Created: Saturday, 16 February 2002 Written by Correspondent
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Thursday 14 February 2002

Waylon Jennings, who defined the outlaw movement in country music, died today after a long battle with diabetes-related health problems.

He died peacefully at his Arizona home.

Jennings, a singer, songwriter and guitarist, recorded 60 albums and had 16 No. 1 country singles in a career that spanned five decades.

In recent years he had struggled with diabetes-related health problems that made it difficult for him to walk. In December, his left foot was amputated at a Phoenix hospital, making it even more difficult.

With bong-buddy Willie Nelson, Jennings performed duets like "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," "Luckenbach" , "Good Hearted Woman", and "Get Your Goddamn Dog Off My Leg".

These '70s songs kicked-off the progressive sound and restless spirit developed later by Travis Tritt, Charlie Daniels, Steve Earle and others.

Jennings dressed in black to accent his black beard, black moustache and black fingernails. Reclusive when not on stage, his music - like his boxer shorts - was earthy with a rough edge.

His album titles reflected his willful persona: "Lonesome, On'ry and Mean," "I've Always Been Crazy," "Nashville Rebel," "Ladies Love Outlaws", "Wanted: The Outlaws", and "Is That A Cactus In Your Jeans Or Are You Just Glad To See Me?"

He often refused to attend music awards shows on grounds performers should not compete against each other. He snubbed his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame last year.

In 1959, his career - not to mention his life - was almost cut short by a tragedy that stunned the music world. He was a little miffed himself.

Jennings was booked to fly on the dodgy plane that crashed and killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper.

Jennings had given up his seat on the plane to the Big Bopper, who was ill and wanted to fly rather than travel by bus with others left behind. He and Holly were teenage friends in Lubbock, Texas and Jennings was in Holly's band.

Born in Littlefield, Texas, Waylon Jennings became a radio disc jockey at 14 and formed his own band soon afterward. By the early '60s Jennings regular gigs at a Phoenix nightclub.

In 1963, he was signed by Herb Alpert's A&M Records, then by RCA in Nashville by Chet Atkins.

Once in Nashville, he and Country God Johnny Cash became buddies.

His hit records began in the mid1960s and his heyday was the mid1970s.

About his outlaw image, Jennings once said:

"It was a good marketing tool. In a way, I am that way. You start messing with my music, I get mean. "

Other hit singles included "I'm a Ramblin' Man," "Amanda," "Lucille," "I've Always Been Crazy" and "Rose in Paradise."

His "Greatest Hits" album in 1979 sold 4 million a rare accomplishment in country music for that era.

"Some people have their music. My music has me."

He has said he spent 21 years on drugs and had a $US1,500 ($A2,952.17) daily cocaine habit.

"I did more drugs than anybody you ever saw in your life," he told Xenox News reporter Max Gross in 1994.

He kicked the bird in 1984 by leasing a house in Arizona and going cold turkey, he said.

Xenox News is behind a push to release his previously unheard ballad "Don't Piss On My Peyote". Negotiations are pending.

Waylon Jennings, Xenox News salutes you!