It's been nearly five years since Waylon Jennings left us, but of course, legends never truly die. This DVD is a companion piece to the Nashville Rebel box set issue from last year, and helps to round out the legend, showing his compelling presence on the stage as well as his fun side, his humor, and his consummate skill at the guitar. His live vocals are stunning, nothing artificial, demonstrating without any flash and dazzle just how entertaining a really great PERFORMER can be.
This DVD starts out with Johnny Cash looking at us from back in the early seventies, introducing his friend, Waylon Jennings, on his television show. The two friends, young, scrubbed up and brushed for television, banter playfully as Cash tells us Waylon just won a Grammy. They talk about their time as roommates, and then Waylon rises to pick up that oh-so-familiar black-and-white Telecaster and sing "Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line." It's a fun little scene, but shows just exactly when, most likely, Waylon Jennings was introduced to mainstream America. For real country fans, he stayed there in that spotlight for the next three decades, until his untimely death in 2002 from complications brought on by diabetes. We leap from 1970 to 1974, for five live cuts taken from Don Kirshner's Rock Concert (how many folks remember THAT?) - Waylon has gone from clean-cut and suited to the shaggy "outlaw" we all came to know and love (well, depending on what side of the record label you were on, I suppose). The live show is, like all shows back then, all 100% live - no lip synching, no Pro Tools. The songs include the Billy Joe Shaver classic "Honky Tonk Heroes" and Waylon's own hit, "This Time."
The next segment was recorded in 1975 on the Cowboy Jack Clement TV Show, including live recordings of "Lonesome, On'ry and Mean," "I'm A Ramblin' Man," and "Amanda," which was one of my favorite songs when I was a girl; Waylon was one of my father's favorite singers. I heard this music all the time growing up. These video clips don't just bring it all back - they speak really eloquently for themselves as a permanent testament to just exactly how monumentally talented Waylon Jennings was - how his music should always live as some of the finest country music ever recorded (rather than forgotten by country's mainstream, always so eager to bury its own past). The video clip for "Waymore's Blues" gets interrupted as Waylon tries to explain what it's all about to wife Jessi Colter, who's sitting on stage with him. Of course, "Waymore's Blues" is about a lot of things, and that's what he's trying to say, but the clip of the two of them together is a lot of fun.
The next part of the DVD moves on to 1978, to a broadcast Opryland concert, with some of Waylon's biggest and most memorable hits, including his own least favorite, "Luckenbach, Texas," as well as "Mammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys," which had to be one of the most-played songs on radio in the mid-70's, "Good Hearted Woman" (another of my favorites), and of course, "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?" (Waylon was always quite vocal about how much he disliked the song "Luckenbach" - from that time on he said he'd only record songs he liked just in case they became much-requested hits.) At this point the DVD leaves the seventies, when music on television was, by and large, always live, and moves into the Video Age, with the only lip-synched performances: "The Conversation," a duet with Hank Williams Jr., as Waylon and Hank reminisce about Hank Sr., "Never Could Toe The Mark" is one of those "show you how it happens backstage" videos, opening with the roadies setting up the Waylon show with Waylon showing up for a sound check as the video starts, and the last video is the poignant "America," a song which retains a great deal of relevance today.
One thing I had to note in watching this DVD, back there in 1970 with Johnny Cash, it reminded me anew of another reason why I didn't think Shooter Jennings should have played his father in the Cash biopic Walk the Line
. Back when Waylon and Johnny roomed together, Waylon was clean-shaven (sideburns, of course - those were mandatory in those days) and wore his hair short. Shooter didn't barber himself to play the role, looking very out-of-place for the time, and that's likely why so many reviewers I read were so confused by his appearance, not really realizing who he was. Anyway, I digress. The DVD closes with a couple of TV commercials from the late seventies, when individual albums still got commercials made by the studios. The first is for Waylon's Greatest Hits
, a real-live 30-second spot; and then Wanted! The Outlaws
- the way commercials used to look. And that's all there is. It's a terrific DVD of music, but of course, it's Waylon. It can't help but be awesome.
- Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line
- Honky Tonk Heroes
- Louisiana Women
- This Time
- Slow Rollin' Low
- Lonesome, On'ry and Mean
- I'm A Ramblin' Man
- It's Not Supposed To Be That Way
- Waymore's Blues
- Luckenbach, Texas (Back To The Basics of Love)
- Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
- Good Hearted Woman
- Are You Ready For The Country
- Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way
- The Conversation (with Hank Williams Jr.)
- Never Could Toe The Mark
- RCA TV Commercial for Greatest Hits
- RCA TV Commercial for Wanted! The Outlaws