“I’ve always been crazy– but it’s kept me from going insane.”
No one personified the hard-living, honky tonk, maverick life as much as Waylon Jennings did. Born in Littlefield, Texas, in 1937, he played bass with rock-and-roll legend Buddy Holly in the 1950s, roomed and misbehaved with Johnny Cash in the 1960s, and had dozens of top-ten hits along the way—including 1978’s “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” But it was as an “Outlaw” that Waylon made his biggest contribution. Along with co-conspirators Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser, Billy Joe Shaver, and others, the Outlaws streamlined arrangements, eschewed clichéd lyrics, and modernized country music by looking back to its soulful roots and mixing in a shot of rock-and-roll. Waylon Jennings, Performance Center, Cambridge, MA, 1976 –Image by Henry Horenstein
Circa 1974, College Station, TX — Willie Nelson thrills a young crowd 40,000 strong as he opens his ‘July 4th Picnic’ in College Station, Texas. Crowds of over 150,000 were expected during the three day weekend music fest. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
Circa 1969, Cummins, Arkansas — Singer Johnny Cash as he chats with some of the inmates and guests during his visit to Cummins Prison in Arkansas. April 10, 1969. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
Steve Earle– Born 1955 in Virginia, he grew up in and around Texas. Steve dropped out of high school in the 9th grade and began his pursuit of breakin’ into the music scene, and becoming a real deal singer/songwriter– like his hero Townes Van Zandt, who he was obsessed with. Steve often tells of being all of 17 years old in 1972, and playing at the Old Quarter in Houston in front of a handful of patrons– one of them being Townes. He was petrified up there on that tiny stage with Townes Van Zandt, who he still considers the best there ever was, sitting dead in front of him with his moccasins propped up on the stage right at Earle’s feet– and loudly heckling him between songs. (Steve Earle unabashedly fesses to going out and buying a pair of said moccasins the very next day…) The two became close, and will always be joined in legend and history– it’s flat-out impossible to talk about one without the other. Steve moved to Nashville (like alot of the songer/songwriters did in the 1970s after Kris Kristofferson had become a big star there) and played bass with another future legend, Guy Clark. — 1975 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire
Townes Van Zandt– One of the great tragic figures of country music, Fort Worth, Texas, native Townes Van Zandt was a folk singer, songwriter, performer and poet. He was particularly influential in the emergence of alternative country in the nineteen-seventies. Steve Earle described him as the greatest songwriter who ever lived, and his influence was felt by many other artists, including Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, and Lyle Lovett. Bob Dylan refers to this Texas native as his favorite songwriter. He wrote hundreds of haunting songs that have been widely recorded, perhaps most notably “Pancho and Lefty” which was a number one hit for Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard in 1983. — 1990 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire
Texans Guy and Susanna Clark, both singer/songwriters, first came to Nashville at the time that same McGuire did, back in 1972. They became fast friends when McGuire shot the cover photographs for Guy Clark’s first studio album “Old Number One”, which was released by RCA Records in 1975. During the 1970s, when this photograph was taken, the Clark’s Nashville home was a haven for emerging songwriters and musicians. Guy Clark has served as a mentor to many other songwriters, most notably Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell, and numerous artists have recorded Guy Clark-penned songs. — 1975 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire
It was over fifty years ago– February 3, 1959, that the chartered plane carrying singers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper, fell out of the sky and rock ‘n’ roll was forever changed. Although his success lasted only a year and a half before his death, Holly is described by critic Bruce Eder as “the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll.” His works and innovations were copied by his contemporaries and later musicians, notably The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and exerted a profound influence on popular music. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Holly #13 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.