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Musical rebel Waylon Jennings is best remembered for helping to popularize a grittier and more rock-influenced style of outlaw country music.
Waylon Jennings fights the Nashville establishment.
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which is often seen as one of the early albums displaying his new so-called outlaw sound. This new style was a distinct break from the slick productions of the more traditional country music and began to develop its own following. Reaching the top of the country charts in 1974, “This Time” was the first number one hit for Jennings and was quickly followed by another chart-topper “I’m a Ramblin’ Man.”
Jennings got his first taste of crossover success in 1975 when “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” made its way onto the pop charts. Around that same time, he was honored by the Country Music Association as Male Vocalist of the Year. Jennings’ participation in the compilation Wanted! The Outlaws (1976) helped him become an even bigger name in music. A number one hit on the pop album charts, the recording featured songs by Jennings, Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser, and Jessi Colter, Jennings’ fourth wife. The couple even sang several duets together, including a cover of “Suspicious Minds.”
Joining forces with Nelson, he recorded Waylon & Willie (1978), which went on to sell several million copies. One of their duets from the album, “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” reached the top of the charts and gave Jennings his second Grammy Award. He and Nelson shared the honors for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.
For the rest of the decade and into the early 1980s, Jennings continued to make hits, including “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” and “Theme from ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ (Good Ol’ Boys).” In addition to creating the theme song for the television series, Jennings served as the narrator for the country comedy The Dukes of Hazzard.
Long known for his partying ways, Jennings’ drug use escalated into an expensive cocaine and amphetamine habit, which sometimes cost him as much as $1,500 a day. He decided to quit in 1984. The following year, Jennings teamed up with Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson to form the Highwaymen. They hit the top of the country charts with “Highwayman,” which was included on their successful album of the same name. The 1990 follow-up album, Highwayman 2, is not fare as well.
While he had a tough time getting his music played on country music stations, Jennings remained a popular performer, touring extensively until 1997. He even played a few dates on 1996 Lollapalooza tour, better known for showcasing alternative rock acts. Around this time, Jennings candidly shared his many ups and downs in Waylon: An Autobiography, written with Lenny Kaye.
Diagnosed with diabetes in the early 1990s, Jennings had trouble walking in his later years. But that did not stop him from making music. In 2000, Jennings recorded several performances at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium for the album Never Say Die Live.
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When it comes to singing about struggle and emotion, there are few genres that match the intensity of country music. Country music was born from musicians that were brave enough to wear their hearts on their sleeves from happiness to heartache. Because of country icons like Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Jimmie Rodgers, this southern, soulful genre has grown to become loved by many. Browse through the legends that established country music as the popular genre that it is today.
Country Legends 18 people in this group
Country Music Outlaws 5 people in this group
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