During a visit to Venice, Italy, I had my Rick Steve’s guidebook with me, as always. He astutely commented that the many masterworks of religious art to be found in the city can be well appreciated simply because they are in churches, which is what they were made for. Seeing religious art in a museum just doesn’t have the full ambient effect, and I very much agree. At the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice, for instance, Titian’s painting of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary above the altar would never look the same, or have the same effect, on the plain wall of some private collector. And Titian is even buried at the same church where his works are still displayed. For the most part I haven’t had the opportunity to see religious paintings inside churches except in Italy, certainly none by great renaissance masters, who were commissioned to paint certain works for certain specific churches.
Thinking about this, I now realize why I was so enthralled when I came upon the Waylon Jennings Museum and Drive-Through Liquor Store in Littlefield, Texas, which is owned and operated by his brother James Jennings. Waylon was a big time country music star in the 1970’s, and along with his contemporaries Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Hank Williams Jr., he drank a lot, struggled with substance abuse, and seemed to always be in some kind of legal trouble, although this was also an image cultivated by the counter-culture “outlaw country” music that artists like Waylon were making at the time. “Outlaw country” sought to fight against the corporate restrictions of the Nashville Sound that many musicians felt was robbing country music of its genuine artistry and creativity.
You could never appreciate any of Waylon’s memorabilia on the wall of some recording executive’s office. Or even at a Hard Rock Café. No, the only place you can fully appreciate Waylon’s first guitar, his Jr. High school diploma, and a pile of his bestselling records is at an old gas station converted into a liquor store in his backwater hometown of Littlefield. The “museum” to Waylon is placed among shelves of beer and liquor bottles.
If you’re ever in central Texas and would like a true art experience, I suggest you drop on by. The store is called Waymore’s, just off of Waylon Jennings Boulevard.