Waylon: An Autobiography by Waylon Jennings and Lenny Kaye
What a wonderful voice! And I’m talking about both his narrative voice in the book, which is wry, amusing, and candid; and the sound of his actual voice, which has captivated me.
Here’s how this book arrived on my bookshelf: I got hooked on Waylon Jennings (especially the early music) while going through my Buddy Holly reading spree. And then I got hooked on this book—I was even reading it standing up in the kitchen (for me, a sure sign of addiction to a particular book, since The Civilized sit to read).
I confess that I always thought of Waylon Jennings as one of those scraggly-looking country singers of the ’70s. And frankly, I still think that beard was a very large mistake. I mean, look at how doggone cute the man was back when he was young and clean-shaven.
So most of us already know that Waylon Jennings was playing bass with Buddy Holly during the Winter Dance Party, and that he originally was slated to go on the flight that February night. So there’s the Buddy Holly connection. And, as Waylon (we’re on a first-name basis, he and I) writes here, Buddy was the first person to believe in him as a musician.
The connection with Buddy remained throughout his life. Waylon writes about it in this book and also in his song “Old Friend” (which is a song that occasionally makes me weepy).
I’d read somewhere (probably in one of the Buddy Holly books) that Waylon’s autobiography was about as frank a country music autobiography as one was likely to find. So that intrigued this here person. And plus, I already practically confessed to being half in love with the man.
So, here’s the scoop on the book:
The voice! Lenny Kaye is listed right on the front cover as a co-author, and in the Prologue, Waylon alludes to telling his story while travelling on the tour bus. It sounds to me like Waylon told his stories out loud, and Lenny Kaye captured them and put them in a reasonable order. And I’m here to say: the result is a resounding success.
Here, for example, are a great couple of sentences: “Every time I’ve been in a hospital, I wake up and there’s John Cash. I think he must make a habit of sitting by my bedside.” (p. 302) What a great image. And a true indication of a real friendship. (I already read Johnny Cash’s great autobiography Cash a few years ago, after a friend gave me a copy and said she loved it—so this reading map is not leading me there next.)
The “what a frank autobiography” comments about this book undoubtedly grow out of Waylon’s put-it-all-out-there approach to his drug use (first pills, then cocaine. For decades. Yikes.) And while I have a tendency to freak out when drug use is mentioned, I felt OK hanging out with Waylon during this book. Probably because I also knew he kicked it.
But I’ve pretty much cured myself of wanting to be married to a rock star/country star/any star, because I sense that being the wife to such a person basically sucks. I’ll leave it at that.
One other thing: I hadn’t heard the news of Waylon Jenning’s death back in 2002. So when I learned of it before reading this book, I was truly bummed. And now that I’ve gotten to know him, I’m downright honked off.
Heading off now to listen to some early Waylon Jennings tunes and cry into my beer…
*Yes, children of the ’70s, that was Waylon Jennings singing the Dukes of Hazzard theme song. Now try to get that tune out of your head…