Best Of The West 2012: The Waylon Fund Honors An Outlaw
Wife and son Jessi Colter and Shooter Jennings have established the charity for diabetes research.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Courtesy Average Joe's Entertainment
It’s a year of significant Waylon Jennings landmarks: February 13, 2012, marked the 10th anniversary of Jennings’ death at age 64 from complications of diabetes, and June 15 marks the anniversary of his birth. Those who loved him are making sure there’s no lack of ways to remember the outlaw country star.
In Waylon’s memory, his wife, Jessi Colter, and their son, Shooter Jennings, have established The Waylon Fund for diabetes research at the Translation Genomics Research Institute, an Arizona-based nonprofit dedicated to speeding the development of new treatments for diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism. Contributions to The Waylon Fund support state-of-the-art investigations into the genetic origins of diabetes, which afflicts nearly 26 million Americans. (At nearly 17 percent, American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest age-adjusted rate of diabetes among all U.S. racial and ethnic groups.)
“Diabetes is a creeping thing,” Colter says. “There was no indication of what caused Waylon’s. He did have Indian blood, so maybe he was given to it hereditarily. As you often feel after you lose someone, I thought, What can I do to help someone else from going this way? I’m happy to see Waylon’s name and what he stood for helping to identify people who might be at risk genetically and then speeding up the process of getting treatment, especially among Native Americans, where the incidence of diabetes is very heavy.”
While Colter is lending Waylon’s name on the diabetes research front, she’s also presiding over music projects in his name. She collaborated with producer Witt Stewart on the three-volume Waylon: The Music Inside: A Collaboration Dedicated to Waylon Jennings. Stewart had come up with the idea for the tribute album project while in his native Lubbock, Texas, taking care of his mother and visiting Waylon’s old stomping grounds. “About that time,” Stewart said in an interview with theboot.com, “I saw the Johnny Cash movie [Walk the Line], and I just started thinking it was about time for someone to shine the light on Waylon.” Colter agreed, and the stars started lining up to record.
The first two volumes have already been released, and the third is due out this year — maybe in time for Waylon’s birthday on June 15, when bashes benefitting The Waylon Fund will mark the anniversary in different U.S. cities. And, of course, the diabetes research is ongoing. “I just want his people to remember Waylon — that’s my main thing,” Colter says. “If we can also do some good in the meantime, that’s great.” www.thewaylonfund.org