When Record Store Day opens for business at music shops around the country on Black Friday, it'll do so with a triple shot of Waylon Jennings. Black Country Rock, the independent record label run by the proto-outlaw's son, Shooter Jennings, has readied a special seven-inch vinyl record of Waylon performing three songs for a long-lost Armed Forces radio broadcast. Rolling Stone Country is premiering the late country legend's take on Kris Kristofferson's "Sunday Morning Comin' Down" today (listen below).
Shooter Jennings says the songs, which were brought to his attention by a small boutique country music label, are all from a session his father completed at Music City Records, the Nashville studio operated by Elvis Presley guitarist Scotty Moore, in 1970. Shooter was able to date the recordings by hearing something that wasn't present in the finished product.
"When I heard this stuff, they said it was my dad's band, and that didn't make any sense because it didn't sound like Richie Abright on drums," he tells Rolling Stone Country. It was in fact the Waylors, Waylon's longtime backing band, but with some different players. "It's a very interesting period, because it was the only period during that era that my dad did not have Richie playing. Also, there was an organ. My dad had a guy playing keys with him all these years, but he rarely had an organ player. It was a strange thing."
While Shooter doesn't know for certain why the recordings were made, he theorizes that it was a way for U.S. military radio to sidestep the often hairy world of music-rights clearances. "My suspicion was they had radio stations that broadcast to the soldiers, but instead of having to license or do whatever with record label recordings, I think they'd have artists come in with their bands and cut 12 or 15 songs and that's what they would play," he says. "I wish I had more information, because it's not normal for me to run across something like this. This is the first time I've heard them."
The newfound take on "Sunday Morning Comin' Down" serves as the B-side to the Record Store Day release, with a mash-up of Waylon performing "Louisiana Man/Kentucky Woman" as the A-side. The late Country Music Hall of Famer would go on to record and release a different version of "Sunday Morning Comin' Down," made famous by Johnny Cash, for his 1971 album The Taker/Tulsa, but the "lost" recordings came first.
"They were probably getting ready to record The Taker and had been playing these songs live, and that's why [they performed them]," says Shooter. "There are a couple other tunes that they were playing during this time that are also on that album."
Shooter, who put out a tribute EP to George Jones in August, is gearing up for a series of releases from his father. He says fans can expect to see "a lot of Waylon stuff over the next year." In the meantime, he and Black Country Rock will unveil a spoken-word Christmas story performed by WWE wrestler Mick Foley on Black Friday, and the BCR Mixtape, a collection of odds and sods from Shooter, his mother Jessi Colter, Jamey Johnson and porn star and classical pianist (who knew?) Ron Jeremy, on December 13th.
"We did all these [vinyl] seven-inches for Record Store Day and there was never a CD made. So we said let's just make a CD that has everything," he says of the Mixtape's eclectic track list, which includes Shooter's Music City kiss-off "Nashville From Afar." "Every time I come to Nashville, it feels weird and overpopulated. The East Nashville thing drives me insane. It's like a cool kids club," he quips.
In addition, Shooter reveals he has begun work on his latest project, a record that will reassemble his band Hierophant, with whom he recorded the 2010 concept album Black Ribbons. "I'm experimenting with different ways of doing things," he says. "I feel excited about it."