Remembering The Final Big Concert from Waylon Jennings

In the middle of 1999, it became obvious to Waylon and his closest friends and family that his health was failing and was unlikely to improve, even though he kept that information mostly close to the vest, and kept battling. Years of abusing his body with cocaine, and then bad eating habits after he’d weened himself off had taken its toll. Though the last thing Waylon would do is stage a farewell tour, he did assemble what he called his “hand-picked dream team” of musicians that he named The Waymore Blues Band, and began booking shows.

Waylon took long-time members from his original backing band The Waylors—including his legendary right-hand man and drummer Richie Albright—and adding other ringers to the mix such as the steel-guitar and mandolin/acoustic player Robby Turner and legendary session guitarist Reggie Young, Waylon also conscripted a complete horn section to back him up. In total, there were 13 players in the Waymore Blues Band. It was ambitious, and defiant.

Only appropriate Waylon opened the final Ryman show with the song “Never Say Die”—a song Waylon wrote, which would go on to become the name of a 2-CD and DVD set that was released from the performance in 2007, dubbed “The Final Concert.” Waylon was ailing, and had to sit as opposed to stand to perform, but his voice and his attitude was as strong as ever.

“I guess y’all noticed I’m sittin’ on this chair,” Waylon said to the crowd after the second song. “And that ain’t all old age. I kinda hurt my back and my legs. But I’m gettin’ around. Y’all don’t worry about me. I can still kick ass. You’ve just got to bring ’em up here … I don’t want you girls worrying about me either, ’cause once you’ve had a cripple, you never go back.”

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