Country music outlaw Waylon Jennings dies

Thursday, February 14, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Waylon Jennings, whose rebellious songs and brash attitude defined the outlaw movement in country music, died Wednesday after a long battle with diabetes-related health problems. He was 64.

Jennings spokeswoman Schatzie Hageman said Jennings died peacefully at his home in Arizona.

Jennings, a singer, songwriter and guitarist, recorded 60 albums and had 16 No. 1 country singles in a career that spanned five decades and began when he played bass for Buddy Holly.

He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in October.

"Waylon was a dear friend, one of the very best of 35 years," said Johnny Cash, who recorded and toured with Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson as The Highwaymen. "I'll miss him immensely."

George Jones called it a "great loss for country music," and Emmylou Harris said Jennings "had a voice and a way with a song like no one else."

"He was also a class act as an artist and a man," she said.

Health problems

Jennings had been plagued with diabetes-related health problems in recent years that made it difficult for him to walk. In December, his left foot was amputated at a Phoenix hospital.

Jennings and his wife, singer Jessi Colter, sold their home in Nashville more than a year ago and moved to Chandler, Ariz. They held an auction before the move, offering up items like "Leon," a wood carving of an Indian chief that was Jennings' stage mascot for 20 years.

In 1959, Jennings' career was nearly cut short by tragedy soon after it began.

He was scheduled to fly on the light plane that crashed and killed Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. Jennings gave up his seat on the plane to Richardson, who was ill and wanted to fly rather than travel by bus with those left behind.

With his pal Nelson, Jennings performed duets like "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," "Luckenbach" and "Good Hearted Woman." Those 1970s songs nurtured a progressive sound and restless spirit embraced later by Travis Tritt, Charlie Daniels, Steve Earle and others.

His resonant, authoritative voice also was used to narrate the popular TV show "The Dukes of Hazzard." He sang its theme song, which was a million seller.

"I aimed the narration at children and it made it work," he said in a 1987 AP interview.

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