Saengerhalle to host June 27 Jennings tribute

Friend recalls memories of late country star

By Richard Zowie

Times Guardian Staff Writer

Saengerhalle will host a June 27 CD release party for a Waylon Jennings tribute CD entitled "Red River Shootout."

The double live CD features tribute songs by artists like Cross Canadian Ragweed, Billy Joe Shaver, The Mike McClure Band, Susan Gibson, Jerry Jeff Walker and son Django, Waylon "Shooter" Jennings Jr. and Jessi Colter Jennings. The recording was done last September at Saengerhalle.

"The Red River Tribute" is being released through Underground Sound Records. All proceeds from the album and event will go to the Diabetes Foundation.

"We were honored to be a part of the recording and happy to be a part of it," said Terry Chase, co-owner of Saengerhalle. "Waylon, as all the artists have said, affected every aspect of music. He was an influence in music and opened the doors for all artists."

Lubbock-born songwriter/comedian Don Bowman, a longtime friend of Jennings', recalled some memories of his friend. While a junior at Texas Tech, Bowman first met Jennings while the two were working at country station KLLL in Lubbock. At the time, Bowman was a disk jockey from noon to 3 p.m. while Jennings went on from 3-6 p.m.

"We'd go in the production room, write songs, cut demos and most of the time stay in a lot of trouble," Bowman recalled, noting that the late Buddy Holly would come into the radio station to work on songs.

Bowman said he knew Jennings was going to be a star, recalling how he and Jennings would go do live remotes on Saturdays at the Mars Fruit and Vegetable Stand. While Bowman gave prices of the fruits and vegetables over the air, Jennings would play away on his guitar and sing.

"[Waylon's] voice-there was something ghostly about it," Bowman recalled. "You could hear it in the middle of 50 people and know it was Waylon. As for his guitar playing, you could put 13 guitar players together and I can tell you which was Waylon. He played it so much differently-twangs and runs-things nobody else played. It came so natural to him. It was just like Willie [Nelson]. The moment you heard it, you could tell on the turnaround that it was him."

Jennings later signed his first recording contract with A&M Records, a label that targeted various genres of music. Bowman had signed with RCA, which focused more on country. Bowman felt Jennings, as a country artist, wouldn't prosper with A&M since the label didn't really know what country music was about. He convinced Jennings to request to be released from his A&M contract and pursue one with RCA. Jennings did, and after playing a few live auditions was subsequently signed to an RCA contract by Chet Atkins.

Jennings, like Willie Nelson, was known as an "outlaw" of country music. Bowman said this came from an attitude of wanting more artistic control over music instead of having everything left up to record companies.

"[Waylon] and Willie started the outlaw movement, since record companies wouldn't let Waylon be Waylon or Willie be Willie," Bowman explained. "Record companies would tell you what songs to record and what musicians you'd use in your sessions. Waylon's attitude was like, 'that's not what I want to do.' Waylon decided he would cut his own sessions, pick his own musical material and pick his own musicians. You could hear a noticeable difference after that in his music when he did things his own way."

Jennings recorded more than 60 albums. Among Jennings' most memorable hits were Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys, A Good-hearted Woman, I've Always Been Crazy and Luckenbach, Texas. He also wrote and sang the theme to the popular eighties comedy-adventure The Dukes of Hazzard and provided the show's narration.

Of all Jennings' songs, which was Bowman's favorite? "Just to Satisfy You, since I wrote half of it," he recalled, chuckling.

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