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Music Review: Waylon Jennings – Folk Country/Waylon Sings Ol’ Harlan

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Seemingly small decisions sometimes last a lifetime. Waylon Jennings had been hired to play bass for his friend Buddy Holly for his tour during early 1959. The weather was freezing and the tour bus had little heat so after their February 2nd concert at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, Holly rented a small plane to fly him and two other musicians to their next concert. Waylon Jennings paid for a seat but at the last minute gave it to The Big Bopper who was not feeling well. In the early morning hours of February 3rd the plane crashed shortly after take-off killing everyone on board. Jennings would live another 43 years, sell millions of albums, and be inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 2003.

Waylon Jennings is best remembered today for being a part of the outlaw movement in country music. He was one of the first country artists to grow his hair long, get rid of the traditional suit and tie look, and record outside the Nashville mainstream. He, along with such artists as Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, David Alan Coe, and future wife of 33 years Jesse Colter, would change the perception and style of country music. They built on the traditions of the fifties and sixties and through their images and music, modernized country music and made it relevant to new generations of fans in the seventies and eighties.

His career and popularity were established during the mid to late sixties which were well before his outlaw days. He produced one album in early 1964 for a small independent label but two years later was signed to the giant RCA label where he would achieve stardom as a traditional country artist. All of his albums for the label would reach the upper regions of the country charts and produce dozens of hit singles.

Collector’s Choice Music has now re-issued six of his early RCA albums on three CD’s. Not only is it nice to have these long out of print releases back in circulation but they have put two complete albums on each disc. If you are a fan of early country music these releases are excellent and essential.

Folk Country was his first album for the RCA label and was issued in 1966. It was produced by the legendary Chet Atkins and contains his first two hits, “That’s The Chance I’ll Have To Take” and “Stop The World.” An impossibly young Waylon Jennings is pictured on the cover and his voice has a suppleness and tone that had not been worn down by the passage of time. The two hits are surrounded by a nice selection of songs which included “Cindy Of New Orleans” with some creative 12 string guitar, “Now Everybody Knows” which was penned by Don Bowman, who also wrote the original liner notes, and “Another Bridge To Burn,” which was the first of dozens of Harlan Howard songs that he would record during his career.

Waylon Sings Ol’ Harlan was his first of three releases during 1967 and his fourth overall for the RCA label. It was an album comprised of twelve compositions by Harlan Howard (1929-2002). Howard would only record six studio albums during the course of his long career but would write over 3000 songs which were recorded by hundreds of artists. It was his writing ability which would usher him into The Country Music Hall Of Fame in 1997. Howard’s original liner notes are included and “Busted,” “Tiger By The Tail,” “She Called Me Baby,” and “Sunset and Vine” are highlights.

Folk Country/Waylon Sings Ol’ Howard contains enough treats for any music fan as it resurrects a long lost part of the career of country legend Waylon Jennings.

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