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Published on Jul 10, 2011
Waylon Arnold Jennings (June 15, 1937 -- February 13, 2002) was an American country music singer, songwriter, and musician. He started out as a bassist for Buddy Holly following the break-up of The Crickets. Jennings escaped death in the February 3, 1959, plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, when he gave up his seat to Richardson who had been sick with the flu. Urban legend and Hollywood folklore have it that Jennings and The Big Bopper flipped a coin for the last seat on the plane, with Jennings losing. It was, in fact, Tommy Allsup who flipped the coin for the fated plane trip, losing his seat to Valens.
By the 1970s, Jennings had become associated with so-called "outlaws," an informal group of country musicians who worked outside of the Nashville corporate scene. Jennings was largely responsible for revolutionizing country music in the 1970s with his progressive sound. A series of duet albums with Willie Nelson in the late '70s culminated in the 1978 crossover hit, "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys." In 1979, he recorded the theme song for the hit television show The Dukes of Hazzard, and also served as the narrator ("The Balladeer") for all seven seasons of the series.
He continued to be active in the recording industry, forming the group The Highwaymen with Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson. Jennings released his last solo studio album in 1998. In 2001, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.[