Willie Nelson Says Waylon Jennings Was Disappointed When He Agreed “Bob Wills Is Still the King”

Outlaw country pioneers Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings famously got along like an “old married couple.” Despite disagreeing “on almost everything,” the two remained close friends until Jennings’ death in 2002. However, they certainly weren’t above petty arguments. Jennings turned one of those disagreements into the 1975 hit “Bob Wills is Still the King.” As it turned out, however, Nelson would “be the first to tell you, Bob Wills is still the King.” Apparently, Jennings was quite disappointed to hear the “Always On My Mind” singer agree with him.

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Waylon Wrote the Song After a Booking Dispute With Willie Nelson

It’s the stuff of Hollywood legends. Angry at his friend over a booking disagreement, Jennings decided to pen a tribute to Bob Wills, “the King of Western Swing.”

The “I’ve Always Been Crazy” singer decided to kill two birds with one stone when he included this verse:

It’s the home of Willie Nelson

The home of Western swing

He’ll be the first to tell you

Bob Wills is still the King

“I really wrote that song ‘cuz I was mad at Willie, and it was a letter,” Jennings said. “I thought I’d write him a letter in rhyme.”

The country icon added, “And the more I got along with it I go, ‘Hmm, this ain’t bad.’ Willie gon’ really like this. He gonna wish he had one like that.’ Sure enough, he got for or five of ’em.”

Waylon Jennings “Was Gearing Up For An Argument”

The two Texans shared a manager at the time, Nelson said in his 2015 memoir It’s a Long Story: My Life. Occasionally, their manager would hint to Nelson that Jennings wasn’t exactly thrilled about his friend’s success in Austin.

“I’d never called myself ‘King of Austin,’ but Waylon heard others use the phrase,” said the Red-Headed Stranger, 91. “I had the feeling that he thought I was getting too much sugar for my own good.”

[RELATED: The Story Behind “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” by Waylon Jennings with Willie Nelson and How It Became a Legendary Duet]

Eventually, Jennings booked a gig to record a live album at the Texas Opry House, which Nelson regularly sold out. The “On the Road Again” singer recalled Jennings playing “Bob Wills is Still the King” with a “devilish look in his eye.”

Naturally, after the performance, the “Luckenbach, Texas” singer wanted to hear his friend’s thoughts. However, he was disappointed when Nelson told him the lyrics were “right on the money.”

“He was gearing up for an argument, and I wouldn’t give him one,” Nelson said in his memoir. “Truth be told, I really did like the song.

“And besides, he’d sung the gospel truth,” Nelson continued. “As far as I was concerned, Bob Wills was still the king.”

Featured image by Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images

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