Country Legend Waylon Jennings Dies

ByABC News

Feb. 14, 2002 -- He was a Highwayman, Outlaw and a Cricket.

Country music lost one of its honky-tonk heroes Wednesday, when Waylon Jennings succumbed to diabetes-related illnesses. He is said to have died peacefully, at home.

He was 64.

"Waylon was a towering figure in country music in a lot of ways," said Neil Pond, editor of Country Music and Country Weekly magazines. "Knowing that there'll be no more music coming from Waylon Jennings is a sad thing."

A Personification of the Outlaw

Jennings teamed up with fellow "outlaw" legends Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson to record and tour as The Highwaymen. He was probably the least known member of the group outside country music circles, but to fans, he personified the outlaw movement.

In fact, his list of "refused tos" and "rejecteds" is nearly as long as his accomplishments: Jennings rejected standardized country pop for the hard-drinking "honky-tonk" music of country's roots, refused to appear on the Grand Ole Opry when it banned drums and has rejected many establishment awards and honors.

His condemnation of the Nashville sound was spelled out in his hit song, "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?"

Jennings didn't even attend his induction last year into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Officially, he was sick. But the whispers said Jennings felt slighted that the hall had waited so long to recognize him.

"Waylon was the one living entertainer that refused to show up at his Hall of Fame induction in Nashville," said Pond. "Thumbing his nose, really, at that honor as too little too late."

In fact, Jennings seldom attended awards shows, and — as a certified outlaw — often declined to appear

Friends Lament a Country Great

"Waylon was a dear friend, one of the very best of 35 years. I'll miss him immensely," Cash told The Associated Press.

"He was his own man," fellow country legend Glen Campbell lamented to KTVK in Phoenix. "He was a great writer. He was a great showman... You know, he was incredible."

"I loved Waylon," said Emmylou Harris. "He had a voice and a way with a song like no one else. He was also a class act as an artist and as a man. I'm really going to miss him."

Jennings' hits included "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys," "Luckenbach, Texas," "Good-Hearted Woman" and the theme from The Dukes of Hazzard.

He also served as narrator of the hit TV show.

A Date With Destiny

Jennings filled in with pal Buddy Holly's band, The Crickets, as a bass player, and was fated to be on board the flight that ultimately claimed the life of the rock pioneer, and, many say, changed the face of early pop music.

However, he gave his seat to The Big Bopper, who — along with Holly and Ritchie Valens — perished in the crash, known as "The Day the Music Died."

Holly had produced Jennings' first album.

"Mainly what I learned from Buddy was an attitude," Jennings once said, according to his Web site. "He loved music, and he taught me that it shouldn't have any barriers to it."

But in addition to the hits, the two-time Grammy winner was also notorious for his hard-living lifestyle. In his 1996 autobiography, Waylon, Jennings documents his longtime battle with drugs, as well as financial turmoil.

Jennings' schedule was slowed by his health in recent years, after recording scores of albums and 16 No. 1 country music singles. His left foot was amputated in December, a result of the diabetes that ultimately claimed him.

His official Web site was not updated to reflect Jennings' death. But the message boards at the site of friend, fellow outlaw and frequent collaborator Willie Nelson were jumping with messages of sympathy, and despair.

"I am typing through tears," wrote one poster.

"Vio con dios," wrote another mourner. "Go with God, my friend."

Jennings leaves behind his wife of more than three decades, singer Jessi Colter, and their son, Shooter.'s Edward Mazza and ABCNEWS Radio contributed to this report.

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