WAYLON: A Biography by R. Serge Denisoff

WAYLON: A Biography

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Originally published (1983) by the Univ. of Tennessee Press, this more-than-ample biography of Waylon Jennings, one of the ""outlaw"" stars of country-music, avoids most of the gush, hype, and melodrama usually found in such celeb-bios. Denisoff conscientiously follows young Waylon (b. 1937) from rural poverty in southwest Texas to Lubbock, where he got five years of radio-experience as performer and ""madcap personality."" Next came a stint on tour with fellow Texan Buddy Holly--whose air-crash death left Waylon confused, disillusioned. (""Fate had cruelly postponed his plans for musical stardom."") Eventually, however, though based in Phoenix, Waylon started making crucial contacts: his songwriting (""Just to Satisfy You"") brought L.A. recordings; more important, his band attracted the notice of Nashville superstar Chet Atkins; and, despite a doomed first stab at country/folk crossover, Waylon soon toured with Johnny Cash, then became, with ""MacArthur Park,"" the first country singer to win a Grammy for a middle-of-the-road ballad. But, with his increasing interest in country/rock crossover, Waylon found himself in conflict with the Grand Ole Opry-style establishment--which also frowned on his pill-popping, messy personal life. And only in the mid-1970s, in tandem with Willie Nelson (and a canny manager), did Waylon's ""outlaw"" mode gain wide appeal--though Denisoff stresses Waylon's dislike of superstardom and doesn't romanticize the ""outlaw"" trend. (""It was easy, too easy, to believe that the good guys wore the black hats and Indian jewelry while the bad guys wore the white leisure suits and ran the commerce of Music City."") With solid, not-too-gossipy coverage of Waylon's four marriages and his drug problems: a sturdy, balanced account--stronger on the business than the music, probably a bit too long and dry for many fans.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1984
Publisher: St. Martin's