Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman looks at a singer who narrowly escaped death before going on to become a Texas music icon.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Friday on KXT and Saturday on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KERA radio’s 90.1 at Night.
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Waylon Jennings was born on June 15, 1937, near Littlefield, Texas. At 18, he began working at Lubbock’s KDAV radio, where he befriended another local musician named Buddy Holly. Jennings was playing bass in Buddy Holly’s band in 1959, when Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed in a plane crash. Jennings had given up his seat on the plane to The Big Bopper, who was too sick to ride in the tour bus. During the 1960s, Jennings enjoyed modest success as a country singer. But his career truly took off in 1976 when he teamed up with Willie Nelson to release Wanted: The Outlaws, the first country album ever to be certified platinum. With such hits as “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” and “Good Hearted Woman,” Waylon Jennings became a superstar and helped pioneer the outlaw country music movement of the 1970s and 1980s.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll honor a man who helped blend Texas and Louisiana music into a sound that became popular around the world.