Director and producer Jim Brown talks about the making of The Highwaymen: Friends Til The End, his admiration for the musicians’ camaraderie, passion for music and having a clear purpose in their careers. American Masters — The Highwaymen: Friends Til The Endpremieres nationwide Friday, May 27, 2016, at 9/8c on PBS (check local schedule) as part of the 30th anniversary season of THIRTEEN’s American Masters series, exploring how these men came together and the fruits of their historic collaboration.
It’s Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson like you’ve never experienced them. That’s because this concert footage has never been seen before.
CMT has the video premiere of the super group’s performance of “Good Hearted Woman,” recorded live at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, on March 14, 1990.
It’s all part of the new collection The Highwaymen Live — American Outlaws, a CD/DVD package arriving May 20 with previously unreleased concert performances from the legends.
In addition to the complete concert from their 1990 tour, the Columbia/Legacy package includes various performances at Farm Aid and a previously unreleased version of Cash and Jennings’ take on Bob Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings.”
American Masters — The Highwaymen: Friends Till the End, a new feature-length documentary on the supergroup, will premiere May 27 on PBS.
Johnny, Waylon & Willie do ‘Desperados Waiting for a Train’ in previously unseen footage.
There aren’t four more recognizable or legendary faces in music—country or otherwise—than those that comprised supergroup The Highwaymen. Formed unintentionally in 1984 in Montreux, Switzerland, when Johnny Cash invited Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings to be guests on a Christmas special he was taping, the foursome found a collaborative creative fire that would etch itself forever into the lore of country music.
“There’s the four of us standing there, grouped around microphones,” wrote Jennings in his autobiography, Waylon: An Autobiography. “The Highwaymen. John, Kris, Willie, and me. I don’t think there are any other four people like us. If we added one more, or replaced another, it would never work.”
Having four established artists known for doing what they want, when they want, work together is the sort of endeavor that can explode brilliantly or implode dramatically with equal ferocity. When it came to playing live for The Highwaymen, it was almost the latter, until the moment when they found a way to come together. Jennings addressed this in his book as well.
“When we first took The Highwaymen out live, it looked like four shy rednecks trying to be nice to each other. It almost ruined it. That didn’t work, for us and the audience, and it was really bothering me, how different we were on stage than when we were sitting around in the dressing room. [At one point] I was fixin’ to quit. I talked to John about it and he was feeling the same way. ‘I get a little nervous,’ he said. ‘I don’t want to look like I’m trying to steal your thunder.’ That was it. We were boring each other and the audience. It may be hard to think of Johnny Cash as intimidated, but that’s the way we were. You can’t have four big guys tiptoeing around each other on stage. Nobody has a good time. By the end of the week, with Willie dancing across the stage and John and Kris singing harmony neck-and-neck, we had the wildest show, and it made us a group.”
Over the course of their decade-long run, The Highwaymen released three records, charted multiple singles, and won a Grammy for Best Country Song for their tune, “Highwayman,” as well as playing barn-burner live shows that will forever rate as “you should have been there.” You can watch part of one of those performances below, featuring the song “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” filmed March 4, 1990, at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.
While there will never be another group like The Highwaymen, their legacy lives on with a celebratory new multimedia box set, The Highwaymen Live—American Outlaws, out May 20. Featuring unreleased footage—including the entire Nassau concert as well as Farm Aid performances—and songs, as well as wildly fun to read liner notes from music scholar Mikal Gilmour, the box set is complemented by a PBS documentary, American Masters—The Highwaymen, ’til the End, which premieres May 27.
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.
On February 3, 1978, the album by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson was certified to have sold 500,000 albums. (Today a gold album is for sales of 500,000 albums, but it used to be for one million in sales, at $1.00 wholesale cost for each .)
Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys
A new live record of Waylon Jennings is set for release in March.
Return of the Outlaw: The Abbott, Texas, Broadcast 1973 is from a concert that Jennings performed, along with Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver and Jerry Jeff Walker, on Nov. 4, 1973, in celebration of Abbott High School’s homecoming. Although Abbott native Nelson opened and closed the show — which drew around 10,000 people to the town with a population of about 350 and was broadcast by KAMC-FM — the concert was a big moment in Jennings’ career.
Many of the songs that Jennings performed at this 1973 show were later used on This Time, which came out in 1974. Jennings passed away in February of 2002, at the age of 64, due to complications from diabetes.
Return of the Outlaw: The Abbott, Texas, Broadcast 1973 will be released on March 11 through FM Concert Broadcasts. A complete track listing is available below.
Waylon Jennings, Return of the Outlaw: The Abbott, Texas, Broadcast 1973 Track Listing:
1. “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean”
2. “Good Hearted Woman”
3. “Louisiana Woman”
4. “Pretend I Never Happened”
5. “Me & Bobby McGee”
6. “Goodtime Charlie’s Got the Blues”
8. “Laid Back Country Picker”
9. “You Asked Me To”
10. “Honky Tonk Heroes”
11. “The Last Letter”
12. “T for Texas”
13. “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line”
14. “Dangerous Type”