Waylon Jennings is one of the most iconic artists to ever come out of Texas. Starting out in Lubbock with Buddy Holly as a mentor, he was well on his way to a career as a professional musician. As bass player in Waylon’s band, he was there on that fateful night of the plane crash that took the life of Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper. Jennings almost quit music after that but finally put together a band and moved to Phoenix, Arizona. After several years playing to packed houses in the southwest, he took his band to Nashville and auditioned for Chet Atkins at RCA Records. Atkins quickly signed Waylon but tried to change his style like he did with Willie Nelson. After years of one night stands in dumpy beer joints across America, Jennings finally convinced Chet to let him record an album with his band and his songs. The rest is country music history. Jennings is credited with having the first million selling album in country music when he released ‘Wanted: The Outlaws’ in 1976. To celebrate his incredible legacy, an all-star concert is planned for July 6 in Austin at the ACL Moody Theatre. Many musicians will join forces for a special show titled “Outlaw: Celebrating the Music of Waylon Jennings.” Tickets are on-sale now at (877) 987 – 6487. The all-star show will feature Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Toby Keith, Eric Church, Kacey Musgraves, Ryan Bingham, Sturgill Simpson, Jamey Johnson, Lee Ann Womack, Chris Stapleton, Billy Joe Shaver, plus Waylon’s widow Jessi Colter and son Shooter Jennings. The concert will be taped and filmed for future release. Proceeds from this show will go to the United Way and will be earmarked for the Texas residents affected by the recent Memorial Day floods.
The first time I saw Kacey Musgraves, she opened for Radney Foster at Gruene Hall. After her set she joined him onstage as his backup singer. I picked up a copy of her self-released CD that night and immediately fell in love with her voice. She had released two previous CD’s of mostly cover tunes that featured her uncanny knack for yodeling. All three are now out of print and go for several hundred dollars on eBay. I’m glad I located copies before her career took off like a rocket. After her 2013 album ‘Same Trailer, Different Park’ hit the streets, all she could do was hold on and ride the lightning. Her fee went from $5,000 per show to over $20,000 in less than a week. A huge tour bus replaced the van and trailer she previously traveled in. A tour with Katy Perry introduced her to a new world of fans and she barely had a day off for the next year. Now, she’s set to release her second album, or her fifth, if you count the three independent ones. Titled ‘Pageant Material,’ it’s not that different from ‘Same Trailer,’ and that’s not a bad thing. The first single ‘Biscuits’ assured fans that she hasn’t tried to change things much from the tunes they fell in love with. During the month of July, you will see her promoting the new CD everywhere, including her first appearance at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic in Austin. Musgraves seems to be handling fame with an old soul attitude. Her off days are spent at the gym or hanging with her boyfriend, Misa Arriaga, who is also the guitarist in her band. Her record label wanted to push the release date of the new album back to September but after winning a Grammy last year, it gave her the clout to stick with the June date. They also wanted her to change a key line in her single “Biscuits”. They wanted her to change ‘Pissing in my yard ain’t gonna make yours any greener’ to ‘Spitting in my yard’. Once again she held her ground and won the battle. Musgraves grew up in Golden, Texas (pop. 398), a small town like Lindale, Texas where her pal Miranda Lambert hails from. Her grandmother lived next door, and her parents owned a print shop nearby. On weekends, the family would hop in a minivan and hit the “Opry Circuit.” Kacey dressed as a cowgirl and sang Patsy Cline and Hank Williams songs with a house band at small theaters all over Texas. At 18, Musgraves came to Nashville after making it through an audition for the singing competition Nashville Star. She finished seventh. “I prefer a more organic approach to music,” she says. “Nobody even remembers that I did that, so it’s fine.” After playing open mics for a while, Musgraves scored a job as a staff songwriter for Warner Bros./Chappell, where she became friends with Shane McAnally and Luke Laird, who have written dozens of chart-topping country hits between them. The pair helped her write much of the ‘Same Trailer’ album. Musgraves knows the new CD doesn’t break any new ground and promises to do something different on the next one, possibly a concept album. Whatever path she chooses, you can bet her legion of fans will follow.
It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from the Dixie Chicks, the best-selling female band of all-time. In a recent press release, they have announced that they will return to the concert stage in 2016. Fans that want to catch one of their shows will need to have a passport though, since the tour will take place overseas. Singer Natalie Maines, guitarist Emily Robison Strayer and fiddle player Martie Maguire announced on their website that they’ll embark on a European tour in 2016. The website post states “Superstars, renegades, innovators, heroes, villains, and moms, for over a decade, the Dixie Chicks have grown from a band into a phenomenon, with over 30 million albums sold.” It then lists all the destinations on the upcoming trek. “Starting in Amsterdam, the tour will then head to the UK and Ireland to play arenas in Birmingham, Manchester, London, Glasgow, and will culminate in Dublin.” The Amsterdam date, at Heineken Music Hall, takes place April 20, 2016 and the tour concludes in the Republic of Ireland’s capital city on May 4th. The Grammy-winning group’s London date, on May 1st, will take place at the O2 Arena, very close to the O2 Empire in Shepherd’s Bush where Natalie Maines made her now famous remark about then-President Bush and the impending Iraq War. In 2006, they released “Shut Up and Sing,” a documentary about the widespread boycott of their music at country radio. They also released their final album that year, the excellent ‘Taking the Long Way Home.’ It earned them five Grammy awards, including Album of the Year. In 2010 they toured with the Eagles, and sisters Maguire and Strayer formed the Court Yard Hounds duo. Each year since then, they have played a few select dates as a group, with Maines releasing her solo rock LP, Mother, in May 2013. Court Yard Hounds released their second album, Amelita, two months later. Hopefully the band will continue the tour and bring it home to America. They are a great band and I think it’s time we all realize that music is one of the greatest healers there is.
Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about the most exciting new band at last month’s CMT Music Awards. In the middle of all the rap, pop, bro-country, reflector shades and ball caps, one band displayed an original sound and look. Though they aren’t from Texas, they should be. I’m talking about the band A Thousand Horses from South Carolina. They have the current Number One single, ‘Smoke,’ on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. They just released their debut album, ‘Southernality,’ on Republic Nashville. Produced by Dave Cobb, the record is a muscular mix of radio country and Southern rock, which has earned them the title of the ‘new’ Lynyrd Skynyrd. Since forming in 2010, A Thousand Horses have grown from four guys to a group of ten, including drummer Ryan Scarborough, keyboardist/fiddle player Brian Purwin and three backup singers: Morgan Hebert, Kristen Rogers and Whitney Coleman. The result is a dynamic stage show similar to Skynyrd’s 1976 tour line-up. “Having the fiddle and keys player, and the girls, was something we always wanted to do,” explains lead singer Michael Hobby. “They are such incredible singers and musicians, and everybody feeds off everyone’s energy. When I hear them in my ears, it fires me up.” The band will be playing a lot this summer, opening for Darius Rucker through September and already have their fall mapped out, including a headlining show at Billy Bob’s in August. Trust me, you will be seeing a lot from this band in the future.