Waylon Jennings' independent spirit was honored on Saturday (March 23), with friends like Kris Kristofferson and Travis Tritt singing the praises and songs of the iconoclastic country music star. Trit

Waylon Jennings' independent spirit was honored on Saturday (March 23), with friends like Kris Kristofferson and Travis Tritt singing the praises and songs of the iconoclastic country music star. Tritt praised Jennings' "refusal to do anything other than his own way, his ability to put one foot firmly in the realm of traditional country music, and the other in the middle of rock'n'roll, and stand his ground."

Tritt, Kristofferson, Billy Ray Cyrus, David Lee Murphy, and the band Stargunn -- led by Jennings' son Shooter -- were among the performers at the memorial service at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. "Basically, he taught us all how to rock," said Shooter Jennings. "And tonight we're going to show him what we've learned."

The stage was draped with the black backdrop with silver "W" logo from Jennings' road show. His black guitar was displayed topped with his black cowboy hat, and red rose pedals were strewn nearby. Video montages showed Jennings at various times in his career, and statements were read from Paul Simon, Graham Nash, Neil Diamond, and other musicians.

The two-hour service ended with the last song Jennings wrote and recorded, titled "The Dream." "All I can say is I've had it both ways, and the dream could never compare," the audience heard Jennings sing. They responded with shouts of "God bless you Waylon!" and "We love you Waylon!"

One of country music's most enduring and distinctive hitmakers, Jennings died Feb. 13 at 64. He had suffered diabetes-related health problems for years, and had his left foot amputated in December.

In the 1970s, Jennings and fellow artists like Willie Nelson and Tompall Glaser led the outlaw country music movement. The term was partially a clever marketing scheme, and partially a true victory for artistic freedom in Nashville. Jennings and the others won control of their own music and image because they sold records.

Jennings, whose career stretched back to his days playing bass for Buddy Holly in the 1950s, shed the clean-cut image of his early career for an unkempt, dangerous aura. His music included rough-hewn but good-natured odes like "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys," "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)," and "Good Hearted Woman."

Among the artists Jennings influenced were Tritt, Charlie Daniels, and Steve Earle. Many young people were introduced to Jennings in the 1970s when he narrated the popular TV show "The Dukes of Hazzard" and sang its theme song.

Jennings recorded 60 albums and had 16 No. 1 singles on Billboard's country charts in a career that spanned five decades. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in October.


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