Waylon Jennings, American country music singer and songwriter (born June 15, 1937, Littlefield, Texas—died Feb. 13, 2002, Chandler, Ariz.), recorded some 60 albums and 16 number one country hits and sold more than 40 million records worldwide; in the 1970s he spearheaded, with Willie Nelson, a movement known as “outlaw music,” which blended folk lyrics, rock rhythms, and honky-tonk-style instrumentation. Jennings, who performed professionally from the age of 12, first toured as a bassist for Buddy Holly and only narrowly missed getting on the plane that in 1959 crashed with Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) aboard.
Chet Atkins eventually signed Jennings to a contract with RCA Records and took him to Nashville in 1964. Four years later Jennings recorded his first number one song, “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line.” Other hits included “Good Hearted Woman” (1972) and “(I’m a) Ramblin’ Man” (1974). Frustrated by what he saw as the increasingly bland sound of country music, Jennings teamed with Nelson in 1976 to produce their own album, Wanted: The Outlaws, which launched the outlaw music movement and became the first Nashville album to sell a million copies. A later duet with Nelson, “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” earned the two a Grammy Award in 1978. Jennings wrote the theme song and provided narration for the popular 1980s television series The Dukes of Hazzard. In the 1980s, with Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson, he formed the Highwaymen, and the group recorded three best-selling albums. Jennings was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.