Book Review: Texas Platters
Reviewed by Tim Stegall, Fri., May 27, 2016
Waylon: Tales of My Outlaw Dadby Terry Jennings
Hachette Books, 272 pp., $27
The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jonesby Rich Kienzle
Dey Street Books/HarperCollins, 288 pp., $27.99
In the annals of Texas music, few top country music immortals Waylon Jennings and George Jones. Littlefield's Jennings essentially wed West Texas honky-tonk to rock & roll, and in bucking against Nashville's star system, got branded an "outlaw" and birthed an entire C&W subgenre. Saratoga-born and Vidor-bred Jones also emerged from dance hall purism before allowing producer Billy Sherrill to apply enough Seventies Nashville gloss and Music Row's best songwriting to earn him the reputation as "country music's greatest living singer."
The firstborn of Waymore's five children, Terry Jennings emerged a key member of his father's road crew, seeing the world looking at Daddy's backside alongside those of his fivepiece band. Between changing strings on Pop's Telecaster, he likely indulged in more debauchery than his old man, frequently buying cocaine off of him. Somewhere along the way, he learned all the ins and outs of Waylon's story, filling in gaps that were left out of the singer's mid-Nineties memoir. It's a tale expertly told, with love and a 12-stepper's regret for crimes committed. Waylon: Tales of My Outlaw Dad even delivers sharply defined, affectionate portraits of key players in the drama, like triumphant wife Jessi Colter and steel guitar legend Ralph Mooney.
Veteran country music journalist/historian Rich Kienzle accomplishes a tour de force in The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones. Crafting a blemishes, blisters, and scars profile of "Possum," the author never glosses over any hijacking of a lawn tractor for a liquor store run, Jones' many non-appearances, or booze-fueled mistreatment of Tammy Wynette. Equal weight is given to Jones' native artistry: his method actor-like tendency to unearth the emotional core of any lyric, unique phrasing that spawned Wynette's quip, "He's the only man who could make 'war' a four-syllable word!" The drama behind "He Stopped Loving Her Today," frequently hailed as country's greatest single performance, is worth the cover price alone.