Waylon Jennings is one of the most recognizable names in country music history.
Topping the list with Willie, Dolly, Loretta, Merle, George (both Jones and Strait) and Johnny, a conversation about the genre is hardly complete without at least mentioning the Texas native.
But did you know that “Waylon” isn’t the actual name?
It turns out his birth name is “Wayland” and that was his official government name until his death in 2002.
According to his autobiography Waylon: An Autobiography, While expecting their first child, Lorene Jennings, his mother, liked the name “Galen,” but that wasn’t a viable option due to a tradition her husband’s father wanted to start with the family.
He had named his firstborn son William Alvin and wanted every subsequent eldest son to bear the first two initials of “WA”.
So she compromised and just swapped out the first letter with a “W,” slapped on the middle name Arnold, and the tradition was alive and well for another generation with the birth of Wayland Arnold Jennings in 1937.
“Originally they wanted to call me Wayland: ‘Land by the Highway’. Momma wanted to call me Galen and my grandmother had a boyfriend she wanted to marry who had died of an illness and his name was Wade.
Daddy thought I should have the initials WA, which was Jennings tradition for elders. The first to ever emigrate to Texas were William Albert and Miriam.
So it came down to Wayland Arnold.”
But the name didn’t stick for very long.
Shortly after Wayland’s birth, a professor and preacher from a nearby Baptist college paid a visit to the family and said something like, “Thank you for naming your son after our school, Wayland Baptist College.”
That didn’t sit well with Mama Jennings, who was a devout member of Christ’s Church and firmly believed that anyone outside of her church could not preach, let alone understand, the word of God.
As Waylon put it:
“But when a Baptist minister stopped by to see Momma, he said, ‘Oh, I see you named your son after our wonderful Wayland College in Plain-View,’ so she immediately changed the spelling to Waylon.
We were a solid church of Christ, saved by baptism rather than faith. She never got around to changing it on the birth certificate. I still hate my middle name and for a while I didn’t like Waylon.
It sounded so cheesy and backwoods, but it did me good and I’m pretty happy with it now.”
And from that moment on, Wayland was no more, replaced by the now legendary name Waylon Jennings.
If you remember, Waylon’s firstborn son’s name doesn’t start with a W. To go a step further, Terry’s middle name is Vance.
Turns out Waylon, like most other parts of his life, didn’t like being told what to do by anyone, not even his grandfather.
Grandfather Gus was less than happy with this decision.
Waylon and his then-wife Maxine didn’t change his name, but when he and Jessi Colter later had their first son, they decided to honor tradition and named him Waylon Albright Jennings, although you may know him better as Sagittarius.
Waylon Jennings certainly lived the wild life and left a legacy of stories, so it’s only fitting that there’s a good story behind even his name.
https://www.whiskeyriff.com/2023/01/18/waylon-jennings-mom-changed-his-name-after-a-visit-from-a-baptist-preacher/ Waylon Jennings’ mother changed his name after a visit from a Baptist minister