The Drug Bust That Made Waylon Jennings Write “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out of Hand”

By 1977, Waylon Jennings was riding high on the outlaw movement. Coming off the success of the first platinum-selling country album, Wanted: The Outlaws, a collaboration with Willie Nelson, wife Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser, Jennings also had his fourth No. 1 album with Ol’ Waylon and its hit “Luckenbach, Texas.” At the time, Jennings was also drowning in a drug habit that cost him as much as $1,500 per day.

“I wasn’t just doing a little drugs,” said Jennings of his c*****e. “I was doing them constantly. I’d do them until I collapsed, then I’d get up and start right doing them again. I was killing myself. I’d definitely hit bottom with it. I would never sleep. I’d stay up six or seven days or nights at a time, and I wouldn’t go home.”

He continued, “My health was bad, I had dizzy spells where I could hardly drive, I had cars strewed all over this town, because I’d get somewhere, and I’d have to leave ’em and have somebody else take me home.”

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Jennings’ appetite for drugs reached a head while he was recording his 1978 album I’ve Always Been Crazy at RCA studio in Nashville, Tennessee. As the story goes, according to I’ve Always Been Crazy producer Richie Albright, Jennings asked him to get a pound of c*****e, which cost around $30,000. Eventually, an associate had a kilo (2.2 pounds) of c*****e flown in from New York City and delivered to the studio.

As Jennings was overdubbing vocals for I’ve Always Been Crazy, a team of federal agents entered the studio and said they had tracked a package to that location. Since they couldn’t see inside the booth where he was recording, Albright pressed the talkback button so Jennings knew what was happening outside, which gave him enough time to hide the c*****e behind a baseboard. Albright also asked the agents if they had a search warrant, which they didn’t, and said “While you get that search warrant, we’re going to keep workin’ here, because it’s costing us $250 an hour.”

He told the agents if they could finish a vocal, he would let them take a look around the studio. Pressing the talkback button again, Albright told Jennings he needed to change one of the microphones and went into the booth. There, Albright stuffed the c*****e bag in his pants and walked out. Around this time, Jennings’ booking agent stormed in wanting to know what was going on with all the agents in the studio, which allowed Albright to slip out of the room.

Albright proceeded to the bathroom, where he flushed the c*****e, and was heard by the agents. “When they heard that thing flush, it was over,” recalled Albright. An agent asked Jennings if there was c*****e there, and he replied, “If it ever was here, it ain’t no more.”

Jennings was arrested and charged with possession of c*****e, but the charges were later dropped. The event led him to write “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out of Hand.”

“Outlaw S–t”

At the time, Jennings was also becoming burned out by how big the outlaw movement had gotten since it had started as more of a rebellion against the industry norms. He spelled it all out in the lyrics of “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out of Hand”—his outlaw living, the drug bust, and how it all got out of hand.

I’m for the law and order the way that it should be
This song’s about the night they spent protecting you from me
Someone called us outlaws in some old magazine
New York sent a posse down like I ain’t never seen

Don’t you think this outlaw bit’s done got out of hand?
What started out to be a joke, the law don’t understand
Was it singing through my nose that got me busted by the man?
Maybe this here outlaw bit’s done got out of hand…
Out of hand! (Woo!)

We were wrapped up in our music – that’s why we never saw
The car pulls up, the boys get out, and the room fill up with law
They came boundin’ through the backdoor in the middle of the song
They got me for possession of something that was gone
Long gon

[RELATED: When Waylon Jennings Questioned the Future of Country Music in the ’70s With “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way”]

“Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out of Hand” was another hit for Jennings and peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. In 2008, a mid-’90s version of “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out of Hand,” which was reworked by Jennings and his son Shooter was released on the posthumous album, Waylon Forever, with the title “Outlaw S–t.”

“I wasted a lot of years,” said Jennings of his drug abuse in 1988. “I wish a lot of things. I could have been a lot more creative. You know, I spent the last five years that I was on drugs. I withdrew completely from people. I spent more time alone, sitting in my room, with that c*****e bottle in my hand, when I could have been very creative.”

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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