Waylon Jennings: 1937-2002

| 2/15/2002

Waylon Jennings, whose powerful voice and rebellious songs defined the outlaw movement in '70s country music, died Wednesday. He was 64. Jennings, always a favorite of truckers, died after a long battle with diabetes-related health problems.

According to Bill C. Malone's Country Music U.S.A., Jennings grew up a child of a "poor cotton farmer, truckdriver and moderately successful produce distributor," in West Texas.

His early performances included fronting a band by age 13 on radio station KVOW and a stint with the Buddy Holly road band, until singer Bobby Bare discovered him in a Phoenix bar. He cut 16 No. 1 singles and more than 60 albums. Of those, 11 went to No. 1 including several with the group The Highwaymen.

Jennings earned four Country Music Association awards and two Grammy Awards, including one in 1969 with a group called The Kimberlys, performing MacArthur Park. His most famous song may have been the 1978 hit with Willie Nelson, "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys." His career spanned four decades with hits like "Lucille," "Amanda," I'm a Ramblin' Man," "I've Always Been Crazy" and "Rose in Paradise."

He tried his hand at several TV movies including "Stagecoach" and "Oklahoma City Dolls" and the B-movie "Nashville Rebel." Jennings was also a voiceover for the Sesame Street movie "Follow That Bird."

Jennings deep resonant voice was unmistakable when he narrated the popular TV show "The Dukes of Hazzard" and sang its theme song, which was a million seller.

Jennings had been plagued with diabetes-related health problems in recent years. He and his wife, singer Jessi Colter, had sold their Nashville home last year and moved to Chandler, AZ.

Last December his left foot was amputated at a Phoenix hospital. Jennings spokeswoman, Schatzie Hageman, said his health rapidly deteriorated after the surgery and he died peacefully at his Arizona home.