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May 19

The Tumultuous Yet Beautiful Love Story of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter

It actually took a few marriages for country legends Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter to find each other. In his pursuit of lasting love, Jennings said “I do” three times before finally getting it right. Meanwhile, Colter divorced her husband of seven years, but she did not lose hope of finding love again. 

And despite the rough path they individually went through before finding each other, their marriage ended up being one of the best love stories in country music and among the longest relationships in Nashville.

Waylon Jennings had very humble beginnings. He was born in Littlefield, Texas, to parents who were accomplished pickers. And from the very start, Jennings was already immersed in music. In fact, he left high school at the age of 16, knowing that music would turn into his career. He started recording demo songs and performing on a country radio station. He would also often join Buddy Holly’s performances on KDAV’s Sunday Party.

In addition to performing on-air, Jennings began to work as a DJ, where he started making a name for himself.

Fourth Time’s A Charm

In 1956, Jennings married Maxine Caroll Lawrence, with whom he had four kids. Waylon Jennings’ children are Terry Vance, Julie Rae, Buddy Dean, and Deana. Six years later, the country singer got hitched with Lynne Jones and adopted a child, Tomi Lynne. However, the marriage did not last long, calling it quits in 1967.

Jennings’ third wife is Barbara Elizabeth Rood, whom he married in 1967 as well. 

Indeed, Jennings has been through the cycle of marriage and divorce several times. He composed the country ballad “This Time,” which tells the hardships and tribulations he had to go through because of his marriages and divorces. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles and was the first of fourteen Waylon Jennings’ songs that became country No. 1 hits.

But just when Jennings was about to give up on searching for that one person to spend the rest of his life with, he found the right one – fellow country singer Jessi Colter. Jennings confessed that he was at his life’s lowest point when he met Colter. In addition to weighing over 130 pounds, he was also bent on self-destruction – staying “depressed all the time and stoned.”

Jenning’s admitted that Colter was the best thing ever happened to him. Colter, on the other hand, was first married to rockabilly guitar legend Duane Eddy. They had a daughter, Jennifer.

One Last “I Do”

Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter’s wedding happened in a church in Phoenix, Arizona, where Colter’s mother served as the minister. The legendary couple quickly grew into important figures in country music’s outlaw movement. 

Seven years after they got hitched, they joined forces with fellow founding pioneers of the Outlaw Movement – Willie Nelson and Tompall Glaser – to release the album Wanted! The Outlaws. It was the first album in Nashville to reach Platinum certification after selling a whopping million copies.

The talented couple worked together on several other occasions all through the years, too. They recorded the duet album Leather and Lace, which includes what is perhaps their best duet, “Storms Never Last.” Colter would also often sing background vocals on Jennings’ albums.

On May 19, 1979, Jessi Colter and Waylon Jennings welcomed their only son, Waylon Albright “Shooter” Jennings, into the world.

However, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for Colter and Jennings! It’s no longer a secret that the couple faced their fair share of storms throughout their marriage. In the early 1980s, the couple actually almost divorced because Jennings was severely addicted to cocaine and alcohol. 

He was also almost broke, despite coming from one of the most successful eras of critical and commercial success the country music had ever witnessed. He would even disappear for days and had a horrible drug habit that took him years to kick.

Luckily, Jennings has finally managed to break free from his struggles in the early 80s. He quit using cocaine for good for the sake of his son. On the other hand, Waylon Jennings’ wife never left his side despite all the hardships they faced. The two remained together until Jennings’ death from diabetic complications in 2002.

Indeed, the marriage of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter is one of the most beautiful and inspiring love stories in country music.


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Jessi Colter, Waylon Jennings


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