Outlaw Country: A Waylon Jennings Tribute at the SiriusXM Theater

Waylon Jennings

Photo credit: Laralyn Drew

It has been almost 10 years since Waylon Jennings left us, but his music is still as influential as ever. On Tuesday, December 6, SiriusXM presented a special taping honoring Waylon Jennings and promoting the new album Waylon: The Music Inside Vol. II’. The event at the SiriusXM Theater in the Bridgestone Arena featured several acts including Josh Thompson, Jamey Johnson, Waylon’s widow Jessi Colter, and son Shooter Jennings. Also in the house – and rowdy as ever – was Waylon’s old friend Hank Williams Jr. For the taping, each took turns playing Waylon favorites, sharing cherished memories of the late outlaw, and recapturing the magic of the tribute albums.

“At first, I didn’t want anyone to sing these songs but [Waylon],” said Colter about the tribute albums. “But these people love these songs… I couldn’t be prouder.”

The show had the element of a songwriter’s round, only with intermittent anecdotes about the country legend. For the softer, heart-felt numbers some artists on stage closed their eyes and sang along, embracing the powerful lyrics imparted by Jennings. On the faster, hell-raisin’ tunes, the entire studio audience began to clap and sing along, with Johnson frequently providing impromptu lead guitar licks.

Also present at the event were radio personality Carl P. Mayfield and legendary producer and songwriter Cowboy Jack Clement who both shared funny stories of Jennings. Mayfield recounted when Waylon stole his watch, wrapped it, and gave it back to him as a gift while on the air; and Clement reminisced about the time Waylon utilized dynamite to retaliate against a particularly difficult venue.

Josh Thompson and Jamey Johnson were two of the younger acts that had not known the music icon personally, yet have been strongly influenced by his music. Johnson references the man more than once, including in his song “Between Jennings and Jones”, while Thompson penned his own underground hit “Blame It On Waylon”.

Waylon Jennings

Photo credit: Laralyn Drew

“[This] was very inspiring and nerve-racking,” said Thompson about being included with the others on Vol. II. “They played with the man… I wanted to make some changes [to the song], and I wasn’t sure what they would think, but they really embraced it.”

One such artist who “played with the man” was Bocephus himself. A longtime friend of Jennings, Williams Jr. had nothing but funny and fond memories to share, frequently comparing Jennings to his own father, Hank Williams Sr.

“It was daddy and him,” said Williams when asked about where Jennings ranks among the all-time greats. “That man was the hoss right there.”

Between the country music veterans, the new wave of outlaws, and the simple admirers, it was an event filled with great music and fond memories. Certainly, it was an outpouring of love for the late Jennings, but it was also a tribute to the music that has changed lives and transcended generations. If Vol. II is as powerful as Vol. I, country music fans young and old are in for a superbly put together treat.

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