Classic Tracks: Waylon Jennings' "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way"

Apr 27, 2010 1:40 PM, By Barbara Schultz


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While making country albums for RCA, Jennings was finally coming out of the dark cloud he’d been under since Holly’s death. He developed a stronger sense of his own sound and took increasing control over his own production. Albums such as Lonesome, On’ry and Mean and Honky Tonk Heroes were made in RCA Studio B under Atkins’ supervision, albeit with an increasingly artist-driven approach.

In 1974, Jennings was still with RCA, but he began making his albums in Glaser Sound Studios, which he dubbed “Hillbilly Central.” The studio was situated in the upper floor of an office building and was operated by a young engineer named Kyle Lehning.

Lehning says that the first time he met Jennings, the country star showed up at the studio with his road band, ready to record, completely without warning: “The first record we made in this studio was This Time,” Lehning says, “which included the song by the same name; it was his first Number One single. The first time I met him, I was sitting in the studio, playing a Wurlitzer electric piano through my wah wah pedal into a Fender amplifier. Waylon walked in the door, and I looked at him, and the very first thing he said to me was, ‘I hate those things.’

“I immediately turned it off, and he said, ‘We’re in here to record. This is the band.’ Back in those days, the studio was set up and ready to go. We had a drum kit set up; we had everything miked. They weren’t dragging in a lot of equipment off the road because all the amps and everything were already there. They basically plugged in, and in short order we were recording.

“The very first song we recorded was a J.J. Cale song called ‘Louisiana Ladies,’” Lehning continues, “and being the young punk that I was, during the playback of that song, while the band was at lunch, I went back into the studio, turned back on the piano and the amplifier, and started playing piano through the wah wah pedal to the track they had just recorded. Then Waylon came back, and I thought, ‘Uh oh, this is not going to go well.’ And he said, ‘Hey, come in here and show me how to run this tape machine and put that on this record.’

“That’s the kind of guy he was. He was completely unfettered. If he liked something, if it felt right, that’s what you did. That first album, This Time, Willie Nelson produced. It took about a week to make it. The second of the three albums I made with Waylon, Ramblin’ Man, Waylon basically produced it. That’s the one with ‘Amanda.’ That took about two weeks.”

After Ramblin’ Man, Jennings and band went back into Glaser Sound Studios with Clement to start Dreaming My Dreams. This record took seven months. And the sessions got off to a rousing start: “I think I had maybe seen Jack Clement a couple of times before this, but I had never worked with him and had never really met him,” Lehning says. “He came in the studio the very first night that we recorded. There was a producer’s desk right next to the console, and he put a bottle of Jack Daniels down there and drank what looked to me to be about half of this fifth of whiskey. I thought, ‘This is going to be interesting.’ Then he lit up a couple of joints, smoked those.

“There was a great big blue talkback button right there on the producer’s desk. Waylon and the band would start a song, and Jack would hit the talkback button and say, ‘Muuuuuuuuuuuuh,’ and I would lift his hand off the talkback button.

“The guys all threw their headphones off and looked at me like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ And I would look at them and shake my head. So they started the next take, and he did it again. Waylon jumps up, and says, ‘This isn’t going to work, Hoss,’ and they took Jack home. That was day one. But after that, nothing like that ever happened again. Jack was totally cool.”

On the whole, the Dreaming My Dreams sessions were cut live. Lehning had Ritchie Albright’s drum kit set up in a booth. Charles Cochran sat in front of the booth at the grand piano, with Duke Goff (bass guitar) and any guitar players (there were several guest guitarists on the album) arranged next to the piano.

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