For His Birthday, a Slew of Local Musicians Will Cover Waylon Jennings — But Which Songs Should They Play?

by Vincent Harris

Whenever someone tells you that Facebook is a waste of time, tell them the story of occasional event organizer (and Free Times contributor) Kevin Oliver and the Waylon Jennings Birthday Jam. The concert, which will feature multiple bands playing ol’ Waylon’s greatest songs, is the result of Oliver spending some extended time trading Waylon lyrics back and forth with some of his musician friends on Facebook. 

“The whole thing actually started as me being bored [in] March,” Oliver says with a laugh. “I was listening to Waylon Jennings songs on the computer while I was working on some other stuff, and I posted a couple of random lyrics as they came across the stereo. And a lot of friends who I didn’t realize were Waylon Jennings fans started to respond and it ended up being this two-hour discussion about Waylon Jennings on my news feed with musicians and various folks.” 

“I said, ‘Hey we ought to do a Waylon show,’ just putting it out there, and about 30 seconds later I had 10 or 12 musicians going, saying they wanted to do that,” he continues. “I did a little research on significant dates for Waylon, and it turns out that June 15 is his birthday. That seemed doable.” 

Over the next few weeks, Oliver brought in many of the bands he’d been speaking to on Facebook, including the Kenny George Band, Hardtack, James Scott Bullard, Bemo Prince and more. He also arranged for the show to be a benefit, with proceeds going to the Harvest Hope Food Bank. 

“This whole thing came together in about three hours on a Monday morning,” Oliver says, still sounding a bit surprised. “We’re just doing it for the fun of it.” 

Looking forward to the event, here are some recommendations to the bands on which Waylon songs might suit them best: 


These raw, ragged rockers lean more towards rowdy honky-tonk swagger than to heartbroken ballads, so the best fit for them would probably be something upbeat like “Good Hearted Woman,” or the loose, locomotive boogie of “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean.” 

James Scott Bullard 

Bullard is sitting in with Hardtack, and given that he’s got the word “Outlaw” tattooed on his chest and a gruff, looking-for-trouble voice, it’s hard to pick any song other than “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out Of Hand.” 

Todd Mathis 

Mathis spent some time as the singer for the straightforwardly twanging rock band American Gun, so something equally no-nonsense from Waylon’s catalog would work well — perhaps “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line,” might be a good choice. 

Buck & Rhonda Mooneyhan 

The Mooneyhans typically play more spiritual material like gospel, but there’s not too much of that in Waylon’s catalog. But perhaps the wistful waltz about trying (and failing) to walk the straight-and-narrow, “Heaven or Hell,” might do. 

Tom Coolidge 

Tom does a lot of rootsy, unamplified blues playing around town, so the swaggering, acoustic travelogue “I’m a Ramblin’ Man” seems right up his alley. 

Ashley Hayes 

Hayes will be playing with a stripped-down trio, which begs for the quiet, wounded “Low Down Freedom,” which offers beauty and recrimination in equal measure. 

BJ Brazzell 

Brazzell is playing a solo acoustic slot, so the heart-in-the-throat ballad “Come With Me” might be just the ticket. 

Niles Lewis 

Lewis is a guitar wizard, capable of some seriously dazzling playing, so a good sleeper for him might be “Women Do Know How to Carry On.” It’s not the obvious choice, but go back and listen to the sparkling, quicksilver picking on this track. 

Trent Jeffcoat 

Jeffcoat’s got a natural cowboy swagger that Waylon carried off with ease, so perhaps one of his more badass numbers, like “Honky Tonk Heroes” or “Just To Satisfy You” would fit Jeffcoat’s style. 

Matt & Becky Goudelock 

This is an acoustic duo that begs for a more thoughtful, introspective Jennings tune like “Rose in Paradise.” 

Kenny George Band 

These guys were born to play “Black Rose,” one of Waylon’s best acoustic-electric rockers, and they’d probably have a ball with “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” as well, sliding easily into the song’s tight, chugging groove. 

Bemo Prince 

Prince has a lifetime of playing music behind him, with a lot of time on the road fingerpicking his acoustic guitar and a lot of miles under his belt. “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” is just about perfect for him. 

All-Star Jam Finale 

Come on. It’s “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” obviously. 

What: Waylon Jennings Birthday Jam 

Where: Main Street Public House, 1556 Main St. 

When: Thursday, June 15, 9 p.m. 

Price: Two canned goods or monetary donation for Harvest Hope Food Bank 

More: 803-834-3409,