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The Waylon Jennings Years at KLLL (Part Seven)

by JR posted Apr 24 2014 2:36PM
Start with Part One, here

J.R. here again, with Part Seven of Sky Corbin's account of the years when Waylon Jennings was at KLLL. When I talked with Sky on the phone a couple of years ago, he still seemed sad at this part of the story. Dealing with the loss of a friend like Buddy must have been one thing. Having supposed to have been on that plane like Waylon was, must have been a heavy cross to bear in the years that followed for Waylon. We are nearing the end of Waylon's Tenure at KLLL. Here is Sky with Part Seven-@JRKLLL

After the loss of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. (Big Bopper) Richardson in the tragic Iowa plane crash in the early morning hours of February 3rd, 1959, the booking agency in New York pleaded with Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup to continue the tour as "The Crickets". (drummer Charlie Bunch had dropped out earlier after suffering frost-bite on the poorly heated touring bus.) According to Waylon, HE just wanted to go home and "forget it". Not only was he distraught over the loss of Buddy...and tired and cold...but he knew that he and Allsup WERE NOT the Crickets. Jerry Allison and Joe B. Mauldin, two of the original group, owned the name, as per their agreement with Buddy Holly when he left the group. The booking agency, against Buddy's wishes, and without his advance knowledge, had advertised his new act as "Buddy Holly And the Crickets", and it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to change all the advance advertising and already-printed promo material, so, for that tour, it stood. In a scramble to save the remaining dates on the Winter Dance Party tour, auditions were held in the Fargo area (Holly fan and sound-alike Bobby Vee was thus discovered) and several known rock and roll acts were sent by the agency...and, after serving as Pall-bearers at Buddy's funeral, the "real" Crickets, Jerry, Joe B. and new member Sonny Curtis claimed their rights as the real, legal Crickets, finishing the tour, which was fine with Jennings and Allsup. According to Waylon, when it came time for him and Allsup to settle with the agency, the firm wanted to settle with them for only what they had been receiving as backup for Buddy, though using them as headliners.

Waylon was soon back home in Littlefield and unemployed, after just two weeks as a traveling rock and roll musician. At KLLL, Lubbock, we didn't really need another deejay. Waylon had been replaced. But, because he needed the job...because I had started the chain of events that led to his quitting to go on tour with Buddy Holly, and encouraged it...and we'd had a "tacit/maybe" understanding...and because we thought his experiences would make him an even more interesting air-personality...and he was almost family, he was re-hired and squeezed into the schedule, and onto the payroll.

I don't recall Waylon's talking much on the air about Buddy's death...or the tour. If he did, it was minimal..which was fine with me. Using Buddy for KLLL's promotional benefit would not have been the thing to do. Waylon was different, though. He'd been to New York, he'd toured with Buddy Holly and other famous entertainers and now he was back to being just another small-time deejay in an isolated West Texas medium market He was always one to bend the rules, and soon he and I began to have problems, small things such as his reluctance to follow the format..including music programming violations...and talking too much...usually about nothing which made much sense or was of interest. He'd talk himself into a corner, then say, "Oh, well..." and start a record. We were attempting to run a sharp, tight, format like the big-time pop stations, but with country and rockabilly music. Chatting more than l5 or 20 seconds about nothing just didn't get it. More than once, I called him into my office after his show and gave him a "bad review"...but soon we'd adjourn to the coffee shop like pals...maybe even toss around ideas for a song.

Soon after his return, I, while giving him a ride to pick up his car, told him I had a great title for a "Roger Miller type song". (We were very fond of George Jones' s record of Miller's ":Big Harlan Taylor".) My idea was to use the title of an old radio soap opera Called "Young Widow Brown". I suggested we both do some thinking on it and try to write it the next day. The following afternoon, we got together in the production room...he with the guitar, me with pen and paper. The song almost wrote itself as we had a good time and laughed at our own cleverness. The song was my idea and I probably wrote 75% of the lyrics...but the "Salvation Army" rhythm on the chorus and his line "That woman, she's crazy, if she thinks that I'll just keep on a-hangin' around" was 'the hook'...then I believe I suggested....."I'd leave in a minute...except for one thang...that one thang is young widow Brown." Waylon said "That's it! That's it!" And so it went for perhaps 20 minutes and then it was committed to tape and I typed it up. It wasn't Shakespeare or even Irving Berlin, but it was close to Roger Miller, and we thought we had something.


Everyone with interest in music who came near KLLL during the next couple of weeks was almost forced to listen to the song...including the friendly Columbia records rep from Ft. Worth, O. B. (Woody) Woodard. Woody had been in radio, then record distribution, for many years. He knew his stuff, knew some of the people AND had a little "back-pocket" music firm on the side, Heart of the Hills Publishing. He loved the song and asked if he could have the publishing rights. I told him he could, IF he could place it...maybe with George Jones...but Woody didn't get the song to Jones. Starday artist Frankie Miller (no relation to Roger) of Ft. Worth was actually almost as hot at that point in time as Jones. Frankie had hit big with "Blackland Farmer", "Baby Rocked Her Dolly" and one or two others in the previous year or so. He loved our song, Woody said, and wanted to do it for his next record. We would have preferred Jones, but...a bird in the hand...a hot artist...We agreed and signed the contract with Heart of the Hills..





Starday slipped back into it's old ways with Frankie's recording of our "masterpiece"....only fair sound quality, poor arrangement, much too slow. Apparently the producer didn't understand that it was a rowdy, humorous song and had Frankie sing it as though it was a tear-jerker.


The record did make the top 10 on the national charts, but was Frankie's poorest showing of his past 3 or 4 records...several years later, when he and I appeared on a show together at Floydada, not far from Lubbock, Frankie apologized for "ruining yours and Waylon's song." I said, "Maybe We should apologize for ruining your career!" It WAS Waylon Jennings first taste of success in the music business. At about this same time, with his Holly-produced tapes of "Jole Blon" and "When Sin Stops" accepted by Brunswick records (for whom the Crickets had recorded), the company sent a contract, which Waylon signed at my desk with my brother and partner Ray "Slim" Corbin and me leaning over his shoulders as we all posed for the camera. Had Waylon found success in the "music bidness"? Not by a long shot! Waylon faced more "character-shaping" trials and tribulations (many self-induced) on the road to fame..and George Jones (unknowingly) would be a factor in Waylon's being invited to leave KLLL.



(Posted With Permission)
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04/24/2014 2:36PM
The Waylon Jennings Years at KLLL (Part Seven)
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