Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville

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Overview

The definitive story of how three country music legends—Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson—changed music in Nashville

By the late 1960s, young people from all over the country were streaming into Nashville, Tennessee. The city was the center of the booming country music industry and home to what was known as the Nashville Sound, characterized by slick production and an increasingly overused formula.

But three trailblazing ...

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Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville

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Overview

The definitive story of how three country music legends—Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson—changed music in Nashville

By the late 1960s, young people from all over the country were streaming into Nashville, Tennessee. The city was the center of the booming country music industry and home to what was known as the Nashville Sound, characterized by slick production and an increasingly overused formula.

But three trailblazing artists would soon rock the foundations of Nashville's music business. Tapping into the burgeoning underground scene and the traditions of civil rights leaders and antiwar protestors, Waylon, Willie, and Kris resisted Nashville's music-making machine and forged their own paths, creating music that was more personal, not easily categorized, and in the vein of rock acts of the time.

Drawing on extensive research and probing interviews with Kris Kristofferson, Rodney Crowell, Guy Clark, Cowboy Jack Clement, and others, Michael Streissguth brings to life an incredible chapter in musical history and reveals for the first time a surprising outlaw zeitgeist in Nashville. Outlaw is a fascinating glimpse into three of the most legendary artists of our times.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

In the late sixties, the "Nashville Sound" changed its tune. Thanks to the breakthrough work of singers like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson, country music widened its grip on the public imagination. Michael Streissguth's Outlaw tells the stories of these three songwriting and singing innovators and describes how their individual struggles to loosen genre expectations changed the local—and national music scene. Anecdotes; interviews; a penetrating narrative about a trio of very different music tastemakers.

Publishers Weekly
In February 1976, Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Willie Nelson, and Tompall Glaser and the Glaser Brothers released Wanted: The Outlaws!, building upon their respective growing statures in the world of country music. Wanted! became the first country album to sell a million copies. In this compulsively readable book, music historian Streissguth describes the contrast between the staid Nashville music scene of the late ’60s and early ’70s, and the dynamic new music filtering into the city from Los Angeles (Emmylou Harris), Texas (Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver, Waylon Jennings), and South Carolina (Marshall Chapman). One by one, he introduces readers to the change-makers. Kris Kristofferson was a Texas boy who arrived fresh out of the service looking to score big as a songwriter, working many odd jobs until Johnny Cash took him under his wing and provided Kristofferson with the stability he needed to write. Jennings was devastated by Buddy Holly’s death (Jennings was a member of Holly’s band) and made his way to Nashville to work with RCA and Chet Atkins as his career developed. Nelson came to Nashville from Texas in 1960, but then turned around and went back, eventually meeting up with Jennings and others to infuse fresh spirit into country music. Streissguth uses this one group of musicians not only to capture the essence of Nashville in the 1970s, but to portray the social and cultural forces—the Vietnam War protests, the clash of Old South and New South, the Civil Rights movement—that led to tremendous changes in the country music industry at the time. Agent: James Fitzgerald, James Fitzgerald Agency. (June)
Library Journal
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a group of musicians including Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Tompall Glaser appeared in Nashville, ushering in a fresh musical sensibility that combined rock and folk with the rollicking rhythms of the Texas music of Doug Sahm. In 1976, Jennings, Nelson, Colter, and Glaser released the now-iconic Wanted: The Outlaws!, which became the first country album to sell a million copies. Streissguth's (Johnny Cash: The Biography) captivating tale of these artists, the ways in which they challenged the Nashville establishment of the time, and their sudden rise to fame provides a glimpse into a time when the country music industry, as well as Nashville itself, was struggling to find its identity. The remarkable moral of the story is that for a brief, and considerably memorable, moment, outsiders succeeded in finding a (sometimes uneasy) home in the Nashville scene in ways that artists have trouble doing today. VERDICT Although die-hard country music fans know the details of the stories that Streissguth tells, his book nevertheless opens a window on a Nashville that struggled to adapt to the times and the musicians who led it into a new era.—Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Evanston, IL
Kirkus Reviews
An exposé of Nashville's revolutionary musical period in the late 1960s, when it was overtaken by the renegades of song. Told through the lens of three of the most genre-defying voices to hit country music since its inception--Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson--author and documentary producer Streissguth (Communications and Film Studies/Le Moyne Coll.; Always Been There: Rosanne Cash, The List, and the Spirit of Southern Music, 2010, etc.) delivers an intense account of Nashville's musical evolution, when artists, particularly Jennings, Nelson, Kristofferson and Johnny Cash, increasingly became "servants of the songs, who chased the music the way it sounded in their heads." The author educates fans and insiders by delving into the disarming reality of these notorious superstars, delivering anecdotes of performances, drugs and misfortune. At times, the exhausting ego-driven accounts of the musicians' careers can be a tad much, but they do not undermine Streissguth's well-orchestrated narrative. Perhaps the most critical truth is the fact that although these men were brilliant, they had to work constantly and consistently to make it in Nashville. "Kris recalls artists who had big hits with his songs urging him to quit Hollywood," writes the author. "The implication, of course, was that his well had run dry.…‘It was as if I was spending so much creative energy on the wrong thing, performing and movies, that my songwriting was suffering.' " However painful their careers might have been at this time, the impact they still hold within the industry is awe-inspiring. A biting, in-depth chronicle of Nashville's most tumultuous era told through the voices of iconic artists who used their music to accomplish significant changes in the music industry.
Wall Street Journal
A riveting look at how how three Texans joined forces to liberate Nashville from its company-town ways in the 1970s. It is a small group portrait, tightly focused and well told by Michael Streissguth.
USA Today
Offers a look at the how the ‘outlaw’ music of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson shook up Nashville in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. . . . Author Streissguth has country music bona fides: He also wrote Johnny Cash: The Biography.
popmatters.com
Outlaw is an entertaining, authoritative account of Nashville’s rebel years.
Rolling Stone
Streissguth goes widescreen with this look at the social and musical ferment that produced the Seventies outlaw-country movement… [he] skillfully portrays Sixties Nashville’s studio politics and their gradual loosening up, alongside a city where post-Sixties social change took its time arriving.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062038180
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/4/2013
  • Pages: 297
  • Sales rank: 627,224
  • Product dimensions: 14.70 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Streissguth is the author of eight books, including Johnny Cash: The Biography. A professor in the Department of Communication and Film Studies at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York, he has written for Mojo, the Journal of Country Music, Bluegrass Unlimited, and many other publications. He has written and produced two documentary films, Record Paradise and Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. He lives in Syracuse with his wife and family.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2013

    A wonderful read for anyone who loves music. Very fascinating.

    A wonderful read for anyone who loves music. Very fascinating. The only thing that would have made this better would have been a CD sampling of some of the music in the book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2013

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