Waylon Jennings was a masterful storyteller, there’s no doubt about that.
He wrote a fascinating book about his life, Waylon: An Autobiography, and there are some great tales about his time in the music industry and some of the crazy stuff he experienced in it.
At the time of the books release, Waylon did several TV appearances in promotion of it, and he told some great stories during those interviews about the time he saved Willie Nelson’s iconic Red Headed Stranger album from being tossed out by a record executive, and when he talked a random guy at a show into leaving his wife alone with Waylon backstage.
He was also on Ralph Emery On The Record back in 1995 as part of the book tour, and he told another classic Waylon story from his early days in Nashville.
Early in his career, Waylon was roommates with another country music legend, Johnny Cash. They shared an apartment, though Waylon admits that they hardly ever slept (or ate) there:
“We didn’t sleep a lot. And, uh, June… I was supposed to clean it up… she’d be merciful and once in a while come over there and clean it up.
John was the cook, which he got the best deal, because in those days, me and John didn’t eat but like once a week. Whether we was hungry or not, you know.”
Apparently, Johnny was an expert breakfast maker and went all out when it came to the fixings:
“But he can cook breakfast, I gotta say for him. But you gotta picture this first, though. Here he is, he gets over there and he fixes every kind of breakfast meat, you know.
Pork chops, and ham, sausage, and then he fixes all kind of eggs. Fry ’em, drop ’em, pick ’em up. Then he fixes biscuits, and then the best of all, he fixes gravy.
He does all of this while he’s over there and he’s got that black suit on. ‘Cuz John wore his suits inside out.”
Ya gotta love the image of Johnny wearing that black suit even when he’s cooking breakfast.
The best part of the interview though comes when Waylon roasts Johnny for getting the baking powder from the biscuits all over himself whenever he’d cook:
“You’d turn around and he’d have that baking powder all over him… I think that’s what got me on cocaine. I’ve never told him that. I finally found an excuse.”
Waylon was ruthless, hysterical, an unapologetically honest. I don’t think he gets enough credit for how funny he actually was.
In all seriousness, though, Both Waylon and Johny struggled with serious drug addictions throughout their lives. Waylon later says that he was on cocaine for 10 years and on pills for 11. He admits that there were plenty of days even after he quit that he would get the craving to do it again.
Waylon also said it took him eight whole years to finally adjust to normal life after coming off all the hard drugs, and that often, he and Johnny would call each other when they got the urge to do them again until the feeling passed as a way of keeping each other accountable.
However for Waylon, one of the main motivations for finally kicking the stuff was his son Shooter, who at about three years old, imitated his father doing cocaine:
“I didn’t think he had ever seen me do drugs. And doing cocaine, you use a little straw. In my case, a big straw… and what you do is you put it up… they call it snorting, and it’s like shotgunning right down to your lungs. And, that’s the way I did it a lot.
But I kept to away from the house and I never let anyone see me do it especially a child. except I slipped up somewhere ‘cuz Shooter came through the room and looked at me and had one of those straws and he was just sniffing as hard as he could.
And the only place he could ever known to do something like that… I dropped one out of my pocket or something. And that was the start, you know? I had to get away from that.”
Between that gut-wrenching scene, and the hopelessness in Jessi’s eyes, Waylon admits that he was bringing everybody down around him. When he finally quit, he gave about $20,000 worth of coke to Jessi, she flushed it right down the toilet.
And that was the end of it.
Man, I could listen to Waylon talk all day long… his delivery and timing of his storytelling is just impeccable: