photo: Gary Miller
The star-studded lineup of performers also includes Alison Krauss, Robert Earl Keen, Chris Stapleton, Toby Keith, Eric Church, Kacey Musgraves, Sturgill Simpson, Jamey Johnson, son Shooter Jennings, widow Jessi Colter, and Billy Joe Shaver. Producers Buddy Cannon and Don Was will serve as musical directors; the latter will lead the backing band as well.
The event is being filmed and recorded for release at a future date.
—Juli Thanki, email@example.com
On Monday, July 6, 2015, a collection of music’s legendary outlaws and rising superstars will come together for a once-in-a-lifetime concert event at ACL Live At The The Moody Theater in Austin, TX, to honor Waylon Jennings, one of the most influential musicians of the Outlaw Country movement. The concert event will be filmed and recorded for multi-platform distribution throughout traditional and digital media.
OUTLAW: CELEBRATING THE MUSIC OF WAYLON JENNINGS will feature performances by: Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Toby Keith, Eric Church, Kacey Musgraves, Ryan Bingham, Sturgill Simpson, Jamey Johnson, Lee Ann Womack, Chris Stapleton, Shooter Jennings, Jessi Colter, and Billy Joe Shaver. Additional performers to be announced.
Grammy Award-winner Don Was serves as co-music director and will lead an all-star band backing the performers at this concert event. Legendary music producer Buddy Cannon also serves as co-music director. “Waylon Jennings was my friend, brother, and musical soul mate”, said Willie Nelson. “Playing his songs with these incredible artists, is going to be one hell of a concert event.”
Ticket purchasers will also have the chance to purchase tickets to the exclusive concert event after- party. Details to be announced shortly. 100% of the proceeds from the after- party event will be donated to the United Way and earmarked to help Central Texas residents most affected by the recent Memorial Day floods.
by: By Joe Gross
Attention, people of Texas in general and Austin in particular: Michael Streissguth, author of “Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville,” insists that the title is not personal.
Indeed, it absolutely makes sense.
When most folks think of outlaw country, they think of Texas. “Progressive” country, the Armadillo World Headquarters, hippies and rednecks getting together: These things are as crucial to the mythology of late 20th-century Austin as anything.
But Waylon Jennings, he of the massive voice, rugged persona and love of the guitar phaser-effect; Willie Nelson, he of “Red-Headed Stranger” and dealing with super-stardom better than most; Kris Kristofferson, he of a genuinely revolutionary way to write country songs: These guys were rebelling against Nashville, not Texas.
And Nashville was still (and is still) the world capital of country music, the center of the industry, the place where all three artists spent an awful lot of time.
“I do feel like Nashville lived in some ways in the shadows of this movement,” Streissguth says.
The Le Moyne College professor is the author of several books on country music, including two on Johnny Cash. “They had come from Texas, but they were based in Nashville, for the most part,” Streissguth says. (Willie’s Texas residency excluded.) “I wanted to tell the Nashville side of the story.”
Streissguth says the book started when he began to look into the life and times of the great Waylon Jennings.
“When ‘Crazy Heart’ with Jeff Bridges came out, it reminded me that Jennings had been dead (about seven years), and he seemed to be slipping from memory,” Streissguth says. He started getting into Waylon’s life and career, and that opened up the outlaw topic.
“Outlaw” traces the movement via the very different career paths of Jennings, Nelson and Kristofferson. All three intersected with each other’s careers, all three embodied a new way of thinking about (and writing and recording) country music.
But all three started at different points and arrived at very different places. Along with way, Streissguth folds in figures such as Billy Joe Shaver, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Kinky Friedman, and, of course, Johnny Cash.
“I don’t want to say there is a specific path from Cash to outlaw,” Streissguth says. However, Cash is certainly a player, recording Kristofferson’s songs and engaging progressive singer-songwriters on his short-lived-but-increasingly legendary TV show, which featured performances from Kristofferson, Jennings and Bob Dylan.
In fact, Dylan’s recording “Blonde on Blonde” in Nashville is one of the key moments in the development of outlaw country. “There was one ‘a-ha!’ moment in writing this, and that was finding out that Kristofferson was working as a studio lackey during the ‘Blonde on Blonde’ sessions,” Streissguth says. “I don’t think you can’t discount how Dylan changed Nashville.”
Then again, Streissguth got a lot of time with Kristofferson. “He was very generous,” Streissguth says. “I didn’t talk to Willie, though I tried, and Waylon came alive for me through his drummer and confidant Richie Albright. Rodney Crowell, Guy Clark and Roseanne Cash were great as well.”
What emerges is a case for Nashville as its own incubator, a place where, for a brief period of time, this sort of songwriting flourished.
“I do think that we typecast Nashville,” Streissguth says. “There was very much a Greenwich Village-like scene in the West End,” the neighborhood that helped nurture all of the book’s heroes.
In fact, there were many aspects to Nashville in this period that Streissguth thinks have been under-reported or are becoming forgotten. An entire generation knows Kristofferson more as a character actor than a songwriter.
“It’s a cliche at this point, but Kristofferson’s songwriting changed Nashville, it really did,” Streissguth says. “And I developed a great appreciation for producers such as Fred Foster and Jack Clement. These guys were serious risk takers. They took chances on artists, and you need that in a vibrant scene. Anything that is pioneering involves money and risk.”
Streissguth notes that Clement collected these songwriters, giving them publishing deals and pushing them to think big about their careers. “He would say, ‘you’re a writer, but have you thought about performing? What about film-making?’”
Waylon, the reason for all of this research, also came under some revision.
“There was a lot of bluster surrounding him and this idea that the was rebelling for the sake of rebelling,” Streissguth says. “But you look at the nuances of his career, and he really had been beaten down by the Nashville machine. He was thinking about packing it in and becoming a session guitarist.”
And then there were Waylon’s personal habits. “Cocaine is almost a character in this book,” Streissguth says. (Speed is pretty important as well.) “I think Waylon’s suspicion of journalists and fans really harmed him in the long run. Had Waylon made himself more accessible to the world, the way Willie did, I suspect we would be talking about him in the same way as Willie.”
Ah, Willie. He really does emerge from “Outlaw” better than anyone.
“No question he becomes the quintessential outlaw figure,” Streissguth says. Kristofferson went Hollywood, Waylon flamed out, but Willie endured. “He’s remained on this even path, and he’s still such a powerful symbol of so many aspects of American culture.”
On May 2, 1985, Columbia Records released the “Highwayman” album, with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson
The Highwaymen:Â Four Superstars Come Together
Music City News
by Neil Pond
I was a highwayman
Along the coach roads I did ride
A sword and pistol by my side
Many a young maid lost her baubles to my trade
Many a soldier shed his lifeblood on my blade
The master took me in the spring of ‘25
But I am still alive
I’ll always be around, and around, and around, and around.
by Jimmy Webb
Mystical and uplifting, Highwayman has become the summer’s collaborative hit for the superstar quartet of Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. Their new LP, also called “Highwayman,” is a a coming together of boldly distinctive stylists that prompted one reviewer to observe “if Mount Rushmore could sing, this is what it would sound like.”
At Willie’s recent 4th of July picnic event in Austin, the audience was treated to the first ever public appearance of “The Highwaymen,” as the foursome have come to be collectively called. After an all-day rain, the quartet gathered onstage to sing three songs as the sky gradually opened and spilled luminous orange twilight throughout the dissipating clouds. It was a grandiose bit of meterological staging — coincidence, you ask? — that fit nicely with the cover of the album, which shows the heavens parting and the four entertainers peering through like gentle mythological gods.
But the “Highwayman” project, despite it’s majestic overtones, was not a carefully calculated attempt at clustering the individual stars into one spectacular supernova recording — although that’s pretty much how things turned out.
The album’s roots are actually in Switzerland, where Willie, Waylon and Kris were guests of Cash at the taping a Christmas TV special last year. After performing together on the show the four returned stateside and joined forces to cut a couple of songs intended for Cash’s upcoming solo album. One of the songs was Bob Seger’s Against the Wind, which they had all performed together on the TV special. The other was Highwayman, a song by New York-based writer Jimmy Webb themed around reincarnation.
“We’d intended it for my solo album,” says Cash of the song. “But the more we recorded together, the more we realized that it should be an album of the four of us.”
Once the idea for an entire quartet album was concrete, Cash decided to sideline his own album until the group project could be completed. For three nights the four singer/songwriters gathered at producer Chips Moman’s Nashville studio and bantered around songs that they felt would be appropriate for their collaboration.Â They drew from material both familiar (like Cash’s own Big River and Guy Clark’s Desparados Waiting for a Train and obsure to come up with a slate of songs that somehow seemed to fit their individual and collective imagery as purveyors of things original, Old-Western, and American.
It’s the title cut, however, that is attracting the most attention. Already a hit single and an engaging video, its haunting theme of reincarnation makes for unusual country music fare. In the song, Willie, Kris, Waylon and Cash each sing the part of a different individual who, in the end, turns out to be various reincarnations of the same person, the highwayman of the title.
“As far as subject matter, it’s a very meaty topic,” explains Rick Blackburn, head of Nashville’s CBS Records who gave the ultimate go-ahead for “Highwayman.” “But I think country music is ready to deal with heavier topics as opposed to the stereotypes we’ve had all along.”
Lest some listeners imply that the enterainers themselves might be espousing personal afterlife philosopy with the song, Cash responds that he, for one, holds to other beliefs.
“I don’t believe in reincarnation,” he says. “I’m a Christian and I sang the song because I liked it. It’s a good song. It’s a good melody, it’s excellent lyrics written by a really great songwriter. But so far as the philosophy and the religion, if you will, of the song… it’s not my belief. I’m not making a statement of affirmation in belief of transmigration of souls or any such thing.”
Ego never raised it’s ugly head in “The Highwayman” project. The recording sessions were dominated by a shared comraderie between the four entertainers, a brotherhood beyond the business at hand.
“We never had any problems,” says Waylon. “We don’t think of each other as superstars. There were no ego trips. We’re a lot alike. We’ve all had our starving days, paid our dues. We have a lot of respect for each other. If you don’t record with somebody you like, it ain’t gonna be no good.”
The future of The Highwaymen quartet is undecided at his point, although it’s possible that the four will be making several appearances together throughout the summer. “We can’t decide whose band we want to use,” says Cash, referring to the equally terrific musical line-ups that back each entertainer. The four will appear, however, as the Highwayman on the upcoming coming Country Music Association Awards show in October.
A movie project re-make of the John Ford classic Stagecoach that would star all four in leading roles has also been talked about. “That’s a possibility,” says Cash. Willie, Cash and Kris all have substantial movie acting experience, but Waylon’s film resume is practically bare. ”I don’t get very excited about doing movies,” explains Waylon. “I’m a singer.”
In the meantime, Cash and Kristofferson are pegged to begin production in September on a CBS television movie called The Last Days of Jesse James. (Kris will be Jesse, Johnny will be his brother Frank.)
Individually , the four Highwaymen are currently wrapped up in their separate careers as well as the promotional hoopla surrounding their group LP. Cash’s oslo album for Columbia is finishing production. Willie’s “Half Nelson” LP, also for Columbia, of duets with various artists will be released soon. Waylon’s new “Turn the Page” album on RCA is fresh in the stores this month. Cash and Waylon have also completed a duet album for imminent release and are dicussing a possible Western movie pair-up.
Kristofferson, the only act of the four not currently affiliated with a record label, is staying very busy on the road with his Borlderlords band. A movie called Trouble in Mind, in which he will co-star with Keith Carradine, is scheduled for release around Christmas.
So the Highwaymen continue to ride, separately if not together. And who knows? There’s the prospect of another four-way album. Cash says they’ve got almost enough material in the can from the previous sessions.
Nothing lasts forever, but it certainly seems as if these guys are planning, in some configuration, on being around, and around, and around and around…
You can watch the full movie at Crackle
Kevin Smith, Willie Nelson, Billy English
Kris Kristofferson, with the Strangers
Merle Haggard and the Strangers with Kris Kristofferson
See more photos of Willie Nelson and Family and Merle Haggard from the concert at the Winstar FaceBook Page:
On March 3, 1990, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson perform at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at the Astrodome, kicking off their first concert tour as the Highwaymen.