Thursday, October 8, 2009
– The late 1960s albums of Waylon Jennings on RCA will receive the reissue treatment from a California-based label in November.
Collectors' Choice picked six of Jennings' releases and will put out three twofer CDs: "Folk Country/Waylon Sings Ol' Harlan," "Love of the Common People/Hangin' On" and ""Waylon/Singer of Sad Songs" on Nov. 24, 2009. Grammy Award-winning annotator/historian Colin Escott wrote the liner notes.
In the 1950s, Jennings was a Lubbock DJ and fledgling singer whose first record was produced by Buddy Holly for whom he briefly played. In 1963 Jennings, then living in Phoenix, signed to A&M for one LP that tanked and was advised by Bobby Bare, for whom he'd co-written a hit, that he should head to Nashville. RCA Nashville A&R head/producer Chet Atkins invited Jennings to sign.
Escott wrote in the liner notes for "Folk Country/Waylon Sings Ol' Harlan," "Waylon, remembered by many these days as a grizzled cowboy stoner, was young once. Most artists dismiss their old work, but Waylon thought he was as good as he could be during every phase of his long career, and the evidence bears him out." The two albums, coupled onto one CD, document the 1966-67 period as Jennings made his way about Nashville.
"Folk Country" was so named because Atkins wanted to attract the folk hootenanny crowd, but the record was mainstream country. Howard wrote most of the songs. The album included Jennings' first hit, That's the Chance I'll Have to Take.
One year, two LPs and a movie later ("Nashville Rebel," 1966), Jennings returned to the studio for his fourth RCA album, "Waylon Sings Ol' Harlan," cut in '66 and released in '67. Included were Howard songs Busted, Tiger By the Tail, She Called Me Baby, Foolin' Around and In This Very Same Room.
The second CD combines "Love of the Common People" (1967) and "Hangin' On" (1968). Early in his career, Jennings released three LPs a year featuring old songs, then-current songs that moved him and his most recent hits. Included on "Love of the Common People" Lennon/McCartney's You've Got To Hide Your Love Away, Mel Tillis' Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town and Young Widow Brown, later recorded by Frankie Miller. In the fall of 1967, Harlan Howard's The Chokin' Kind became Jennings' biggest hit, peaking at 8 on the country charts. It appeared on "Hangin' On" and later became a number one soul hit for Joe Simon. Atkins, said Escott, "didn't care too much about albums. Singles were his business." "Hangin On" came out of several sessions between February and September 1967.
Jennings grew tired of the Nashville way of making albums. As Escott points out, "It was an assembly line, and after five years, Jennings was beginning to resent it. He wanted less quantity and more quality. He wanted albums to be personal statements, not assemblages of songs from different sessions. And he wanted to work with his road band, not session men. Rock singers had achieved that level of autonomy but country musicians were still locked into Nashville's old ways."
The third CD twofer includes two 1970 LPs. It was a big year for the artist as six of his songs appeared in the Mike Jagger movie "Ned Kelly," A&M Records released a compilation of his early recordings, and RCA released a greatest hits collection. He also produced an album by his wife, Jessi Colter. Jennings was assigned a new producer, Danny Davis, which didn't go well. "I would go into the studio and do tracks," Jennings wrote, "and when I came back, I wouldn't recognize the same song."
But heir first collaboration, "Waylon," yielded a number three hit, a cover of Chuck Berry's Brown Eyed Handsome Man. Also included were Mickey Newberry's stoner anthem Thirty-third of August and All of Me Belongs to You and a re-record of Yellow Haired Woman.
"Singer of Sad Songs" was produced by the late Lee Hazelwood in Los Angeles. Sidemen included Randy Meisner (Poco), and future New Riders of the Purple Sage members Allen Kemp and Patrick Shanahan. Material ranged from Hazelwood's She Comes Running to Chris Kenner's R&B hit Sick and Tired, plus songs by Tim Harden, Tom Rush and the Louvin Brothers. The release was a commercial failure. Escott wrote, "Within couple years, however, Waylon Jennings would be making albums that are even now considered unapproachable classics...Waylon was in search of something and he was beginning to discover what it was. We'd all find out soon enough."