Tales From the Tour Bus (2017) s01e06 Episode Script

Waylon Jennings Part 1

1 (car engine revs) (crickets chirping) (country music playing) The greatest outlaw in country music has to be Waylon Jennings.
I think that'd be pretty hard to argue with.
The evidence is overwhelming.
("I'm A Ramblin' Man" playing) I've been down the Mississippi Down through New Orleans Lord, I played in California There ain't too much I haven't seen Lord, I'm a ramblin' man Don't fool around with the ramblin' man The truth is, there are really two Waylons.
There's the guy in the black hat, the honky-tonk hero, and then there's the kid with slicked-back hair who almost broke out with the birth of rock and roll, playing bass with Buddy Holly.
And both Waylons cheated death, more times than any man has a right to.
(theme music playing) Everybody always says, "Man, when you gonna write a book about the Waylon years?" I say, "Not as long as my mama's alive.
" There you go.
There you go.
Mike: Gordon "Crank" Payne and Jerry "Jigger" Bridges spent the better part of their careers on stage with Waylon Jennings.
Crank played guitar and harmonica.
Jigger played bass.
Both of them got their nicknames from the man they knew as Hoss.
I remember we had a Canadian tour with Willie, and Waylon warned Willie, he said, "You've got to do something with this bus.
"There's so much pot that was smoked.
You've got to clean it up.
" Tom Bourke: We were high 24/7.
I don't know how to tell people that, but, you know, how do you think you do 200 dates a year? You can't unless you're on something.
(sniffs) We ran around this country with a sign on our head.
It said, "Look at us, we're stupid," because we were high all the time.
Mike: Tom Bourke was the road manager for Waylon Jennings from his start as a solo artist to super stardom as a country music outlaw.
Willie's bus was in front of Waylon's, and you could smell the smoke.
So Willie sent it in, and he had it steam cleaned and everything that you could do to the bus, but it didn't work.
(chuckles) (barking) We got to the crossing, the guards, they came on his bus.
And you know how dogs sniff around? This dog sat down.
Just sat there and just looked around.
He didn't know where to bark or where to sniff.
He had no idea what to do.
Bourke: And they took everything out of Willie's bus.
(barking) They were looking underneath the bays and everything.
The dogs were going crazy, you know, and they couldn't find nothing.
Anyway, they let Willie go, and he gets away with everything.
We thought that after he got through that it was smooth sailing for us, you know.
Then when our bus got there, they took Waylon, they wanted to do a strip search.
The funny part at that time is there was six of us, I think we were honorary deputy sheriffs, so when they took us into the little room, we just all threw the badges on the table.
(clatters) And the guy said, "Oh shit.
Just go on.
" He was a cowboy.
Some people are born that way.
I was scared to death of them guys, but they were cowboys.
You know, to me they were real cowboys.
Mike: He was actually part Native American on his mother's side, Irish and Dutch on his father's side.
Terry Jennings says that his dad played up both sides of his heritage, while growing up in a tiny West Texas town called Littlefield.
My dad and Uncle Tommy would play Cowboys and Indians.
Well, Dad, when he was five years old (toy gun popping) when he was walking on a split-rail fence, and they have a thing they call a sand fighter, which is basically a bunch of spikes, and it's dragged through the ground, turn the dirt over so the wind don't blow it away.
Well, he fell off that fence and stuck one of those spikes right above his ankle in the left leg, so it stunted the growth in his leg.
A lot of people ask me how tall Dad is, and I'll tell 'em, "He's six-foot-one, six-foot-two, depending on which foot he's standing on.
" You better move away You're standing too close to the flames Terry: When you watch him play and you seen him all leaning over to the left, that's 'cause he's over there leaning on that short leg.
Mike: His disability - didn't stop him from dreaming with his brother, Tommy, about playing music on the greatest stage of all, the Grand Ole Opry.
Grandpa had a guitar.
Grandma played piano, taught him the first three chords.
Him and Uncle Tommy, they would get out there and get broomsticks and Coke crates, stand on those, pretending like they were Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb.
Mike: By the time Waylon was 14, he was performing in public and working as a DJ at a local radio station.
By 19, he was married with children, but his talent caught the attention of another young singer-songwriter out of Lubbock, 80 miles away.
Buddy Holly was the first one to take Dad into the studio.
They were high school friends.
And Mom, she didn't really like him that much because Buddy'd pull up to the front yard (horn honks) honk the horn, and there'd go Waylon.
(door slams) Kinky Friedman: Buddy Holly was definitely the match that kindled the flame for Waylon Jennings, no question.
And he also showed Waylon how easy it was for that to go away.
Mike: Singer-songwriter Kinky Friedman was just a boy when the Crickets made Buddy Holly a star.
In 1958, the Crickets quit Holly in a contract dispute.
Buddy turned to his old pal Waylon for help.
Buddy'd come by the radio station Dad was working at and said, "Hey, you wanna go out on the road with me?" Dad said, "Sure," and he goes, "Well, you're gonna play bass.
" And Dad goes, "I don't play bass.
Never played a bass in my life.
" Well, Buddy handed him a bass and says, "You got two weeks to learn how to play it and meet me in New York.
" Mike: The tour was called the Winter Dance Party, and it included the biggest names in rock and roll at the time.
They'd been having a lot of trouble with the bus.
The heaters weren't working, and they were, all the time, getting people to come over and work on it.
Well, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper had both had the flu from being on that cold bus.
Mike: Holly chartered a plane from Mason City, Iowa, to Fargo, North Dakota, in order to stay warm on that leg of the trip.
There were only three seats, and Waylon had one of them.
Big Bopper is just that he's a great big guy, and he was sick, and he's from Texas, and us Texas boys try to look out for each other.
And Dad says, "Man, you know, you'd be better off on that plane," and he agreed.
Later on, as they were getting ready to go to the airplane, Dad and Buddy are sitting backstage, and they got these little cane-back chairs leaning against the wall, and they was eating hot dogs.
And Buddy looks at him and says, "Well, I hear you're scared of flying.
" He goes, "I ain't scared of nothing.
I just gave it to Big Bopper 'cause he's got the flu.
" Buddy goes, "Well, all I got to say is I hope your old bus freezes up.
" And Dad goes, "Well, fine, I hope your plane crashes.
" Announcer: We interrupt this program for a special news bulletin.
Three young singers who soared to the heights of show business on the current rock and roll craze were killed today in the crash of a light plane in an Iowa snow flurry.
For years, he thought he had done it, you know? And they was just kids cutting up with each other.
And but for a little confusion about who was going to sit in what seat on the plane he would've been the one.
This one time, we're in Fresno, California, and just before the show he hollered at me, he said, "Come down to the dressing room.
" Mike: Drummer Richie Albright started playing with Waylon in 1961.
Very few people spent more time on the road with Hoss than Richie.
Went down there in his dressing room, so he shut the door and said, "Give me a bump.
" (snorts) So I just gave him a couple of big bumps, and I took a couple myself.
Well, I forgot that the evening before he had given me two small packets, and he said, "Hold these for me.
" And I looked at 'em and there was two of 'em, I said, "What's he got two for?" So I poured 'em together.
Richie come up on stage, and everything seemed fine.
Then about halfway through the first song, I noticed him wobbling.
He was swinging and not hitting anything.
I run up behind him, and he's weaving even more, so I grabbed him, and I said, "Are you okay?" Richie: I looked down and I swear to God, my drumstick was a "Z.
" (chuckles) That's the way it looked to me.
He goes, "Don't worry about me.
"Go back there and tell your dad it's gonna be okay.
It's called Atlanta Dog.
" Atlanta Dog.
I'm not sure what it was.
Mike: It was a mixture of PCP and heroin.
Thanks to Richie, the two of them had snorted a combination of Atlanta Dog and Peruvian Cocaine.
I went into the dressing room, the place is full of people, and Dad's just laid out on the table.
And Deacon goes, uh, "Terry, uh we're getting ready to call an ambulance.
Your dad thinks he's having a heart attack.
" Mike: Deacon was Edward James "The Deacon" Proudfoot, a longstanding member of the Oakland Chapter of the Hell's Angels motorcycle club, and head of Waylon's security detail.
And I said, "Get all these people out of here.
" So Deacon ran everybody out of the room except for me, and I leaned over to Dad, and I said, "Dad, Richie told me to come down here "and tell you that you're gonna be okay.
Y'all did something called Atlanta Dog.
" He just stood up, and he says, "Take me to the stage.
" By the time I got back up there, they were actually holding Richie up, and he was still just a-swinging the best he could.
So Dad got his guitar on best he could, and he started swinging at it, missing strings.
He was singing out of key.
It was the worst show I had ever seen in my life, but for some reason, the audience didn't seem to mind.
Mike: Waylon launched his solo career in Phoenix with Richie in 1961.
He was the star attraction at a club called JD's.
The only time I ever got to see Dad was Monday or Tuesday night, they would do a family night, and they'd let the kids come in.
Basically, what it really meant was everybody had to clean their show up.
They had Mac, the singing bartender.
His songs were dirty.
He did some really, really bad jokes.
And he played a commode lid with a guitar neck on it that he called a "shitar.
" When I was in the second grade, I decided I'd sneak downstairs where they were playing rock and roll music.
And they had half-naked girls dancing in cages, called go-go dancers, and I was in hog heaven.
I was booked at Phoenix, and I went by JD's where Waylon was playing, and I said, "The guy needs to be on a major label.
" Mike: Bobby Bare was on one.
The Country Music Hall of Famer was instrumental in getting Waylon to move to Nashville.
He called legendary songwriter and producer Chet Atkins personally.
And I was cutting my own throat doing this, because he has the same songs I do.
If Chet Atkins calls you and offers you a deal, it's like you're getting a deal from God.
I mean, Chet Atkins was Nashville.
You know, I mean, he was the inventor of the Nashville Sound, and that's where Dad wanted to go.
My dreams are shattered, don't you see? Now, you no longer care for me Mike: Atkins let him use some of his own musicians, but Waylon's first major studio release had that Nashville Sound, clean and polished.
Willie Nelson told Waylon in Arizona, one of the first times they met, and he said, "Waylon, do not go to Nashville.
It'll break your heart.
" Mike: Folk Country didn't do much on the charts, topping out at number nine, but it established Hoss as a presence in his new town, Nashville.
Waylon was very charismatic.
Well, you know, he was probably on pills, but when he'd walk into the room, he took all the air out.
When my dad first came to Nashville, one of the first people he met was Roger Miller, and Roger had a suitcase full of pills that had different like, some of 'em would be half-upper, half-downer, or some of 'em would be, like, part barbiturate and part this.
They had all these names for them that my dad and Roger would come up with, you know? And so they'd hang out there, and party and listen to music all night, stay up all night.
And then, you know, get up and do it all over again.
Mike: Shooter, Waylon's youngest son, grew up on stories set in the Boar's Nest, the unofficial home of The Outsiders.
The Boar's Nest was a place that was run by this lady, Sue Brewer.
It was her apartment, and after her work at night, she would turn on this little neon light.
Some of the better writers back in the day would go there 'cause it was kind of an after-hours place.
The story that I was told with that is she had slept with a famous country star, and he knocked her up, but he didn't want anything to do with the kid or something, and so she said, "I'm gonna come to Nashville, and I'm gonna screw every young star in Nashville to get back at you.
" But she ended up coming there and working as a waitress, and all these stars kind of gravitated towards her, not for sex.
Really, she loved country music, and guys like Harlan Howard, Roger Miller, Shel Silverstein, young Hank Williams Jr.
, my dad, like, Kris Kristofferson, Willie you could go on forever.
Mike: It was a hole-in-the-wall for country songwriters that didn't quite fit into the Nashville Sound.
Cleverness used to be country music's wooden leg.
Nashville didn't get these guys any better than they got Hank Williams.
We just moved to town, been in town maybe a few months.
Waylon come back there and parked in front of the place, and started walking up the sidewalk.
And this guy walked down and was standing there on the stoop.
I looked up, and there was Cowboy Jack Clement.
I was already a big fan of his.
He had produced that Cash album, Trail of Tears.
I loved that album.
I said, "Jack Clements! "Hi, I'm Richie Albright, Waylon's drummer.
Pleased to meet you.
" And he grabbed my hand, started shaking, turned and went, "Blah!" Then he kept shaking my hand.
"Blah!" Finally, he said, "Nice to meet you.
" And he turned around and went back upstairs and we followed him.
(chuckles) Mike: Cowboy Jack Clement was a producer and engineer for Sam Phillips at Sun Records.
He'd recorded Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash.
When I was about 10 or 11, that was the first time I met Johnny Cash.
And him and Dad showed up, and when they hit that door, they hit it like pinballs.
They were bouncing off of the walls.
I thought they were just nervous.
Nobody took as many pills as Waylon.
Nobody could, except maybe Johnny Cash.
Waylon and Johnny Cash got an apartment together, and, uh, Johnny would try to make breakfast with, uh, that black suit on, and making biscuits (chuckles) flour all over everything.
They were both taking a lot of pills and trying to hide it from one another.
Cash ran out one time, and Dad had just got enough money to buy him a new Cadillac.
And Cash just knew that he had some pills hidden in the glove box or in behind the whole dashboard, and he went out there and didn't have keys or nothing tore into the car.
Tore that side of the console completely out.
He thought there was pills in there, but there wasn't.
(chuckles) I told Waylon a good place to hide 'em, and that's to take the light switch out and drop 'em down in the wall.
So he did that, and he come back to me later, and he said, "Well, how do I get 'em out?" I said, "Well, you got to knock a hole in the wall down at the bottom.
When you really want 'em, you gotta do that.
" It was like, um, Van Gogh and Gauguin when they were roommates, where Gauguin had a better commercial eye for what was happening.
That would be Johnny Cash, and yet he's another one that couldn't get a record deal in Nashville.
It's incredible, isn't it? They said of Van Gogh and Gauguin, that Gauguin loved the sunshine, for painting, but Van Gogh loved the sun, and he got too close to it sometimes.
That's Waylon.
I remember we were on tour across Canada, and Waylon was fixing to go on stage.
And I saw him reach in his pocket, take a whole handful of pills.
I said, "Whoa!" I said, "How many of those pills do you think you take a day? Five, six?" He said, "Thirty.
" I said, "Thirty! Holy shit.
" Nashville ran on amphetamines.
I mean, this whole town was just Everybody had a bottle of pills.
We got to the point where we had to get back out on the road to get some rest.
You never slept when you were in town.
Captain Midnight was our go-to guy.
Mike: Captain Midnight, AKA Roger Schutt, was a country music aficionado and DJ who played nothing but Waylon Jennings, nonstop, his last day on the job.
My nephew called me, and he said, "Turn on KDF.
You ain't gonna believe this shit.
" I turned it on, and Captain Midnight, he's rambling on.
(rattling) He had wired the door shut and just started playing Waylon constantly.
And he said, "This'll probably be my last show here, but I just wanna play all the good music I can," you know? And he kept playing Waylon.
Mike: He landed on his feet as kind of a barbiturate middleman and an advisor of sorts to the outcast songwriters.
Captain Midnight was a spiritual leader of the time, the angel on Waylon's shoulder.
And for Waylon to have the wisdom of surrounding himself by somebody good like Midnight, who today we could call a homeless person, um, that was real good.
It definitely made it easier for him to get the drugs.
The thing I remember mostly about Captain Midnight is two times a day, you didn't bother him 'cause he was in there watching Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons.
Bare: - If you wanted pills, give Midnight a hundred bucks, he'd go to Dr.
Snap and buy a bunch of speed.
Richie: Dr.
Snap would write the prescriptions, 'cause he owned the drugstore right next to his office.
Saved a lot of lives because of all the touring we had to do back then.
You'd be tired from driving all night and all day, probably didn't get hardly any sleep, so by the time it'd come showtime, the band used to get together and say, "Okay, I'm taking four of these and three of these.
What are you taking?" We all wanted to be on the same level, right? So that was the ritual.
Every time Waylon and Richie needed money, they would go out to New Mexico to the Navajo Nation and hang out there for a month.
They had done it for years and years, and sometimes he'd go twice a year.
They loved him.
I mean, you'd get to town, and they'd have a parade for Waylon.
If it wasn't for the Navajo and all those Four Corner Indians up there, we probably would've starved to death in the early '70s.
When I went with Waylon to the Navajo Nation, we stayed at a great hotel.
It was one of those older hotels.
John Wayne, I guess, and all of them people used to stay at this hotel.
And Waylon turned around, and he said to me, he says, "You know, Bourke, I'm real big here.
" "Yeah, well, fuck, Waylon, you're big everywhere.
" He says, "No, I'm like the Rolling Stones here.
" That night at the gig, there had to be 10,000 Navajos out there.
(country music playing) It was in a rodeo ring, and had those bars that went across, you know.
And the people were jammed up.
They would pack those people in there like BB's.
I mean, they were in there drinking, and I can tell you right now, if they got drunk, they couldn't pass out and hit the ground until somebody left, 'cause it was just that tight in there.
But when Waylon was singing, all them people were singing in harmony with Waylon Jennings.
Well, the honky-tonks in Texas were my natural second home (cheering) Well, you tip your hat to the ladies And the Rose of San Antone My understanding is "Navajo" translates into "common people," and Dad had that album out, Love of the Common People, and they adopted that song as theirs, 'cause, uh, it pretty much if you listen to the song fits their total situation.
We were playing there for two nights.
And the first night, Dad didn't make it to the show.
Well, the Indians didn't like that one little bit, and they came out, and they started telling us, you know, "Waylon play now.
" And we said, "Well, Waylon's not here.
" And they said, "Waylon's on the bus.
" And we said, "No, he's not on the bus.
" And they took us around to the back of the bus, and they said, "Look, Waylon's name on bus.
Waylon's on the bus.
" And we said, "Well, just 'cause his name is on the bus doesn't mean he's on the bus.
" Well, finally, the chief came up, and we took him on the bus, and took him all the way through it to prove to him that Waylon was not on the bus.
So they were satisfied with that, and we got out of there unscathed.
The Navajo Nation thought Waylon Jennings was king.
He always says, "I was always on your side.
" (laughs) Do you know? It was great.
I remember, really distinctly, the first time I ever met Waylon, I was walking in an alley behind Music Row in Nashville, and I had all my songs in a fucking some kind of homemade satchel thing.
And Waylon pulls up in this big, uh, Mark IV Lincoln, and he slams on the brakes, and he says, "Get in, Kink.
Walking's bad for your image.
" And he was right.
Mike: From the moment Waylon released Folk Country, his image and sound had been branded by the Nashville way of doing business.
Waylon and Willie were not happy about the way record companies controlled things, and the way they would tell you which songs you're gonna sing, and the way they would pick the musicians for the sessions, and the good-old-boy fraternity they had that they wouldn't let anybody else into.
And definitely, drugs were anathema to them.
Willie Nelson couldn't get arrested because of the way they made him record.
They wouldn't let him play guitar on his own records.
They wouldn't let him use his own band.
And he knew what he wanted to sound like.
Willie was a great songwriter.
Everybody knew it, but they didn't think he was ever going to amount to anything.
And when he left Nashville in '71 to go back to Texas, everybody there said the same thing, "We'll never hear from that guy again.
That's the end of Willie.
" And a lot of that, I think, was the same problem Waylon had.
Mike: A big part of that problem, in Nashville parlance, was the drugs.
In Texas, Willie was free to pursue the life he chose to lead, and he found a new audience who could appreciate him.
About '73, Willie calls Waylon, said, "Waylon, you gotta get down here.
"I have found our audience.
"It's about half-ass hippie, half-ass cowboy, but Texas is full of 'em.
" We went down to play the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas.
It was a bunch of hippies out there, and he told Willie, "If I go out there and them people give me a hard time, I'm gonna kick your ass!" (laughs) Willie had started playing the little honky-tonks around Austin, and it took a hold.
The next thing you know, he's playing for 11, 12, 13,000 people at a little, small outdoor concert.
And it grew from that, you know.
We had never seen any reactions like that.
About halfway through the show, he was playing lead, and we walked back there by me, and he said, "Somebody go get that little redhead son of a bitch.
What's he got me into?" 'Cause we had never seen cowboys and hippies together without fighting.
That was kind of the start of the whole thing.
Mike: The whole thing was known in country music lore as the outlaw movement, but for Waylon, it almost came to an end before it ever got started.
My dad, he had gotten sick and, uh from hepatitis A.
It's like, "Who gets that?" Everyone gets "B" and "C," but I've never heard of anybody getting "A.
" I went to the hospital to see Waylon, and his liver had given out on him.
He turned yellow, and he had stopped doing speed because couldn't do it no more.
Waylon had to get off the pills.
He needed some money.
He, uh, went to RCA to ask for an advance, and they offered him $5,000 if he'd re-sign.
Well, that even back then, that wasn't much.
And that's when Richie had found Neil Reshen, the manager that kind of came in and turned it all around.
"Mad dog on a leash," that's what I call him.
He was exactly what Dad needed at the time when he came along.
He was a coked-up Jewish lawyer.
(laughs) I don't know.
He had a very thin, kind of an Abe Lincoln type beard, was the manager for Miles Davis, and so "knew where all the bodies were buried.
" I told Waylon, I said, "You're probably not going to like this guy, but just listen to what he has to say.
" And so he did, and they hooked up with a handshake after that meeting.
And I took Neil back to the airport, and Willie Nelson came down to the airport, met up with Neil.
And they had a handshake, and by the time Neil went back to New York, he was managing the two biggest acts in country music.
My dad grew his hair out and his beard out because he was sick.
And the manager was like, you know, "Leave your beard.
" He's like, "You really look the part now.
" And it changed everything, and then everyone grew their beards out and their hair out.
That's what started that whole outlaw shit.
Mike: - With his new legal mouthpiece, the Mad Dog Reshen, in tow, Hoss went back to Nashville.
Dad and Neil were over at RCA's offices, renegotiating Dad's contract.
And it came down to a point to where there was, like, a $25,000 stickler in there, you know, that nobody's wanting to come off of.
They said their side, and Dad sold his side, and then there's that dead silence, and it's like, you know, the first one that talks is gonna be the one that loses.
Well, Dad stood up and just left the room.
(door opens, closes) Well, they thought he was pissed, and, uh, so they caved in while he was gone.
And then when they were leaving, Neil said, "That was the most genius thing I ever saw anybody do.
" He goes, "What? I had to take a piss.
" Neil said, "We got 50,000!" (laughs) Mike: And the outlaw movement was born.
Somebody told me when I came to Nashville "Son, you finally got it made "Old Hank made it here We're all sure that you will" But I don't think Hank done it this way Did old Hank really do it this way? Yeah! On stage, Waylon didn't tell you what songs, he just started playing.
He didn't tell you what key it was or what song it was, nothing.
He kicked it, and you went from that.
Crank: And if you were longer than four beats in, he's looking around, "Where you at?" With the look.
Ten years on the road, makin' one-night stands Speedin' my young life away So tell me one more time, so as I'll understand Are you sure Hank done it this way? Crank: Waylon used to have a saying.
He said, "Look, I think everybody in Nashville "ought to have one time in their career where they do it their own way.
"If it doesn't work, don't let 'em do it anymore, "but at least one time in their career, "let 'em record, let 'em write the songs, let 'em do it their way.
" Singing my songs "Every artist deserves that.
" But I don't think Hank done it this way No, I don't think Hank done done 'em this way Crank: That whole thing was about, "Look are you sure Hank done it this way?" Because for so long, he wanted to record his way, and they wouldn't let him.
You know, they wouldn't let him.
And then when he finally did, blew it out of the water, and they were pissed about it.
They were pissed he was so successful, that Willie was so successful, because what they did is took country music from the thousand-seat ballroom to Shea Stadium.
And it had never been done before.
Kinky: Waylon was everybody's country singer.
I mean, he was just a stud.
He's inspired so many more people than I think he ever realized.
Thank you very much for coming out.
(theme music playing)
Previous EpisodeNext Episode