The following are previews / teasers / excerpts - based on the Friday May 27th premiere on PBS - American Masters:
( Edit: The full 53 minute long episode can be viewed on the link @ the end of this post)
The Highwaymen: Friends Till The End – About the Film
Frequently referred to as “the Mount Rushmore of country music,” The Highwaymen – Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson – were American country music’s first bona fide supergroup, an epic quartet comprised of the outlaw country genre’s pioneering stars. An essential musical and cultural influence, the Grammy-winning group was active from 1985 – 1995: recording three albums, touring the world and acting in the movie Stagecoach (1986). American Masters – The Highwaymen: Friends Till the End, premiering nationwide Friday, May 27, 2016, at 9/8c on PBS (check local schedule) as part of the 30th anniversary season of THIRTEEN’s American Masters series, explores how these men came together and the fruits of their historic collaboration.
Produced and directed by four-time Emmy Award-winner Jim Brown (American Masters – Pete Seeger: The Power of Song; Billy Joel: A Matter of Trust – The Bridge to Russia, The Weavers: Wasn’t That A Time!), the documentary features vintage performances, rare, behind-the-scenes footage of life on the road and in the studio with producer Don Was, and new interviews with Nelson; Kristofferson; family members Jessi Colter (country singer and Jennings’ wife), Annie Nelson, Lisa Kristofferson, and John Carter Cash; band members Reggie Young (guitarist) of The Memphis Boys, Mickey Raphael (harmonica player) and Robby Turner (pedal steel guitarist); and managers Mark Rothbaum and Lou Robin. Artists influenced by The Highwaymen, including John Mellencamp, Toby Keith, Marty Stuart, and Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, are also interviewed. Jennings and Cash add their perspective via archival interviews.
Performances from a previously unreleased concert film with the group recorded live at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., in 1990, demonstrate the group’s chemistry and the power of their combined music catalog including “Highwayman,” “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” “Always On My Mind,” “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Desperados Waiting For A Train,” “Luckenbach, Texas,” “Silver Stallion” and more.
Nelson, Jennings, Cash and Kristofferson liberated American pop and country music from record label-and-producer control to create a new musical landscape where the artists controlled their songwriting, recording and performing. Each had achieved considerable success prior to 1985, at which time they began to strategize about working together to revitalize the country music scene and satisfy their own restless creativity. American Masters – The Highwaymen: Friends Till the End examines how their towering individual personas and mutual friendships meshed to form the group’s collective artistry, their success buttressed by the love and support they gave to each other.
“Country music is America’s most popular music and I’m happy to add The Highwaymen to our growing list of master singer/songwriters, from Carole King and Loretta Lynn to Marvin Gaye and Ray Charles,” said Michael Kantor, executive producer of American Masters. “Like many, I only wish I could have seen these giants live in concert, but this film gives you a front row seat and takes you backstage too.”
The Highwaymen Live – American Outlaws, a new 3 CD/1 DVD or Blu-ray box set of concert performances — including the complete Nassau Coliseum concert film seen in the American Masters documentary — will be available May 20 from Columbia/Legacy, along with a new single-disc compilation CD, The Very Best of The Highwaymen. The Highwaymen: Live At Nassau Coliseum (a special broadcast edit of the concert film featured on The Highwaymen Live – American Outlaws) is part of special programming premiering on PBS stations as part of June Pledge 2016 (check local listings).
Published on May 16, 2016
"They believed in themselves."
Director and producer Jim Brown talks about the message of his film, American Masters - The Highwaymen: Friends Til The End.
Published on Mar 29, 2016
Discover the story behind the pioneering outlaw country music supergroup that featured Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson, told through vintage performances and new interviews about life on the road and in the studio.
Watch "The Highwaymen: Friends Till the End" premiering Friday, May 27 at 9/8c on PBS (check local listings)
Learn more at: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/
“For me, it was heaven,” Kris Kristofferson said. “I was up there on stage with my heroes — the people that I worshipped.”
In 1985, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson formed a country supergroup: The Highwaymen. They had already built empires of their own — so what brought them together?
In this excerpt from The Highwaymen: Friends Till The End, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and others talk about working together to revitalize the country music scene and satisfy their own restless creativity. It was the beginning of the outlaw country movement, and also their friendship.
“We did nothing we didn’t want to do. And we stood up for things we believed in. And it was a beautiful life that way,” Kris Kristofferson said.
In this outtake of The Highwaymen: Friends Till the End, friends and family recall the how Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash came together, along with their families, for a Christmas special in Montreux in 1984.
“The magic in that guitar pull in Montreux in that hotel room – it was tangible; you could feel it in the air. And that was the standard,” said Marty Stuart.
In this excerpt clip from The Highwaymen: Friends Till The End, watch Willie Nelson perform “Always On My Mind” at Nassau Coliseum in 1990.
Before Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson started the outlaw country movement, much of the Nashville music scene was controlled by record labels, producers and publishers. Frustrated by the lack of creative control, Willie Nelson moved to Austin, where he encountered a new, youth rock-based audience mixed with a traditional country audience.
In this excerpt clip from The Highwaymen: Friends Til The End, Waylon Jennings talks about how he started the outlaw movement, which was epitomized by his 1974 album, “This Time” — produced by Waylon and Nelson.
Jennings said in his autobiography: “For us, ‘outlaw’ meant standing up for your rights, your own way of doing things. It felt like a different music, and outlaw was as good a description as any.”
How did Kris Kristofferson convince Johnny Cash to record his songs when he was just a janitor? In this outtake from The Highwaymen: Friends Till The End, John Carter Cash — Johnny Cash’s son — recalls Kris Kristofferson going above and beyond to convince his father to record his songs.
In this outtake clip from The Highwaymen: Friends Till The End, film director Jon Smalls — who worked on the music video for “The Highwayman” — explains how he got banned from The Glen Canyon Dam after the shoot.
Excerpt from Live: American Outlaws CD Liner Notes
May 23, 2016
The Highwaymen performing at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., in 1990. Screenshot from The Highwaymen: Friends Till The End. Courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment.
There is a moment around midway through this set’s Nassau concert that focuses the group’s fellowship: Kristofferson, Cash, Jennings and Nelson take turns at Kristofferson’s “The Pilgrim: Chapter 33.” The song is similar to “Sunday Morning Coming Down” — another look at a man who is “Never knowin’ if believin’ is a blessin’ or a curse/Or if the goin’ up was worth the comin’ down…./Runnin’ from his devils, Lord, reachin’ for the stars/And losin’ all he’s loved along the way.” The man is a poet, he’s broken, he passes out on sidewalks, yet his waywardness is essential to the truths he’s searching for—truths that, ultimately, might serve somebody else’s life better than his own, if he can only get his words sober and voice right. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking performance, and at its end Kristofferson points at each of the other singers and smiles, in a moment of loving friendship and faith. There are several such stories and gestures of fraternity during the concert, including “Desperados Waiting For A Train” — one man’s elegy to a dying friend—and “The Last Cowboy Song,” a requiem for “another piece of America’s lost.” There’s also the heartening looks the singers give one another, the roughhewn grain of their solo and harmony vocals—all testaments to the pleasure and purpose found by standing on a stage together, taking part in having deepened American musical tradition with their indomitable vision and determination. “This night, on the Nassau show,” says Jessi Colter, Jennings’ wife and frequent singing partner. “They were really on it. They were always on it, don’t get me wrong—but that one…fantastic. Maybe it had to do with the moon, the night, the sound system, everybody’s energy,” says Lou Robin, “Johnny was suffering from immense jaw pain throughout the night — he could only be filmed from one side of his face. But everybody knew this would be the show to film. We knew there would be a big crowd, and the guys had now played together for a while.” Willie Nelson agreed. “We wanted to work it out,” he said. “I think it’s one of the best things that’s ever really happened to me, to be able to work with these guys, because these are not only friends of mine; these are heroes. Every day is just wonderful on this tour. Even the bad things that we won’t talk about.”
Screenshot from The Highwaymen: Friends Till The End. Courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment.
When you watch backstage interviews with the band members, or their conversations from a later documentary, Live Forever, Kris Kristofferson seemed invariably to be of modest temperament. “That was always very humbling to me,” he said recently, “to look down the stage and see John and Waylon and Willie. To be up there with them — you know, it was one of the wonders of my life. These guys were my heroes.” Still, Kristofferson was as formidable as any of the other Highwaymen. Cash, Jennings and Nelson championed and recorded his songs in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when several others on Nashville’s Music Row regarded him with suspicion, even hostility. “When I first heard ‘Bobby McGee,’” Willie Nelson says in an interview here, “I thought, Well, why didn’t I write that? It had all the ingredients of the things I like to see or hear in a song, from all about freedom and traveling, even down to the red bandana, so naturally I related to that song a lot…. Kris must’ve lived a thousand other times in a thousand other places, because he seems to be able to describe all these stories so vividly. That makes him one of the greatest writers of our time.” On another occasion, Nelson said, “Kris gave us a deeper look into the human being, and that added respectability to country music.”
Kris Kristofferson performing at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., in 1990 with The Highwaymen. Screenshot from The Highwaymen: Friends Till The End. Courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment.
But Kristofferson’s humility didn’t make him reticent when it came to some matters, and the respect of his friends didn’t spare him of their tempers. “We all have our idiosyncrasies,” Johnny Cash said in the documentary Live Forever. “We never had an argument over religion or our faiths. If we’re treading on strange ground we don’t say anything about it. Politics,” Cash added with a laugh, “is another thing. I like to see Waylon and Kris talk about politics.”
Johnny Cash performing at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., in 1990. Screenshot from The Highwaymen: Friends Till The End. Courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment.
Cash recalled an occasion when Kristofferson was performing “Slouching Toward The Millennium”: “Kris started making a speech about how many babies have we killed in Iraq with the bombing? And we’ve destroyed the infrastructure of the country. I didn’t know it at the time but Waylon said General Colin Powell was down in front, just standing there, listening to Kris. I guess Kris knew he was there, but I didn’t until we came off, and Waylon said something to Kris. That really started it. We’re not talking about coming to blows, but we’re talking about keeping the blood flowing.” Jennings later said, “We came pretty close to punching it out. I didn’t say he was all wrong. Main thing I was saying was he shouldn’t have been doing it onstage with three other people on there who didn’t share all of his thoughts.” Mickey Raphael, Willie Nelson’s longtime harmonica player, was present for the incident. “Kris Kristofferson was the rebel,” he says. “Some of his songs were almost protest songs, about Sandinistas, about migrant workers. He was saying, ‘Look at our faults, we can do better.’ Kris would get a little too far left, Waylon would want to reel him back in. ‘You can’t say that to our fans.’ Willie, meantime, would say anything he could to get them all crazy, to stir fire. All opposites. Johnny was a father figure to Kris, but they were polar opposites—alike, but different sides of the spectrum, Johnny Cash, with a picture of Nixon; Kris Kristofferson, Che Guevara. The four covered the hemisphere politically. Sometimes there was tension. Maybe Kris said something, pissed off Waylon. They’d get each other’s goat, mess with each other as brothers would. But from the outside they would band together. ‘Me against my brother, all against the infidel.’”
“It wasn’t so amazing that Kris said that with Colin Powell in the audience,” says Annie D’Angelo Nelson. “It’s the fact that the Highwaymen were so diverse, they touched so many people’s lives, that Colin Powell was in the audience. The bottom line was, all these guys believed in peace, but maybe some of them had different ideas about how to attain it.”
Willie Nelson performing at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., in 1990 with The Highwaymen. Screenshot from The Highwaymen: Friends Till The End. Courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment.
Indeed, the Highwaymen were big enough to contain America’s truths as well as its arguments. One night Kristofferson sang “Johnny Lobo,” about native American activist John Trudell who had served in Vietnam but felt so dishonored back home that he burned an American flag on the steps of the FBI building in Washington, D.C. Right after “Johnny Lobo,” Johnny Cash—introducing his song “Ragged Old Flag”—told the same audience, “I thank God for all the freedoms we’ve got in this country. I cherish them and I treasure them—even the rights to burn the flag. I’m proud of those rights. But I tell you what, we’ve also got…” He paused, because the crowd had started booing loudly enough to drown him out, then he confidently hushed them. “Let me tell you something — shhh — we also got the right to bear arms, and if you burn my flag, I’ll shoot you. But I’ll shoot you with a lot of love, like a good American.” It was a statement full of extraordinary twists and turns, genuine pride and dark-humored irony—and only Cash could get away with weaving such disparate stances and affectionate sarcasm together. When all was said and done, Johnny Cash looked at America the same way he looked at himself: with forthright regrets and unrelenting hope.
One night backstage, Cash overheard Kristofferson’s young son tell another child, “I’ll shoot you.” When Cash learned that the boy had picked up the phrase from Cash’s own speech on stage, Johnny said, “That’s wrong. “I’ll never do that again.” And he never did.
INTERACTIVE: Timeline of The Highwaymen Members and Outlaw Country Movement
March 30, 2016
Link to full 53 minute episode: ( Note: Video expires on PBS website on June 25, 2016)
fwiw .. Here's a link to other recent "full episodes" on PBS American Masters (with some expiring soon)