Records Revisited / Waylon Jennings

Records Revisited: Waylon Jennings “Never Could Toe The Mark”

Waylon JenningsNever Could Toe The Mark (1984)

By Courtney Sudbrink, Editor

There’s something about seeing a Waylon Jennings =W= logo spinnin’ round a turntable that is synonymous with a stamp of quality in motion.  Before I put on a Waylon record, I make sure I’ve got on my dancing shoes, because if Merle Haggard is the Working Man’s Poet? Then Waylon Jennings is the Working Man’s Jive.

Buffalo Badass can't toe the mark or walk the line, but she's in good company with Waylon Jennings circa 1984.

Buffalo Badass can’t toe the mark or walk the line, but she’s in good company with Waylon Jennings circa 1984.

If one were to imagine a big disco ball over the state of Texas, they might be close to understanding the sparkle and sizzle that is Waylon Jennings’ Never Could Toe The Mark.

As the needle hits the vinyl and the Boogie hits the fan with the album’s title track, it strikes me as unfortunate that when George Orwell wrote 1984, he failed to predict that would be the year this Jennings gem would come out.  I was born in 1984 and not only does this record make me proud of that fact, but it also tells me that while I was busy being a baby? Waylon Jennings was busy being the King of Country Groove.

It takes a good Waylon song to get this Buffalo Badass shakin’ and “Talk Good Boogie But You Don’t Get Down” pretty much defines my feelings on the Hollywood club scene: sure, I’d like to boogie just as much as anyone else and I sure talk good about it, but I can’t get down because they ain’t spinin’ silk as smooth as this Honky Tonkin’ Daddy’s tunes anywhere in Los Angeles.

Of course, if it’s true as Waylon said in “People Up In Texas,” that the Lone Star State is the closest thing to “Heaven on Earth,” then it’s clear to me now that Heaven is an outlaw Get-Down with one Hell of rhythm section. And “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” proves that if Studio 54 had opened their doors in Texas, they wouldn’t have shut down, because Waylon Jennings’ tempo is the only upper any party needs.

Speaking of blasts from the past, Billy Joel might have thought he was “The Entertainer,” but The Piano Man had another thing coming when the Highway Man decided to cover his tune.  This closing track reminds one that listening to a Waylon Jennings record is like cruisin’ down the highway in a chrome covered Semi. As the beat rolls on, the sound of freedom rings.

Even a Muppet could figure out that when Waylon Jennings is at the wheel, “there ain’t no road too long.” But when Jennings appeared in Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird, the year after he released Never Could Toe The Mark, it seems they had it wrong with that title, because in that film, The Outlaw Bird showed co-star, Big Bird what’s up on Waylon Street.

As Waylon ever so frankly put it with in “The Gemini Song,” when he was bad, he was bad and when he was good? He was the best you ever seen.  Over and out, Hoss, Turnstyled, Junkpiled’s got you covered down here.


  1. Thanks, Gary. Waylon’s “our kind of music.”

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