Waylon Jenning' career nearly ended almost before it began when, as Buddy Holly's bass player, he narrowly escaped being in the 1959 plane crash that killed Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, giving up his seat to someone else at the last minute. From Littlefield, Texas, Jennings learned to play guitar when he was eight and first appeared on his local radio station at 12, going on to lead his own band the Texas Longhorns and dropping out of school to pursue his musical ambitions. Moving to Lubbock he met Holly, who arranged Waylon's first recording session when he laid down the tracks Jolie Blon and When Sin Stops, released with little success on the Brunswick label. He joined Holly's band and after the plane crash worked in radio in Arizona before forming another band The Waylors. Moving to LA, Jennings was signed by A&M Records and had a few local hits, but fell out with label boss Herb Alpert who tried to shift his style from country to pop. However, when Chet Atkins signed him to RCA Victor in 1965 his career began to take off in earnest with the single That's The Chance I'll Have To Take, followed by the albums Folk-Country, Leavin' Town and Nashville Rebel. His first major hit was Just To Satisfy You (1967), and the 1972 album Ladies Love Outlaws, effectively launched a new genre dubbed "outlaw country". Flying in the face of Nashville's staid traditions, he did much to popularise country music with the crossover albums Honky Tonk Heroes, Dreaming My Dreams and Are You Ready For The Country appealing to the rock market. In Willie Nelson he found a kindred spirit and the two self-styled outlaws recorded the celebrated Willie & Waylon album together and had hits with Luckenbach, Texas and Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys. In the mid-1980s Waylon and Willie teamed up with Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson in another successful group, The Highwaymen. And in 1998 he formed another group, The Old Dogs, with other veteran country stars Bobby Bare, Jerry Reed and Mel Tillis. Eventually he had to stop touring due to ill health and died in 2002.
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