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Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville Hardcover – June 4, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


Riveting (Wall Street Journal)

“A biting, in-depth chronicle of Nashville’s most tumultuous era told through the voices of iconic artists who used their music to accomplish significant changes in the music industry.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

Offers a look at the how the ‘outlaw’ music of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson shook up Nashville in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. . . . Author Streissguth has country music bona fides: He also wrote Johnny Cash: The Biography. (USA Today)

A riveting look at how how three Texans joined forces to liberate Nashville from its company-town ways in the 1970s. It is a small group portrait, tightly focused and well told by Michael Streissguth. (Wall Street Journal)

Outlaw is an entertaining, authoritative account of Nashville’s rebel years. (popmatters.com)

“Compulsively readable...” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

Streissguth goes widescreen with this look at the social and musical ferment that produced the Seventies outlaw-country movement… [he] skillfully portrays Sixties Nashville’s studio politics and their gradual loosening up, alongside a city where post-Sixties social change took its time arriving. (Rolling Stone)

From the Back Cover

Waylon Jennings. Willie Nelson. Kris Kristofferson. Three renegade musicians. Three unexpected stars. Three men who changed Nashville and country music forever.

By the late 1960s, Nashville, Tennessee, was firmly established as the center of the booming country music industry and home to what was known as the Nashville Sound, characterized by slick production and adherence to an increasingly overused formula. But the city was changing. Young people from all over the country were streaming into the bohemian West End and colliding with three trailblazing artists who would soon rock the foundations of Nashville's music business.

Surrounded by the street vibes of the West End's burgeoning underground scene and the outlaw protest tradition of Nashville's unlikely civil rights leaders and antiwar protestors, Waylon, Willie, and Kris began resisting the unspoken rules of Nashville's music-making machine and instead forged their own creative paths. Their music, personal and not easily categorized, was more in the vein of rock acts like the Allman Brothers and Bob Dylan, and it communi-cated a stark rawness and honesty that would influence artists of all genres for decades to come.

Studded with a diverse secondary cast including Johnny Cash, Rodney Crowell, Kinky Friedman, Billy Joe Shaver, and others, Streissguth's new book brings to life an incredible chapter in musical history and reveals for the first time a surprising outlaw zeitgeist in Nashville. Based on extensive research and probing interviews with key players, what emerges is a fascinating glimpse into three of the most legendary artists of our times and the definitive story of how they changed music in Nashville and everywhere.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: It Books (June 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062038184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062038180
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Streissguth is a professor in the department of Communication and Film Studies at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY. He is the author of several books including Johnny Cash: The Biography (Da Capo, 2006). He has produced two documentary films: Record Paradise (2012) and Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison (2008).

Customer Reviews

Extremely well written account.
I enjoyed this book about Nashville, the country music business, and the Outlaws very much.
k.c. quinn
The informed won't agree with everything he writes but the book is well worth reading.
Denis J. Kirkaldy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By tim on June 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I saw this book and started in one direction, where I ended up was a completely different place.

The title is a bit...misleading. Maybe it's just a product of many of the other music bios I've read, but I went into this expecting a wild tales of the Country Music Outlaws, and their excesses. Instead, the book really is a glimpse into the network of musicians that mainly built up the wave of Nashville artists in the 60's and 70's.

The book attempts to weave the tale around three of the most respected artists of the Outlaw era. Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson. Unfortunately, for the author, the delivery comes off as very unfocused. Waylon is the biggest piece to most of the book, but none of the three really assert themselves.
There's a weird sense that it hits their personal lives, hurdles in their way, a few demons of theirs, but still doesn't go deep enough into these three, or anyone else for that matter. It lacks a committed, strong voice.

The specters of both Johnny Cash, and Elvis loom largely over the narrative, though aren't a true focus (barring a few pages with the ramifications of Elvis's death), The feeling as they appear and disappear matches the larger than life statures they've attained. I liked the way they were there...but let the others have the stage (so to speak).

The author also does a fair job of showing the impact of the era on popular culture. The ties to Hollywood, the celebrities involved, and how it blended into society, but ultimately falls short in the way many other of the topics in this book did...just not quite focused enough.

The book has two truly positive sides to it.

First, this can be a good book from a business sense.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By DB361 on June 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I may be a bit prejudiced as I was interviewed for this book. I was in Nashville at Vanderbilt as an under and post grad student from 1966-73 and saw first hand the development of Outlaw Country. The author correctly writes that it was created by a confluence of several previously separate elements: the 60's counterculture with sex, drugs, rock and roll, civil rights and anti-war, with honky tonk Texas country music. When I arrived at Vanderbilt the average upper middle class student ran as far away from country and western music as possible, as they were trying to run away from the red-neck, gap-toothed image that often went with it. Then Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan became friends and neither hippies nor frat boys nor honky tonkers knew what to make of it.

I grew up in rural Ohio bars with Cash on the jukebox and Ernest Tubb on the 78's at home, so it wasn't a big stretch for me, and I hung out with some bands that were themselves a mixture of college students and good ole boys. The author heard that I could bear witness to some interesting times and he called me.

If this were not a first class effort, I would write that in my review. However, it is well-researched without being dry, and tells it like it was without being salacious. It will stay on shelves for a long time as a fine source of the history of this most interesting and influential music.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By William E. Adams on July 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I picked this up in the library for two reasons: I've been a big fan of Willie, Waylon and Kris since the 70's, and I noted that it covered what was happening in Nashville from about 1965 on. Well I have a love affair with that city. I spent April 1968 there (the month Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis) on my pre-Vietnam Army leave. I had a girlfriend who was a nursing student at Vanderbilt. I stayed in a cheap and terrible room on the second floor of what was then called "Johnny's Cash Market" in the West End near campus. I had almost no money, and neither did my girl. It wasn't hard for me to imagine I might be a struggling songwriter hoping for the big time.During that month, my girl and I could only afford free events, but I got to see a recording session produced by Chet Atkins for the country comic singers Homer and Jethro, featuring Jerry Reed, soon to be a star, as session guitarist. We also got to see George Hamilton IV, then a moderate star, try out a new direction, Gordon Lightfoot style folk songs, in a church coffee house. Both were wonderful. The third big event was a debate between Julian Bond, then a prominent civil rights activist, and William F. Buckley, at that time the leading media personality among political conservatives. It was a tense time that month in the Athens of the South, and this book, although it has no specific references to that month, does capture the Nashville of that general time well. The problem is that in telling how Nelson, Jennings and Kristofferson got to be superstars, the author allows himself so many diversions into the lives of lesser talents, record company executives, and the activities of Vandy students of the '70's, that even my interest sagged in many spots.Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kelly K. Patterson on May 24, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
... there were three princes who were the dutiful sons of a king named Cash. When word reached King Cash that the village of Nashville had taken to such wickedness as to have lush full harmonies backing up the same lap steel guitar solo on every solo he was furious and shot his TV (all king's seem to do this at one time or another). Nashville was a special village to him and he writhed with anger and shouted, "You three princes, my sons, shall ride this very day, guitars in hand and save my beloved Music City."

And ride they did, stomping over wasted tundra that had been poisoned by the village as far as the eye could see. And when they got to the village they were aghast. Every citizen was wearing polyester of colors the sons had never seen, peppered liberally with what they thought were diamonds but they soon found out were worthless things called "rhinestones". The three princes looked at one another -- dusty from their ride, their worn out jeans, shirts, and boots that had sprung open on the sides were worn as signs of respect and awe for the music that could be made and kept them humble in the eyes of their father, the king.

*You'll have to read the book to find out how it ends* ;)

I've been waiting for a book like this for many, many years. I played guitar and sang in bars for over a decade and these three princes' music were mainstays of my set lists. Especially Kristofferson since we have a very similar voice range. But Streissguth has done exhaustive research from many angles and directions and pulled it all together into a fine narrative that flows like good prose. So many times when authors try to do books like this they write it seems straight from their notes without thinking and you get every other paragraph starting "and then he...
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