Waylon Jennings Robert Hilburn - Essay

Robert Hilburn

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Funny how time slips away. It has been more than a dozen years now since a group of country boys, led by Elvis Presley, got together in some Tennessee recording studios and started a revolution in American music. With the help of such songs as "Blue Suede Shoes," "Bye, Bye Love" and "Heartbreak Hotel," they came up with a country-rock sound that helped reshape pop music.

Since that golden age of country-rock, hundreds of acts have been influenced by that early sound, but no one new has captured the essence of that emotional, driving music of the mid-1950's. No one, that is, until Waylon Jennings.

In recent months, Jennings has established himself as the most exciting new country singer in years. He features a hard, tough sound that has much of the same earthy appeal as the early country-rock numbers. In many ways, Jennings is a natural musical descendant of Presley, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and other country-rock pioneers….

Though Jennings is a descendant of the early country-rock sound, it would be a mistake to think of him only in that light. He more truly represents the realization of the promise generated in those initial days of the new sound. His voice is stronger, his arrangements more polished and his themes generally are more meaningful.

While there is the strong beat of such early rock hits as "That'll Be the Day" in Jennings' version of "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line," there's a definite lyric and melodic maturity in such other Jennings offerings as "Love of the Common People" and "Walk On Out of My Mind." [He is a] man with modern propensities in song….

Robert Hilburn, "Waylon Jennings," in BMI: The Many Worlds of Music (© 1969 by Broadcast Music, Inc.), April, 1969, p. 16.