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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 12:04 GMT
Waylon Jennings: Country legend
Waylon Jennings
Jennings missed the fateful crash that killed Buddy Holly
Country music star Waylon Jennings has died aged 64. BBC News Online looks at his life, and how he became a star of the music scene.

Waylon Jennings' life had more than its fair share of triumph, adversity, success and near-death experiences - all of which helped make him a country music legend.

The music veteran left behind him a legacy of four decades of music.

A protegé of Buddy Holly, Jennings enjoyed something most music stars only dream of - lasting success throughout his career.

Buddy Holly was the first guy who had confidence in me

Waylon Jennings
He sold more than 40 million records world-wide, enjoyed 89 Billboard country chart hits, including 16 number one songs, and 53 top 10 tunes.

But his career could have been ended before it started had he not given up his seat on the plane which killed Holly and Ritchie Valens back in 1959.


Jennings was born in Littlefield, Texas in 1937.

He formed his own band by the age of 12 and became a DJ aged 14.

Jennings' career took off when he met a young Holly at a local radio station in 1955.

The two struck up an instant friendship, with the Peggy Sue singer producing Jennings' first record, Jole Blon, and inviting him to play bass on a national tour.

Sting sang with Jennings on one of his albums
Sting sang with Jennings on one of his albums
"Buddy was the first guy who had confidence in me," he once said in a radio interview. "Hell, I had as much star quality as an old shoe. But he really liked me and believed in me."

But their friendship did not last long, as Holly was tragically killed in a plane crash.

Jennings had given up his seat on the plane to the Big Bopper, JP Richardson, at the last minute.

The tragedy seemed to spur Jennings on and after a period of working as a nightclub singer, he was signed up by RCA Records in 1965 .


That year he scored a top five hit with Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line and just a year later, he picked up his first of two Grammys for his version of MacArthur Park.

Jennings always struggled against the formulaic output of the Nashville system - he was constantly trying to put his own individual stamp on his music.

He once said: "It wasn't until I started producing my own records and using my own musicians and working with people who understood what I was about that I first started having any real success."

Jennings made a cameo appearance in Mel Gibson's Maverick
Jennings made a cameo appearance in Mel Gibson's Maverick
In the 1970s and 80s, the hits continued with songs like This Time, I've Always Been Crazy and Amanda.

He was the first solo country artist to go platinum with his greatest hits album Ol' Waylon in 1977.

He also wrote the theme tune for the hugely successful Dukes of Hazzard TV series.

Jennings also appeared on TV and film including roles in the Mel Gibson movie Maverick and children's show Sesame Street.


In the 1990s, Jennings' appeal among younger fans grew and he performed on the Lollapalooza tour in 1996, performing several dates with the likes of Metallica and Soundgarden.

Sting and Sheryl Crow also sang on his Closing In On The Fire album.

In later years however, Jennings was plagued by ill health.

He underwent triple bypass heart surgery and had a further operation for vascular disease last year.

The star was also suffering from diabetes and last December he had a foot amputated due to the disease.

Jennings, who last year was elected into the country music hall of fame, leaves behind a wife, Jessi Colter, and a son named Shooter.

See also:

14 Feb 02 | Music
Your tributes: Waylon Jennings
14 Mar 01 | Entertainment
US music fans prefer rap to country
01 Nov 01 | Showbiz
Johnny Cash back in hospital
05 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Dixie Chicks sweep country awards
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