Bullets And Booze: 31 Vintage Photos Of Outlaw Country

Published October 14, 2017
Updated December 18, 2017

From Willie to Johnny, here are 31 incredible photos from the unchained glory days of Outlaw Country.

Johnny Cash Mug Shot
Johnny Cash poses for a mugshot after U.S. Customs agents found hundreds of pep pills & tranquilizers in his luggage as he returned to El Paso, Texas from a trip to Juarez, Mexico in 1965. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Outlaw Country Willie Nelson Waylon and Jennings
Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings enjoy a drink together in New York. 1978.Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images

Waylon Jennings with a gun
Waylon Jennings poses with a pistol.YouTube

Johnny Paycheck and the Teamsters
Johnny Paycheck holds a Teamsters union sign while joining a group of striking bookbinders. 1977.Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Charlie Daniels
Charlie Daniels sits backstage with a bottle of booze at the Uptown Theater in Chicago, Illinois. 1978. Kirk West/Getty Images

Johnny Cash on railroad tracks
Johnny Cash straddles railroad tracks, guitar in hand. 1969.Michael Rougier/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Willie Nelson Mugshot
Mugshot of Willie Nelson after he was arrested for speeding and driving without a license in Pasadena, Texas. 1960.Wikimedia Commons

Willie Nelson Mugshot
Mugshot of Willie Nelson after he was arrested in 1974 by Dallas police for possession of marijuana.Wikimedia Commons

Jennings Jessi Rosalynn
Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, and Rosalynn Carter at a reception preceding a concert to benefit the Carter-Mondale campaign in 1980Wikimedia Commons

Merle Haggard Sitting
Country singer Merle Haggard in a candid portrait taken in the early 1970s.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Johnny Cash Arkansas
Johnny Cash chats with some of the inmates and guests during his visit to Cummins Prison in Arkansas. 1969.Bettmann/Getty Images

Waylon Fan
Waylon Jennings, drink in hand, goes in for a kiss. 1973.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Willie Nelson and John Belushi
Willie Nelson (left) and actor/comedian John Belushi hang out at the Lone Star Cafe in New York City after Nelson's first T.V. appearance on Saturday Night Live. 1977.Stephanie Chernikowski/Redferns/Getty Images

David Allan Coe Mugshot
Mugshot of David Allan Coe before he served three years in the Ohio State Penitentiary. Ohio State Police Department

Hank Williams Jr
Hank Williams, Jr. sits at home with hunting trophies and a portrait showing him in Montana, where he almost died in a fall during a mountain climbing expedition. 1977.Bettmann/Getty Images

Tanya Tucker
Singer Tanya Tucker in the late 1970s.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Charlie Daniels
Charlie Daniels in Australia. Circa 1970.GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images

Buddy Holly and Waylon Jennings
Pioneering rock and roller Buddy Holly and Waylon Jennings pose together in a photo booth. 1958.Personal photo

Waylon Jennings at a NASCAR race
Waylon Jennings (center) enjoys pre-race festivities before an NASCAR race. 1972. ISC Images and Archives/Getty Images

Kris Kristofferson
Kris Kristofferson, as seen in a publicity photo. 1978.Wikimedia Commons

David Allen Coe and police
David Allen Coe speaks with several police officers. Date unspecified.David Allen Coe

Waylon Jennings on stage
Waylon Jennings performs on stage. Circa 1970. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Billy Joe Shaver
Billy Joe Shaver stands outside near Wise Fool's Pub in Chicago, Illinois. 1980.Kirk West/Getty Images

Johnny Cash in a Cadillac
Johnny Cash sits in the driver's seat of a Cadillac. Date unspecified.Wikimedia Commons

Sammi Smith
Sammi Smith performs on stage. Circa 1970s.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Johnny Paycheck and Merle Haggard
Johnny Paycheck (left) and Merle Haggard sit at the Countryside Opry in, Chicago, Illinois. 1980. Kirk West/Getty Images

Tompall Glaser
Tompall Glaser poses for a portrait. 1977.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Kris Kristofferson
Kris Kristofferson poses with his guitar. 1970.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Billy Joe Shaver at Wise Fool's Pub
Billy Joe Shaver (left) poses at Wise Fool's Pub in Chicago, Illinois. 1980.Kirk West/Getty Images

Ed Bruce
Ed Bruce sits backstage at Phoenix in Chicago, Illinois. 1980.Kirk West/Getty Images

Willie Nelson Drinking
Willie Nelson takes a drink backstage. Date unspecified.Wally McNamee/Corbis/Getty Images

In the early 1970s, a new kind of country music burst onto the scene and began to change the face of popular music forever.

"Outlaw country" arose out of a frustration with the slick, stagnant, formulaic Nashville sound that had dominated country music for years.

Outlaw artists and listeners instead yearned for a kind of country music that was gritty and real, closer to their own authentic realities than to that of the rhinestone cowboys of the Nashville sound.

Soon, established country artists like Johnny Cash became icons of this new outlaw movement. Cash's live album At Folsom Prison, in particular, became the bible of the movement, thus inspiring more artists to adopt this new sound.

One such artist was Merle Haggard, an inmate at California's infamous San Quentin prison who was so inspired by Cash's New Year's 1959 performance there that he decided to become a musician. Haggard would go on to become one of the most famous musicians of the outlaw country movement.

Soon, the movement grew to include hard-hitting, raw musicians like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson. In 1985, these very men joined Cash to create The Highwaymen, the supergroup of the outlaw sound.

Though country music has evolved greatly since this era, outlaw country spawned an ethos that persists throughout the genre, and American pop culture as a whole, to this day.


After this look at outlaw country, see 28 Johnny Cash photos that reveal the man behind the icon. Then, check out some photos from when punk ruled New York City.

Gabe Paoletti
Gabe is a New York City-based writer and an Editorial Intern at All That Is Interesting.