Waylon Jennings - vocals, guitars, banjo; Jessi Colter - vocals; Dan Mustoe - drums; Ralph Mooney - pedal steel guitar; Gary Scruggs - guitar; Jerry Bridges - bass; Rance Wasson - guitars; Floyd Domino - keyboards
Few people have had the impact on country music, and all contemporary music, for that matter, as Waylon Jennings. Recorded on his 47th birthday (his wife, Jessi Colter, sings "Happy Birthday" to him midway through the show), this appearance at the Centrum Center in Worcester, MA, is one of the finest live recordings of the outlaw country singer-songwriter you're likely to ever hear. In a show that also featured his wife, Jessi Colter, it captured the superstar couple at the height of their popularity, and just as Jennings was ending a much-publicized 20 year addiction to cocaine and alcohol.
Opening with the upbeat charted hit, "Luckenbach, Texas," Jennings, his wife, and his longtime backup band, deliver a sassy and thoroughly enjoyable set that featured their solo hits, their own duets, and hits made famous by the likes of Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. This isn't quite as good as a Highwaymen show (the supergroup Jennings formed with Nelson, Cash and Kristofferson in 1985), but it sure is damn close.
Most of Jennings' finest material is here, as well as some of the best duets he did with his wife. Among the highlights of this brilliant show are "I Can Get Off On You," "Dreaming My Dreams With You," "Good Ol' Boys," "Good Hearted Woman," "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way," "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys," "I Ain't Living Long Like This," and "I've Always Been Crazy." The band, known as the Waylors, which had backed Jennings and Colter for almost two decades, is exceptional, especially the astounding pedal steel guitar of Ralph Mooney.
Jennings was born in Littlefield, Texas, and dropped out of high school to become a DJ at the age of 15. He moved to Lubbock, and soon became close friends with Buddy Holly, who became his musical mentor. Holly taught Jennings how to play guitar and bass, and encouraged him to become a writer and singer. Jennings left radio to record for Brunswick Records in 1957, with his first record produced by Holly himself. When Holly needed a new bass player for the Crickets in 1959, he called Jennings, who took the gig.
On February 4th, Jennings gave up his seat on a small private plane that was scheduled to carry himself, Holly, and Richie ("La Bamba") Valens to the next gig. The other star on the tour, the Big Bopper, (who had a huge hit with "Chantilly Lace"), had the flu, so Jennings let him take his seat on four-seater plane. Jennings would have to travel in a broken down bus whose heater was busted, and the last thing he said to his close friend, Buddy Holly, jokingly, was: "I hope you're ole damn plane crashes!" Jennings would never forgive himself for the comment and for years blamed himself for the famous crash that killed all three stars.
He re-emerged in the 1960s as a country star, with the help of Chet Atkins, who signed him to RCA Records. Jennings would remain there for over a decade, and in the 1970s, he develop the "outlaw" country persona, which also included friends Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, Bobby Bare, and others.
In 1969, he met and married a budding country singer named Mirriam Johnson. For the previous seven years, she had worked and toured with her first husband, rock 'n' roll pioneer Duane Eddy. Jennings encouraged her to write and record, and even produced her first records for Capitol. By then, she also adopted the "outlaw" persona, and changed her name to Jessi Colter (Chosen because she was actually a descendent of a desperado whose last name was Colter, a one-time member of the Jesse James Gang). Jennings and Colter remained married until Jennings' untimely death in 2002 from diabetes.