Outsiders Radio: Episode #40

June 1, 2018

AIR DATE: June 2018

Hey everybody, it’s Eric Church back for the fortieth episode of “Outsiders Radio.”  As you know by now, we celebrate the outlaws of country here on Outsiders Radio: The folks who do it their own way, who buck the establishment, and stand up for what they believe in.  With that in mind, there’s a new exhibit on that subject at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Nashville. It’s called “Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring 70s.” Jessi Colter and Shooter Jennings were at the opening of the exhibit last month, and you’ll hear from both of them here this week.  But let’s get things started with a song that sort of summed up the whole outlaw movement from the great Waylon Jennings.

A song that’s as true today as it was back in 1975 from the great Waylon Jennings. Waylon spent many years fighting with his record label over creative control of his music.  His friend Willie Nelson took a different approach and returned to his home state of Texas.  The new exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame, “Outlaws & Armadillos,” tells that story.  Waylon’s widow Jessi Colter was at the opening, and she remembers a pivotal phone call between Willie and her husband.

Jessi: Willie said “Waylon, come down here. I have something.” When Waylon went into the Armadillo Headquarters and started playing, the University students at that time, there was Berkeley, there was Woodstock, and there was Austin. People were into weed and beer. Lots of beer. Waylon thought he was in a rock club, and knew it wasn’t right for him. He loved it, but he said, ‘Get Willie, that little red-headed son of a gun. Let me see what he got me into.’ It was awesome I’ve got my favorite picture of him after that show with his guitar, sweating. But it was the beginning of the young people loving country music such as Waylon and Willie, who happen to be Texans.

Willie Nelson and a song from his 1975 concept album Red Headed Stranger, that’s Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.  By the time he recorded that song, Willie had returned to Texas, and made that album away from the executives of his record label.  They were shocked when they heard the stripped-down production, and wanted him to add some strings to it.  Waylon Jennings went to New York to get them to release the album “as-is,” according to Waylon’s widow Jessi Colter.

Jessi: Waylon was there to defend him on Red Headed Stranger. I was in the room when they talked to the head of Columbia, ‘You can’t put those strings on there, if you do that, you’ll ruin it.’ I was there when Waylon went in the studio late at night, went into the vault, went through all the tapes, called Willie and said, ‘Willie they have all of our tapes here.’ I had recorded, he had recorded, Willie recorded, Tompaul had.  He says ‘Why don’t we put it together.’ They didn’t do it in those days, there was too much red tape between the companies.  They couldn’t do that.  I was there.

The result was the ground-breaking album “Wanted: The Outlaws,” featuring THIS timeless hit.

Waylon & Willie with their #1 duet “Good Hearted Woman.” We’re hearing from the “good hearted woman” herself, Waylon’s widow Jessi Colter, in this edition of Outsiders Radio on The Highway.  Jessi was saying that Waylon had a lot to do with the making of the album “Wanted: The Outlaws.” 

Jessi: I just knew he helped engineer it’s putting together at a very low amount. And they couldn’t deal, they couldn’t get enough field men to produce the platinum album, they had never in country music had that many sales, they didn’t expect it, and we really didn’t know until it was time to be announced and awarded. We were just working. We were doing our thing. It wasn’t any big concept.

Waylon & Willie from 1978: Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.  Their friendship the centerpiece of a new exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame called “Outlaws & Armadillos.”  Waylon’s widow Jessi Colter was at the exhibit’s opening last month.

Jessi: These are what was worn, what was used in our music, the places, Hillbilly Central, the dress I wore on my second album, some of Waylon’s things, the last guitar he played, you can see his belt marks, these were the things that were close to our bodies, to our environment, and I hope they yield a feeling to people who weren’t there.  I hope they make em feel like they were there.

Waylon Jennings with a song written by Rodney Crowell.  We’ve been spotlighting a new exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum called “Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring 70s.”  Earlier we heard from Waylon’s widow Jessi Colter. Her son, Shooter Jennings, was also at the exhibit’s opening last month.

Shooter: To me, I see it and I’m just elated because I know there are people, like my kids, I wanna bring my kids back, my daughter will see these paintings and understand. Like the greatest thing, there’s this painting over here they had made for this and it’s got my dad & Willie on the phone. That paints the story of when my dad was here, Willie left Nashville and said I’m gonna go to Texas, my dad said no, I’m gonna beat this system. When Willie got there, he built it up, and said, ‘Look I’ve got something going on here,’ that phone call is painted here.

Waylon Jennings, with help from Willie Nelson, and Luckenbach Texas.  We’ve been celebrating the new exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame called Outlaws & Armadillos.  Waylon’s son Shooter was at the exhibit last month.

Shooter: There’s a story being told in all of this, all the posters and everything, that is very important, and people in country music who are getting started need to know this story to understand how it worked, and it can relate to any type of art. This is a great example of groups of people coming together and conquering corporate America with real music. That’s really important. All it takes is a couple real people getting together and you can blow the whole thing wide open. This music was looked down upon when it came out, and now four decades later its revered as the real thing.

One more from the great Waylon Jennings.  We’ve been talking about the new exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame called “Outlaws & Armadillos,” spotlighting the music of Waylon & Willie.  Shooter Jennings mentioned there’s a piece in the exhibit from musician and writer Steve Young.  He was best known for the song “Seven Bridges Road,” but he ALSO wrote “Lonesome, On’ry, & Mean.”  That was the title song of Waylon’s 1973 album.  A few years ago, there was a Waylon tribute show in Austin, and I got a chance to sing that one.

That’s from a great tribute show called “Outlaw: Celebrating The Music of Waylon Jennings.” We’re gonna leave you with one more song popularized by Wayon.  “Are You Ready For The Country” was actually written by Neil Young, but recorded by Waylon in 1976.  Hank Williams Jr. recorded the song in 2016, forty years after Waylon.  Hank Jr. invited us join him on this song, and he told an interviewer why he picked me for the song. See you next time on Outsiders Radio.

Hank Jr: He opened shows for me, he said a lot of great things about me, I took him out, we did the metal detector thing, so I’ve known him 6 or 7 years, we found some great Civil War artifacts about 50 miles outside of Nashville. He said this is the greatest hobby in the world. Him & his wife. Then when they said these guys wanted to sing on this album and they said Eric, I said, Well that’s perfect.  He’s the perfect one. Believe me, this stuff is heaven sent, this whole thing has really come together.