Saturday, April 28, 2018
An Appreciation of Waylon Jennings
o how would you feel? It’s 1958. You’re 21 years old, spinning wax at a two-bit radio station in the middle of West Texas, just happy to be out of the cotton patch and not knowing nothing about nothing but Ernest Tubb, Pepsi-Colas, drive-in movies, and Moon Pies. That’s you, and one day your good friend, who is also your mentor and role model, who also sees a lot more in you than you see in yourself, waltzes into the booth at the radio station, tosses you an electric bass guitar, and tells you to learn how to play it. He’s taking you on a rock and roll tour, starting next month, January of 1959. A week later, your friend flies you to New York City and puts you up in his Greenwich Village apartment. You sleep on the couch, learn the bass, rehearse with the band, and explore Manhattan. The two of you have your picture made in a Grand Central photo booth. Then you climb on the bus, and in a wink, you’re crisscrossing the frozen Midwest in the dead of winter with a bunch of one-hit wonders, playing rock and roll shows in high school auditoriums and basketball gyms.
By the end of January you’ve played twenty shows. Your friend has decided to take you to London as his opening act, which is nice, but that’s a few weeks away, and right now it’s forty below in Duluth and the heat on the bus is out. The tour moves from Duluth to Clear Lake, Iowa, and nobody has any more clean clothes. West Texas boys (on account of their dirty minds) require clean clothing, so your friend charters a plane from Clear Lake to Fargo so you can all find a laundromat before the next night’s show. After the gig in Clear Lake, however, you and the guitar player get wangled out of your seats on the plane.