Country Music Outlaws

Country music outlaws are artists who have chosen to depart from the producer-driven Nashville sound. Their songs possess a different feel from mainstream country musicians and often revolve around themes of self-empowerment and freedom.

Many modern country artists, like Eric Church and Margo Price, have adopted the Outlaw Country style. Others such as Orville Peck and Bob Childers offer more bluesy melodies with lyrics about hard work and hardship.

Willie Nelson

With a career spanning six decades, Willie Nelson has redefined country music and reached new audiences. Additionally, he has collaborated with an array of artists while crafting countless songs.

Willie Nelson’s music has a distinctive blend of country, folk, blues and rock influences. His lyrics express America’s rural culture in poignant words.

He is a highly-respected artist whose unique vocal style has earned him widespread popularity within country music.

Willie Nelson has released an array of songs throughout his career, from hit single “Crazy” to original compositions. Additionally, he’s collaborated with notable artists like Patsy Cline and Ray Price.

After moving to Nashville in 1960, Nelson wrote several hit songs for various artists. Some of his most well-known compositions include “Night Life,” written for Ray Price and covered by many artists alike, as well as “Hello Walls,” which became a hit for Faron Young in 1961.

His songwriting talent has earned him numerous awards and honors, such as the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Additionally, he won both the Grammy Award for Best Male Vocalist and Country Music Association Awards.

He enjoys a large fanbase and has had an illustrious career, yet he has faced several health issues. In the past he suffered from emphysema, back problems, and most recently underwent hip replacement surgery.

Willie Nelson remains an active musician, continuing to tour and perform. He recently recorded a new album that showcases his dedication to the craft. Despite these obstacles, Willie remains dedicated to music.

Waylon Jennings

In the 1970s, country music outlaws such as Waylon Jennings broke boundaries by refusing to record with Nashville’s army of studio musicians and insisting on an updated version of honky tonk music. By doing so, he helped broaden the genre’s audience and became one of country music’s most successful singers ever.

Jennings has seen his popularity decline in recent years, yet he remains an iconic figure in country music and is often credited with sparking the Outlaw movement. His gritty baritone and varied repertoire inspired many other stars who followed in his footsteps.

Jennings, a native of Lubbock, Texas and major influencer of Buddy Holly and early rock stars, had many influences that included blues music as well as country music.

He was raised in a rural area and was inspired by his father’s country music career. At an early age, he picked up the guitar and began writing his own songs.

He battled alcohol and drug addiction for many years, but eventually recovered and returned to school in 1989. As an advocate for the GED program, he stressed the importance of staying in school.

In 1976, Jennings’ song “Good Hearted Woman,” recorded for Wanted: The Outlaws, became a hit. The album featuring Nelson, Colter and Tompall Glaser featured many of Jennings’ original compositions alongside some older hits from other artists.

The song’s strong beat and poignant message about giving your significant other an ultimatum resonated with audiences in a way Jennings hadn’t done before, becoming a Top 40 hit and sparking the Outlaw movement. Throughout his career, Waylon Jennings continued to push boundaries of country music without ever compromising his personal beliefs or musical style.

Merle Haggard

Haggard was raised with country music legends such as Lefty Frizzell, Tommy Collins, Jimmie Rodgers and Ernest Tubb. Additionally, he became aware of blackface minstrel shows of the 1920s – white artists dressed up in blackface performing alongside jazz musicians on records.

Haggard’s style was heavily influenced by these and other artists, and he often referenced them in song. These influences formed an integral part of what would become his unique aesthetic that evolved around him over time.

Haggard’s lyrics often draw inspiration from rock ‘n’ roll icons, sounding more at home in rock music than country. Additionally, his songs captured the resentment that permeated American culture during the 1960s and ’70s when Haggard was at his peak popularity.

He took inspiration from the politics of his time, espousing anti-welfare and pro-war views. In fact, he wrote a song about a Mexican man that could have been written by any white man jealous of his heritage.

His career spanned five decades and featured several successful singles. His sweet vocals made him a star, while his lyrics were deeply personal.

Haggard had to overcome numerous obstacles on the way to becoming a country music superstar. His criminal record included multiple arrests for truancy, shoplifting and other offenses; additionally, he frequently escaped juvenile detention centers.

Ultimately, his crimes led to him being sentenced to San Quentin prison. Fortunately, he did not repeat the same mistakes and was released from prison. After returning home to Bakersfield, he began singing in clubs again.

Kris Kristofferson

Kristofferson was one of the pioneers of outlaw country music, an eclectic group of songwriters and performers that rejected traditional Nashville country music. His songs were heavily influenced by Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and Waylon Jennings.

Kris Kristofferson was born in Brownsville, Texas on June 22, 1936 and moved around a lot as a child before settling in San Mateo, California during junior high. After high school he continued his education at Pomona College in Claremont, California to study creative writing. His work earned him accolades such as first prize in an Atlantic Monthly short-story contest.

After graduating college, he decided to pursue a career in music. He earned a master’s degree from Oxford University and then joined the United States Army where he learned how to fly helicopters.

While in the military, Kristofferson began writing songs inspired by Hank Williams. He later joined fellow outlaw country musicians Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash in their supergroup The Highwaymen.

The group’s albums Lonesome, On’ry and Mean (1973) and Honky Tonk Heroes (1998) became classics of the outlaw genre. Additionally, Kristofferson began working as a television and film actor, appearing in popular films such as Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, A Star Is Born, and Lone Star.

His acting and singing career took a dive in the 1990s, yet he continued recording with his band the Highwaymen. In 2006, they released their first original material album in years; continuing to release albums into the 21st century until their final album Feeling Mortal was recorded in 2016. With that behind them, singer-songwriter retired in 2020 at age 89 after an illustrious and long career.

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash not only created a landmark position in country music, but his influence has transcended it as well. Through his art form, which simultaneously resonates with stories of murder and marginalization while offering soft romance ballads and passionate patriotism, Johnny Cash created something truly remarkable.

Country music’s unique combination of grim and cute appeals to a variety of listeners. Jimmie Rodgers’ yodeling and storytelling, combined with Ernest Tubb’s easygoing banjo twang, allowed for greater artistic depth within the form while deepening its intellectual underpinnings.

He brought a fresh perspective to country music by engaging with the deep-felt social upheavals of his time. He joined the native movement, an anticultural movement driven by a desire to break down barriers of race, class and religion.

Cash’s activism wasn’t limited to his recordings; he served as both a political figure and public servant. He advocated for an approach to public citizenship based on empathy that was both effective and inspiring.

Cash battled addictions and mental health issues throughout his career. He endured numerous personal tragedies, such as drug binges, forest fires, and divorce.

Cash was known for his unpredictable behavior and drug dependence, yet he always managed to stay out of trouble and never received a felony conviction or spent time in prison. In 1979, Cash even earned enough money to be hired as a Davidson County sheriff’s deputy.

In 2003, Johnny Cash left behind a legacy of music that will endure for generations to come. It is easy to understand why so many have fallen in love with his work – making a Johnny Cash ReAction action figure an excellent addition to any collection!