Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Feb. 18, 2002

First Winstock headliner Waylon Jennings dies

By Ryan Gueningsman

Winstock's first headliner, Waylon Jennings, 64, died at his home in Arizona Wednesday.

Jennings was suffering from a recent leg amputation and diabetes-related health problems. Jennings headlined Winstock in 1994, the first year of the now annual festival.

Jennings had another, perhaps bigger, local tie to the area ­ former Herald Journal staff writer and Howard Lake resident Myron Heuer, a deejay in Des Moines, Iowa at the time, began playing Jennings records when he was first getting started in the music business.

More people began to take notice of the newcomer, and before long, Waylon Jennings had a name for himself in the music business.

The following is taken from the Winstock 1994 program, as told by Heuer, who passed away Feb. 1, 1999.

When I was a country music disc jockey at WHO in Des Moines, Iowa, back in the late '60s and early '70s, I had many phone calls and in-studio visits from country stars. One of the regulars is on the show here at Winstock.

Johnny Western, who wrote "Have Gun, Will Travel," was a frequent show guest, and he called my attention to a new artist who had just signed with RCA Records.

"This fellow's name is Waylon Jennings," Western said "He's working now at a Phoenix club and is going to be a big star."

I had Waylon's first record, and up to then hadn't paid much attention to it since he was a new artist.

I played his first single. I loved it, and most importantly, so did my listeners.

Months later, I got a phone call in the middle of the night.

"I don't know what to say, man," the voice said.

"Who is this?" I asked.

"I'm Waylon Jennings," was the answer. "Johnny Western told me that you were really laying on my records. I don't know what to say, but thank you very much."

That call was the beginning of a long friendship. We'd see each other from time to time, plus there were many phone calls to the show.

Eventually, we both became involved with various projects, me to other radio stations, and Waylon was very busy with a successful singing career.

Jennings went on to record some of the most well known songs in music "Mammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," "I'm a Ramblin' Man," and "Luckenbach."

It is very fortunate the world had Jennings around as long as it did.

In 1959, he was scheduled to be on the plane that crashed and killed musical legends Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson.

At the last minute, Jennings gave up his seat to Richardson, who wasn't feeling well and wanted to fly rather than make the trip by bus.

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

Music without barriers was one of the goals of The Highwaymen, a group formed by Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson. They would go on to tour and record together.

Jennings, either solo, with The Highwaymen, as well as with wife and duet partner Jessi Colter, compiled 16 number one hit songs.

He also has won two Grammy awards and four CMA awards, but sometimes shunned the award ceremonys, feeling that artists shouldn't be competing against each other.

Although he was inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame in October, he did not attend his induction.

He released his final album in 2000, ironically titled "Never Say Die, LIVE," which was recorded live at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Jennings has been cited by many of today's younger artists as a major influence on their music ­ including past Winstock performers Montgomery Gentry and Travis Tritt.

Jennings publicist was Schatzi Hageman of Hot Schatz Public Relations, which also handles publicity for Winstock 2002 performer Trace Adkins.

"I have been Waylon's press agent for ten years now and loved him dearly. My heart is truly broken ­ he was one of our first clients, and certainly one of the most colorful people I've ever met," Hageman said.

Requests have been made by his family to keep the specifics of Jennings passing private, Hageman said. He died in the afternoon at his home very peacefully.

Speaking of Jennings last days, wife Jessi Colter said, "Waylon kicked --- right to the end and ruled the roost right up to the last minute. Waylon always did things his way, and even won the final battle because he got to die his way ­ at home and in his sleep."

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