Hillbilly Highway – Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, & the Renegades of Nashville


This latest retrospective on Nashville’s “outlaw” years, Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, & the Renegades of Nashville attempts to cram over a decade of history and a half-dozen or so storylines into a concise, readable 230-odd pages. For the most part, Michael Streissguth does a decent job of it, and occasionally even admirable one. However, there are plenty of instances where connections seem forced, and the same territory feels tired and worn out. 

Where Streissguth excels is at shining a light on some of Nashville’s dirtier, darker corners, highlighting the work of otherwise forgotten artists and major players whose stars never shone as bright as the titular heroes of this tale, like real outlaw Lee Emerson, Hillbilly HQ head-honcho Tompall Glaser, and the original honky tonk hero Billy Joe Shaver. Not to mention the dozens of bar bands Nashville’s West End spawned before Music City, the USA, and the world at large took note of the Outlaw movement. For fellow travellers with an interest in detailed minutiae such as this, this text can certainly help fill in some gaps.

Streissguth also provides some moments of insight, connecting what was going on in country music to the national, or regional, zeitgeist. However, at other times, such connections come across as stretched, or worse.

For readers who’ve diligently travelled the Hillbilly Highway before, much of the material here is recycled from previous texts. For myself, retreading moments from Willie and Waylon’s own (auto)biographies got a little old after a while.  Many passages failed to shed any new light on scenes and situations that have been hashed and rehashed many times since the 1970s. But for those who are just venturing down this path, Outlaws provides a beauty of an introduction, and a great Exit route to some gold for those who want to read further. Streissguth’s writing flows smoothly, like a cold beer on a summer evening. But if you’re looking for the hard stuff, go to directly to the source. – SB

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *