Jessi Colter Biography

Mirriam Johnson, 25 May 1947, Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Her mother became Sister Helen, an ordained Pentecostal minister, and Colter became the church pianist when only 11, hence her subsequent gospel album, Mirriam. She impressed Duane Eddy who produced her 1961 single ‘Lonesome Road’, and who then married her in 1963. He wrote and recorded an instrumental, ‘Mirriam’, while she wrote some of his album tracks as well as ‘No Sign Of The Living’ for Dottie West. In 1967, Eddy and his wife recorded a duet single, ‘Guitar On My Mind’. After her divorce from Eddy in 1968, she married Waylon Jennings on 26 October 1969 at her mother’s church. She adopted the stage name Jessi Colter after her great-great-great uncle who was in Jesse James’ notorious outlaw gang.

In 1975, Colter reached number 4 in the US pop charts with the self-penned ‘I’m Not Lisa’, which was followed by the huge success of her collaboration with Jennings, Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser, Wanted! The Outlaws (Colter was too conscious of her appearance to ever look like an outlaw). Her best-known duets with Jennings are ‘Suspicious Minds’, her soothing composition ‘Storms Never Last’, and ‘The Union Mare And The Confederate Grey’ from the concept album White Mansions. In 1977 she worked with both husbands and Willie Nelson on a revival of ‘You Are My Sunshine’.

In later years Colter let her recording career slip, largely to nurse Jennings through his various problems, but she remained part of his stage show. In the 90s she began writing and performing children’s music. Among her many compositions are ‘You Hung The Moon (Didn’t You, Waylon)?’ and ‘Jennifer (Fly My Little Baby)’ about her daughter, while she turned John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s ‘Hey Jude’ into a song for Jennings by singing ‘Hey Dude’. The 2006 release Out Of The Ashes was her first ‘proper’ studio album in over 20 years.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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