Girls, Pills and Powders

Rating: NNNNNfive nights ago i was writingmyself a letter retelling the story I love that radio master David Pritchard told.

Rating: NNNNN

five nights ago i was writingmyself a letter retelling the story I love that radio master David Pritchard told me about Wailin’ Waylon Jennings.Pritchard put in his time at country station CFGM when country was strictly cult music for dedicated “zugs.” He met and befriended all the players whose records he spun. Then he moved to the new CHUM-FM, where everybody thought they were real cool — till ole Way-lon shows up, all black leather and greasy hair, strung out on pills, banging to get in the door, some gal’s husband in hot hoss pursuit. Course Pritchard had a good laugh seeing his co-workers’ cool veneer dissolve in a puddle of piss.

Naturally, two days after I write the name of one of my favourite musicians, I hear he’s been cancelled from this world.

Waylon drove like a train. He believed in the bottom end and always pushing beyond the beat. He could sing, high as Roy Orbison, low as J. Cash, soul-powered songs with his Telecaster cranked up to lead the way.

After quitting cotton-picking and school, he played around — always in both ways, music and women, lucky as only fellas can be. He DJed and learned patter and met fellow Texan Buddy Holly. All of Buddy’s money was being withheld by the sleaze who recorded his first sides, so he had to go on a crummy tour with the performers, trying to sleep on a freezing, breaking-down bus. He brought Waylon along to play bass.

In hopes of catching a bit of shut-eye and doing laundry, Buddy hired a plane. The Big Bopper begged Waylon to give up his seat, and Ritchie Valens got the other one. When Waylon’s mentor and friend was killed in the crash, tour management forced him to continue playing with Buddy Holly impersonators.

Waylon honed his personal style in big, rough, packed honky-tonks six nights a week plus two afternoons and a couple of after-hours gigs. Later, he experimented with things like MacArthur Park, but never lost the unfakeable, irreplaceable hardcore honky- tonk sound, the only kind I ever found to make me wanna hang around.

When Chet Atkins summoned Waylon to Nashville, it was pills, songs, pills, women, records, pills, Roger Miller, Johnny Cash, Bobby Bare and dozens of other greats who were all on pills in week-long sessions.

In the early days, Waylon Jennings often played in my hometown. It’s mentioned in his autobiography as the place where his bandmates received the meanest-spirited, most violent redneck reaction to their long hippy hair. Wherever Waylon’s gone, may he rest in peace knowing he’ll never have to play Toronto again.

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