Putting these chapters together the past few days has been really interesting. Interesting enough that last night I visited the NTS East tower, formerly the Great Plains tower where KLLL was on the top floor back when Waylon worked here. I had never visited the building before, i made sure I stepped outside the entrance and just stood for a minute. The idea that Waylon Jennings, AND Buddy Holly had passed through these doors right where I was standing was fascinating. I truly love history, and finding history so close to home that had such a huge impact on the world and myself was too tempting to pass up. I also looked up and saw the twist in the tower. As The tower itself is the only known building to survive a direct hit by and F-5 tornado
. Here's Sky Corbin with Part Four of the Waylon Jennings years at KLLL- @JRKLLL
Buddy Holly seemed a little uncomfortable that day in the Fall of 1958 when he appeared in my office door and said he wanted to talk with me about Waylon.
He believed in Waylon's talent and potential, and believed he COULD look "good". He was certainly more handsome than Buddy (or me)! But, as Buddy said, "He just doesn't dress well...or get his hair cut right." I had to agree. I was no fashion-conscious "Adolph Menjou" myself, but all of us at KLLL felt a little embarrassed at times by Waylon's appearance..and his sometimes wearing the same shirt all week. As I explained to Buddy, this was because he didn't make a lot of money, and he and his wife, Maxine, didn't know how to handle what he DID make. He'd get paid on Friday, they'd enjoy a big weekend, and he was broke and bumming cigarettes on Monday. Buddy explained something I already knew....that a professional entertainer had to look like "SOMEBODY". Image was half the battle. By the summer of '58 when I first met him, Buddy dressed like a well-to-do college boy or young executive, and had a flattering hair cut, and those famous heavy, black horn-rimmed glasses. I remember telling others that you could see Buddy a block away and know he was "somebody". "Don and Phil (Everly) showed me and Jerry and Joe B. (the Crickets) how to dress," Buddy told me. (The necessity of a neat, well-groomed appearance in the rock and roll arena would become optional a couple of years hence when the Rolling Stones and
other "scroungy" rock and rollers would came along and rock-and roll wood become ROCK! and looking unkempt and "wiped-out" would be "in".)
Buddy had split with Jerry Allison and Joe B. Mauldin (the Crickets) and was forming a new band. Allison and Mauldin were to retain the Crickets name and find a new lead vocalist and guitarist. Buddy had contracted for a mid-January to mid-February tour through the Midwest and wanted to take Waylon along as his bass player and back-up singer...if he could be "shaped up a little". I said, "Well, Buddy, you'll just have to sit him down and explain all this to him...and, I suppose, spring for a wardrobe and take him to a good barber. I'm sure he doesn't have the money". "I don't want to hurt his feelings," Buddy said. "Just talk to him in a nice...but business-like way", I advised. "He respects you, and has his hopes up.
He'll be all right with it. You're gonna be his boss and mentor after all! And you ARE Buddy Holly!". Buddy grinned and said, "Well, we'll give it a whirl! Can I have him when he gets off the air at 3:00?" I readily agreed.
It must have been about two hours later when Buddy appeared in my office door again with a big grin on his face. He said, "Sky, are you ready?" "Ready for what?", I asked. Buddy said, "Tah-dah!!!!", stepped aside with a flourish and there stood....was THAT Waylon??? He looked like Waylon's rich city cousin (if he'd had one). A razor-cut haircut that looked plumb Hollywood, a fine-looking sports jacket, spiffy slacks, shiny new stylish shoes..he was strutting like a game rooster. He looked like "Somebody"! "Have you ever been out to Brown's Varsity Shop across the street from Texas Tech?," Waylon asked me. "Man, I didn't know that was Johnny Mack Brown's brother's store! Damn if he don't look and talk just like him!" The Johnny Mack Brown he referred to was the cowboy movie star (and All-American Alabama football hero back in the '20's)...and his brother, known around town as "Coach" Brown was indeed the proprietor of the upscale men's store which catered to the college crowd...especially the athletes...and he often did some "coaching" while he was "decorating" the Red Raiders football team in their "off-duty" attire..
Buddy had decided to produce a record session on Waylon at Norman Petty's Studio in Clovis, New Mexico. He would also cut a couple of sides on himself...and he wanted the famed "Yakety-Sax" man, King Curtis playing saxophone. Curtis, a black rock and roll musician from "back east" accepted the gig'' and caught a commercial flight to Lubbock where he, Buddy and Waylon climbed into a small private plane with a hired pilot (or perhaps Buddy"s pilot brother, Larry) and flew to Clovis. Buddy, a life-long country music fan, wanted Waylon to record the old Cajun country classic "Jole Blon" with Curtis's funky sax substituted for the Cajun fiddle.
(Next time---more on the Clovis session---Waylon and Buddy's departure for
New York...and tragedy)
Click here for Part Five
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