July 31

Lovin’ the Outlaw Country: Bob Wills Is Still the King

Who remembers the outlaw tribute song of Waylon Jennings to Bob Wills?

Waylon Jennings
Waylon Jennings Live in Austin, Texas. April 1, 1989
Photo from Youtube via Screengrab

The song was written as tribute to James Robert Wills or also known as Bob Wills, the King of Western Swing. He formed the band “Texas Playboys” with Tommy Duncan as the vocalist. “San Antonio Rose” and “Steel Guitar Rag” were among their famous pieces. It was originally intended to be a message to his friend Willie Nelson.  As part of the lyrics, he mentioned that he wrote the song on a plane between Dallas and Austin goin’ to El Paso where he is scheduled to perform a concert. He further talks about the king who contributed much to outlaw music and pray to hear the Texas playboys and Tommy Duncan sing.  Consequently, Jennings mentioned that Nashville Tennessee is the home of the country music but stressed that down in Texas, Bob Wills is still the King. Unfortunately, before the release of the song, Wills had his untimely death caused by bronchial pneumonia. He died on May 13, 1975 at the age of 70.Sadly, he was not able to hear the tribute song.


Coming from the land of Texas, Jennings was the promulgator of the outlaw country music.  He initiated the anti-nashville style of country music. He depicted the “rock style” country singer in contrast with the singers from Grand Ole Opry.  Some of  his famous pieces include “ Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow” and  “ Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way”. He worked with other outlaw music artists like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams. At the age of 64, Jennings died in February 13, 2002 due to diabetes complications in his home. He left behind his wife, Jessie Colter and their child, Waylon Albright Jennings.


bob wills, Waylon Jennings

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