Revolution or Evolution?

Revolution or Evolution?
Reviewer: bjab64
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Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville
304 pages
June 04, 2013
ISBN 10:
ISBN 13:

Follows the stories of three legends as they redefined country music: Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson.

If you want a book containing just the juicy gossip about Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson and their sexual exploits and drug use while they were developing into country music icons, look elsewhere. Although there are insights into the 'fun-loving' ways of these cowboys in Outlaw, Waylon, Willie, Kris and the Renegades of Nashville by Michael Streissguth, this book is as much about cultural change in America as it is about music and these musicians. Like literature, film, photography, etc., music is a response to the times and Streissguth's book takes the reader through the cultural revolution that shaped Ameria in the late 20th century.

When Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson, all Texans, descended upon Nashville in the late 1960's hoping to realize their dreams as country music recording artists, they were heading into an established industry with an established (heavily produced) sound. Chet Atkins, and RCA-Nashville pulled the strings. At first, The Outlaws, did what they were told in order to secure record deals, using union musicians of the Studio's choosing, while hitting the road with their own bands and developing their identities. While these men were fighting for artistic freedom, the country and Nashville were evolving. What had happened in San Francisco during the 'Summer of Love' in 1967 was being mirrored throughout America, and Nashville was no exception. Idealistic young men and women were coming together in hopes of improving the country through communal aspirations.  The Haight-Ashbury of Nashville was the West End, where the anti-establishment gathered to share the conviction to change America through music, fashion, and freedom. Waylon Jennings was the fullback of the anti-establishment in Nashville, fighting the hardest battles head-on.

"I've been called an outlaw, a renegade, and a son of a bitch. But all we've been fighting for is artistic control. Freedom is what it all boils down to, having your own way." - Waylon Jennings.

Waylon stayed in Nashville, fighting the record company battles and his own demons, but found his freedom with Tompall Glaser and a recording studio that he could make the records he wanted playing with his own musicians. Willie moved to Austin, TX and found a home, and due to his success in Austin, gained the freedom to record the music he wanted in Nashville. Kris moved to Hollywood and, while continuing to write music, found success as an actor. In 1976, Jerry Bradley (Owen's son and Chet Atkin's successor) had the vision to record an album called Wanted! The Outlaws, a compilation featuring Waylon, Willie, Jessi Colter (Waylon's wife) and Tompall Glaser that became country music's first platinum album and introduced the outlaw label to the masses. 

Michael Streissguth wove together a social documentary of cultural change in America reflected in the fight between Nashville's establishment against country music's new anti-establishment in the form of the "Outlaws". I would definitely recommend it.