Merriam Webster’s Definition of Outlaw:
a person who has broken the law and who is hiding or running away to avoid punishment
1: a person excluded from the benefit or protection of the law
2a : a lawless person or a fugitive from the lawb : a person or organization under a ban or restrictionc : one that is unconventional or rebellious
3: an animal (as a horse) that is wild and unmanageable
Hmmmmmmm…gives pause to really consider the meaning of the word.
Merriam Webster’s Definition of Music:
- sounds that are sung by voices or played on musical instruments
- written or printed symbols showing how music should be played or sung
- the art or skill of creating or performing music
Put the two words together and you get a definition of music that is outside the law, unconventional, rebellious, wild or unmanageable.
The first picture that comes to mind when I think of Outlaw Music, is Waylon Jennings. He dared to buck the Nashville suits and make a stand to play the kind of music he heard in his own soul, not what they expected
Texas music artist, Tommy Alverson, depicts the outlaw attitude in the lyrics of his song, My Way or The Highway. “Well he told ‘em just what he thought. Didn’t give a damn if they bought.” That says it all. This song is recorded on Tommy’s Heroes and Friends CD.
Then there’s that famous picture of Johnny Cash shooting Nashville the bird, although he recorded on some of the biggest labels in Nashville through the 90s.
They dared to speak out – dared to be different. I won’t attempt to list all of the music artists associated with the Outlaw Music movement. Instead, I want to go back farther; back before anyone ever heard of Waylon or Willie other than a few scattered songs here and there.
I’m going to get personal with this and tell you about a man most of you have never heard of who was a true and original pioneer in the Outlaw Music movement in Texas starting back in the early 60s. That man was Rick Sikes.
He drew hippies out of Georgetown and cowboys out of Round Rock together in one place with no fights and no problems, to hear his brand of music. Why? Because it was outside the law of how music was supposed to be played at the time. And folks were attracted to it, partially due to the social climate of the time and partially due to the value of the music itself.
Rick had been a rebel and walked to the beat of his own drum his entire life. So, when it came to making music, he saw no reason to change.
He often performed at Big G’s club in Round Rock, and commented often on how each time, he had requests for the old Fred Rose song, Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain, which was originally recorded in 1945. It was not uncommon to be asked to play it several times in the course of a night.
In 1971, Rick was sentenced to a total of seventy-five years behind bars for alleged bank robbery. That ended his rising music career, at the same time when Tillman Franks promised to promote him.
By 1972, Willie Nelson, left Nashville and moved back to Texas. He began regularly performing at Big G’s where Rick had been a regular. Rick wondered if Nelson’s decision to record Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain in 1975 came from his time of playing there. Even though he visited with Nelson a few times after he’d been released from prison, he never remembered to ask him.
We often assume the stars we associate to a certain genre of music were its originators. But, I dare to say that events way before they ever turned down a certain road helped pave the way and give them vision to see things in a different light.
This is just one example. If you’d like to know more about Rick Sikes and his two separate music careers, I invite you to read the books I’ve written about him, Flowers and Stone, The Convict and the Rose and Home At Last, or visit his website and preview his music.