Waylon Jennings Busted

by Jason Mellard / Center for Texas Music History at Texas State

Episode #17: Waylon Jennings Busted / Produced by Jack Anderson

On August 23, 1977, the Drug Enforcement Agency raided a Nashville studio where Waylon Jennings was recording vocals for a Hank Williams, Jr. track. They had a warrant on the suspicion that Waylon’s manager had mailed cocaine to the address. The package in question was in the recording booth with Waylon, while the agents piled into the control room. Waylon’s crew, including drummer Richie Albright, stalled the agents while subtly getting rid of as much evidence as they could. By the time the room cleared, there wasn’t enough to make the charges stick. Perturbed that his outsized outlaw image brought such scrutiny from law enforcement, Waylon turned the bust into a song, “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out of Hand.”

This was at the height of the outlaw country movement that Waylon spearheaded alongside Willie Nelson, David Allan Coe, Tompall Glaser, and others. Waylon’s 1973 single “Ladies Love Outlaws” first brought attention to the edgy moniker, and the 1976 compilation album Wanted! the Outlaws launched it into the stratosphere. “Outlaw country” was a persona and a declaration of independence. For Waylon, it meant challenging the rules of the Nashville recording establishment, giving artists greater freedom in the music they made. It was a rebel pose and marketing hook, too, that plugged into the youth energies of rock ‘n’ roll, something Waylon himself learned young as a bandmate of Buddy Holly. But, as this record shows, outlaw country, did also, on occasion, mean breaking the literal law. The song pushed back at this tangle of persona and reality, celebrity and privacy, that remains relevant to this day.


Joe Nick Patoski. Willie Nelson: An Epic Life. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008.

Billy Dukes, “Remember When Waylon Jennings Was Arrested During a Recording Session?” August 23, 2022


Support KUTX’s ability to bring you closer to the music.

Donate Today