in Phoenix, Arizona. She adopted her stage name, Jessi Colter,
after her great-great-great uncle, Jess Colter who was a real life train
robber and counterfeiter who rode in Frank and Jesse James' notorious
outlaw gang. Her mother was an ordained Pentecostal minister and Colter
became the church pianist at age 11. As a teen, Colter's musical talent
impressed another Arizona native, Duane Eddy, who in l961, produced
her first single "Lonesome Road". Duane and Jessi were married in l962.
For years, Jessi toured with Duane mostly throughout Europe. In l966
the couple settled in Los Angeles. He wrote and recorded the instrumental
"Mirriam. Under the name Mirriam Eddy, Colter wrote some songs for Duane
as well as "No Sign for the Living" for Dottie West and songs for Don
Gibson and Nancy Sinatra. In l967, Eddy and Colter recorded the duet
single, "Guitar on My Mind", but divorced the following year.
Colter returned to Phoenix and it was
there that she met Waylon Jennings who was so taken by her voice that
he invited her to record a duet with him. Jennings then helped secure
a record deal for Colter with his label, RCA and co-produced the tracks
that would make up her l970 debut, A Country Star Is Born. By the time
the record was released, the couple had already married. Colter married
Waylon Jennings at her mother's church on October 26, l969.
Under the name Waylon & Jessi, the duo released two Top 40 singles;
a l970’s cover of Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds”
and l971’s “Under Your Spell Again”. In 1975, Colter
released her song “I’m Not Lisa” from her Capitol
Records debut I’m Jessi Colter, and the song went to number one
on the Billboard Country Chart and hit the top 5 on the Billboard Pop
Chart. The album also produced another Top Five country hit for Colter,
“Whatever Happened to Blue Eyes”.
In l976, Colter released two more highly successful albums of her own;
Jessi and Diamonds in the Rough. Also in l976, Colter teamed up with
Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Tompall Glaser for the album Wanted!
The Outlaws. At the time of its release, it was the biggest-selling
album in country music history and the first country album to be certified
platinum. Colter spent the rest of the decade touring extensively supporting
The Outlaws album in addition to releasing Miriam in l977 and That’s
the Way the Cowboy Rocks and Rolls in l978.
In l981, Colter and Jennings teamed up again and released an album of
duets entitled Leather and Lace and the couple hit again with “Storms
Never Last” and the medley “Wild Side of Life/It Wasn’t
God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”. In l982, Jessi produced her final
hit chart hit “Holdin’ On” from yet another solo album
Ridin’ Shotgun. Jesse’s final release in the eighties was
l985’s Rock and Roll Lullaby. In the words of her friend and admirer
Kris Kristofferson, Jessi’s “fierce commitment to being
Waylon’s soul mate and Shooter’s mom put her own art in
In the nineties, Jessi focused her energies on performing children’s
music and starred in the home video Jessi Colter Sings Songs From Around
the World Just For Kids which featured a guest appearance by Jennings.
In 2003, Jessi showcased her legacy with the release of An Outlaw…A
Lady: The Very Best of Jessi Colter for those of us who were part of
the magic as it happened and for the new generation to come. Jessi’s
overdue recognition in the form of her CD retrospective, her re-emergence
as a recording and concert artist bodes well for the future of popular
music when it can surely use someone of her vision, originality and