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The Waylon Jennings Years at KLLL (Part Five)

by JR posted Apr 16 2014 3:19PM

Part Four
Part Three
Part Two
Part One


I've always thought I was born about twenty years too late. Reading Sky's story the past few days makes me wonder if I should make that 30-40 years late. Making me old enough to appreciate who they were when they were. If you've been keeping up with the story, we are getting closer and closer to the "Day The Music Died," but first, Waylon Jennings and Buddy Holly have to get going out of Lubbock. Here's Sky Corbin with Part Five. -@JRKLLL

The day of Waylon Jennings' first recording session, in September '58 at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico, was historic in more ways than one. Not only was it Buddy Holly's final Clovis session, and the beginning of Waylon's professional recording career, but, coincidentally, later that day, or perhaps that night, Charlie Phillips recorded the first version of his composition, "Sugartime". Charlie's record was a moderate success, but The McGuire Sisters later made the song a classic. "Old-pro" bass player George Atwood performed on Waylon's songs, Phillips' numbers, and two songs which Buddy Holly recorded himself (in addition to producing and playing guitar on Waylon's sides) and, as mentioned earlier, King Curtis, the world's hottest rock and roll sax player was on hand, all the way from NooYawk City!

According to Waylon, Norman was obviously not happy about Buddy getting into producing, and was not helpful or encouraging to Waylon. "I felt like an illegitimate child at a family reunion!" he said. (in those approximate words) Petty's attitude was, to some extent, understandable, He was the one with the money, know-how and reputation invested in the studio, the one who had produced and recorded hits on Buddy Holly and the Crickets after Nashville was unable to do so. In addition to Buddy and the Crickets, The Norman Petty Trio, an easy-listening instrumental act, had recorded some hits of their own, most notably "Almost Paradise" and "Mood Indigo". Things were happening, and now, after only a year or so, his biggest act, Buddy Holly, was producing records himself and planning to open his own studio in
Lubbock, drawing basically from the same pool of West Texas and eastern New Mexico talent. (Buddy's next session would be in New York with Dick Jacobs producing and leading the orchestra).   



When Buddy played the demo tape of Waylon's "Jole Blon" and the "flip" side, a thing called "When Sin Stops" (Love Begins") for us at KLLL, my brother "Slim" and I were not impressed, thrilled or optimistic. Producing a hit record is not as easy as the layman might assume. A talented artist recording a fine song can come up with a bomb...or a poor-to-mediocre artist singing garbage can come up with a smash. (Haven't we all heard plenty of those?!) Recording, in 1958, was still mostly one-track. The countless re-dubs and re-mixes done today were not practical...or even possible. When we had heard the tapes, all we could say was something like "Well, it's different. The radio stations and the public will have the say-so when it's released." Actually, Buddy's own performances during this record session also failed to produce anything notable. As we "cowboys" say, "Some days it just don't pay to saddle up!"

One morning during this period, the last weeks of '58, Buddy accompanied Waylon and fellow deejay Hi-Pockets Duncan to Morris Fruit and Vegetable Market, a modest grocery store in east Lubbock. Hi and Waylon made the visit every Tuesday morning to tell the radio audience about the current food specials. Hi emceed and did the advertising while Waylon, accompanied only by his own acoustic guitar, would sing a couple of songs...or more if time permitted on the 15 minute program. On this "momentous occasion", Buddy Holly, internationally known recording star, sang a song and harmonized with Waylon on the bluegrass favorite "Salty Dog Blues" When the program was over, Morris shook Buddy's hand and thanked him for coming out. Hi said, "Morris, Buddy gets at least a thousand bucks anytime he sings even one song. I suppose you'd take a check, wouldn't you, Buddy?" According to Hi, Morris turned pale, then red, and sputtered, "My God, Hi-Pockets, you should have checked with me first! You know I can't afford a lick like that!" Fortunately, the ensuing laughter made Morris realize he'd "been had"...though not financially. Buddy settled for a soda pop.


Waylon continued to deejay at KLLL while waiting for his job with Buddy to begin. Trying desperately to learn to play the new electric bass Buddy had presented him with, Waylon discovered that the four strings on a bass were the same as the strings on a guitar, and he was making some progress. Buddy and his wife, Maria Elena, were spending the holidays in Lubbock with Buddy's family. One morning (while I was doing my deejay show) Buddy, Waylon and Slim were in the production room nearby. Buddy was demonstrating some excellent new songs he had just written, or was still working on. "Help me with this one," he said. and began strumming and singing, "You're the one...and I wantcha to know..." Between the three of them, they rapidly knocked off a pretty nice little song, putting it on tape with Waylon and Slim accompanying Buddy and the guitar with some rather ragged goof-off hand-clapping for extra rhythm. After one quick run-through so they could remember the song. Buddy laid down the guitar and the three left for the coffee shop down the hall. Somehow the tape wound up in my desk for safekeeping, and was almost forgotten, even by me, until Buddy's Dad asked me about two years later if there was anything at the station that Buddy had recorded.   I'm glad I saved that tape "for sentimental reasons."

Unfortunately, another tape made that month disappeared. It featured Buddy, Waylon, Sonny Curtis and Ray "Slim" Corbin having a great time singing harmony, and, as I recall, each taking a solo on "Salty Dog Blues"...a favorite of the young Lubbock musicians at the time. That would be something to hear now 44 years later! (Only Sonny survives of that fearsome foursome.)

On New Years Day, I was doing some paperwork in my office. The station was deserted except for me and the deejay who was on the air. Buddy and Waylon came in. Waylon wanted to pick up his guitar and a few other personal effects. He, presumably, had wound up his deejay days at KLLL, though there was a tacit understanding that he might be rehired if the music thing didn't work out...or he might do some fill-in when he wasn't on tour. On the way out, they came to my office door. (And I remember as if it were last month) "Well, 'Sky', we're off!", Buddy said, with a wave. I responded with my usual "brilliant wit", "Of course you're OFF! You're musicians, aren't you?" Buddy said, "You've got a point there!" I told Buddy, "Take care of our boy." Buddy's response (ironically) was, "Hunh! HE may have to take care of ME! See you about the middle of February. We gotta go make some money!"

That was the last time I'd see Buddy, but certainly not Waylon. HE'D be back...


(Posted With Persmission)

Read Part Six Here

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04/16/2014 3:19PM
The Waylon Jennings Years at KLLL (Part Five)
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