When most country fans think of Waylon Jennings, they think of the scruffy outlaw who performed tracks like “Luckenbach, Texas” and “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” Years before that, Jennings had a much different style and sound that was mostly a result of his controlling record label.
During the early 1970s, Jennings found himself battling against the current wave of “Countrypolitan” music, which was known for its somewhat sappy lyrical content and overbearing instrumental sections. With the release of his album Lonesome, On’ry and Mean, he continued his foray into the genre which is now known as “outlaw country.” He opted to record a track written by Kris Kristofferson, just two years after Janis Joplin hit number one with her rendition of the song.
Stylistically, Jennings’ version is much more laid back and restrained than Joplin’s, and is pulled forward by his deep and mysterious vocal. This televised performance came at a pivotal transitional period for Jennings as an artist, as you can see from his neon yellow attire and fresh-faced look. It’s a reminder of just how long and evolved his career in country music was in the nearly 50 years he spent performing before his death in 2002.
Click below to watch a vintage performance of Waylon Jennings singing “Me and Bobby McGee.”