Waylon Jennings (June 15, 1937 – February 13, 2002)
Waylon Arnold Jennings was
born in Littlefield, Texas. He learned guitar at age 8 and began his professional
music career on radio at age 12! He had numerous jobs as radio DJs. In 1958 musician Buddy Holly arranged
Jennings’ first recording session. Jennings soon joined Holly’s band. In 1959 they were on tour for the “Winter Dance Party” across the Midwest. After a performance at Clear Lake, Iowa, Holly chartered a plane to take them to Moorhead, Minnesota. On board were Holly, Richie Valens, J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson and pilot Roger Peterson. Shortly after takeoff, Peterson lost control and the plane crashed killing everyone on board. Jennings was supposed to have been on that flight, but he gave up his seat to Richardson who was ill with the flu. Jennings continued working as a radio DJ and recording his own material.
During the 1970s, Jennings joined the Outlaw movement and released numerous critically acclaimed albums. In the early 1980s he was grappling with a cocaine addiction, which he gave up doing in 1984. He joined the country supergroup, The Highwaymen, with Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash. His touring schedule began to slow down in 1997 so he could spend more time with his family. Between 1999 and 2001, Jennings retreated even more due to health problems. On February 13, 2002, Jennings died at age 64 due to complications from diabetes.
Jennings composed and sang the theme to The Dukes of Hazzard. In 2001, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2007, he was posthumously honored with the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award by the Academy of Country Music.