Originally published in the August 20, 1996 issue of Country Weekly magazine.
With his heart in country music but with a foot solidly planted in rockabilly, Waylon Jennings shook up the buttoned‑down Music Row establishment after first trying to play the game by its rules.
“If there’s no edge in the music, there’s no edge in me,” the legendary country Outlaw explains in *Waylon: An Autobiography*, to be published next month by Warner Books.
There’s plenty of edge ‑‑ including some profane language ‑‑ in this thoroughly entertaining first‑person account that reads just like Waylon talks.
If you don’t know how he talks, you certainly will from this read. You’ll feel as if you’ve gotten to know him personally, and you’ll like and respect him even more for always sticking by his guns and his art, no matter the consequences.
He candidly presents all of the highs and lows of his remarkable life, delivered in a deliciously colorful and colloquial style. An interviewer’s dream for his frankness, Waylon characteristically pulls no punches in the book ‑‑ he’s always loved to speak his mind.
Some of his celebrity friends will be relieved to know that this isn’t a tell-all. Most of the dirty laundry Waylon airs, in particular his addiction to drugs (he has long since kicked the habit), is his own.
There are no earth‑shaking revelations in *Waylon*, but there are ample anecdotes ‑‑ some sad, some hilarious, some frightening ‑‑ to keep fans enthralled.
One scary episode: The time Waylon was confronted by a crazed gunman in a robbery attempt after a show. “There’s always the threat of violence when you get up on stage,” he philosophizes in introducing this heart‑pounding passage. “You don’t know when trouble will come your way or how you’ll deal with it.”
The star has dealt with a lot. He vividly describes his impoverished Texas childhood, musical influences (Hank Williams, Carl Smith, Elvis Presley), school years (Waylon was expelled from a high school music class for “lack of music ability”), his career as a DJ, friendships with Buddy Holly, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and other stars, his own rise to stardom in the 1970s, and his marriages and open‑heart surgery.
The diet that necessitated Waylon’s quadruple bypass along with a seven‑pack‑a‑day cigarette habit, is rather startling if not downright disgusting when it’s laid out in print.
“My favorite breakfast was sausage, gravy, and biscuit,” he writes. “Cheese eggs and jelly. Scrambled-egg sandwiches. Three fried eggs with sausage or bacon. When I moved on to lunch, I’d eat three or four ham‑and‑grilled‑cheese sandwiches, piling on the lettuce and tomatoes, jalapenos and onions. Dinner would be a roast with potatoes and carrots cooking in with the gravy. Before I went to sleep, I’d grab a few scrambled-egg sandwiches and down a glass of milk. For a snack, I’d refry a dozen doughnuts in butter.
“That’s how you join the Zipper Club.”
How he ultimately joined the pantheon of country music is a decidedly more palatable story, and along the way we come to learn how the country music business ‑‑ warts and all ‑‑ really works. Waylon even describes the incident that sparked his continuing feud with the powerful Country Music Association.
On the state of country music today, he writes: “You can smell the change in the wind, whipping up the tumbleweeds . . . There’s surely a new generation out there, and it’s ready for its turn in the follow spot. I don’t intend to be old and in the way, or let anybody run me off . . .
“The thing is, we’re in this together, the old, the new, the one‑hit wonders and the lifetime achievers, the writers and the session pickers and the guy who sells the T‑shirts. The folks that come to the shows, and the ones that stay home and watch it on TNN.”