Flashback: Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson Make Music History

Country Music News

Waylon Jennings once famously said he “couldn’t go pop with a mouthful of firecrackers,” yet with an album of previously released material, he did help country music reach a milestone heretofore reserved for pop and rock albums. On this day in 1976, Wanted! The Outlaws, an LP on which Jennings was featured alongside his wife Jessi Colter, Willie Nelson and Tompall Glaser, became country music’s first platinum-certified LP, signifying sales of one million.

Although Jennings had begun the transformation from slick Countrypolitan to renegade with the 1972 album Ladies Love Outlaws, this compilation, released on RCA, gave an official name to a country-music movement reserved for artists outside the mainstream. Raucous, rebellious and decidedly uninterested in the blend of pop and country that was storming the charts at the time (and continues to do so today), the Outlaw Movement was also spurred on by such landmark events as the 1976 debut of the long-running PBS series Austin City Limits.

“Their music didn’t conform to the country norm of songs of divorce and alcohol and life’s other miseries,” wrote Chet Flippo in the Wanted! liner notes. At the time, Flippo was New York bureau chief for Rolling Stone. He would become senior editor a year later.

On the original LP, Jennings performed “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys,” and “Honky Tonk Heroes,” among others, while his wife’s contributions included “You Mean to Say” and a duet with Jennings on the Elvis Presley hit “Suspicious Minds.” Glaser’s 1975 hit “Put Another Log on the Fire” was also included, as was a “live” version of Nelson and Jennings doing “Good Hearted Woman.” The song became a Number One hit for the pair.

Wanted! The Outlaws received a 20th-anniversary CD reissue in 1996 featuring 10 bonus tracks, but it’s those original 11 songs that helped make country music history.

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