Gallopin’ Goose 1950’s Coolidge, AZ map

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The Gallopin’ Goose is a popular local bar that has had many musicians come through its doors over the years, including Waylon Jennings in the early days of his career. His early career as a Disc Jockey (DJ) and honky-tonk musician in Coolidge is legend in town.

Jennings was born in Littlefield, Texas in 1937. He had a natural musical presence. As a child he picked up the guitar and had his own band at 12. At age 14, Jennings began a career as a disc jockey in Littlefield,TX, and it was during this time of spinning records and playing in his band that he met Buddy Holly. He also met Gary and Ramona Tollett who recorded “That’ll Be the Day” with Holly. In 1958 his DJ work took him to nearby Lubbock. He played electric base and recorded and toured with Holly during 1958 and 1959 and Holly in turn produced Jennings’ first record.

On February 3, 1959, while touring with Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens, the bus in which they were traveling developed heating problems. Holly, weary of the cold and the bus, chartered a plane out of Clear Lake, Iowa. Jennings gave up his seat on the plane to Big Bopper. The banter between Jennings and Holly was always quick and friendly. So, when Holly heard that Jennings had given up a seat on the plane he told him, “Well, hope your old bus freezes up.” Jennings then replied, “Well, I hope your plane crashes.” Shortly after takeoff the plane knifed into the snow. The crash killed all on board. Crushed and shaken up, Jennings went back to Lubbock.

Despite this setback and the lingering regret of his comment in jest, Jennings was itching to get out of town. His wife, Maxine, had family in Coolidge, Arizona. Jennings landed a job at the local radio station KCKY, where he also occasionally sang on the air. His air name was “Sky High Jennings” and his talent helped land him jobs at several area clubs while working at KCKY. In the beginning he, Maxine and their two children lived in a little one-room cabin-style home on south Main in Coolidge. He was often at his sister-in-laws home for dinner or borrowing blankets.

During this time he encountered many of music’s biggest names and rising stars while at the station. He was one of the first to appreciate Loretta Lynn’s talent as she traveled the country circuit promoting her music with her husband Doolittle. She played “I’m a Honky-Tonk Girl” live at the station in Coolidge at his insistence. A local band, whose members consisted of Bill Stephens, Virgil McQuen and Claude Henry, were regulars at the Gallopin’ Goose on the south side of “Cool town.” Jennings soon began sitting in with the band.

It was not too long afterward that Jennings was drawn to the brighter lights of Phoenix. He was soon headlining at JD’s a club at the Salt River bottom between Scottsdale and Tempe. He recorded the album “LIVE at JD’s” at a recording company in Phoenix. His big break came when he was picked up by RCA Records where he hit the big time with “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line,” “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” and “The Taker.” He won a Grammy for his rendition of “MacArthur Park.”

According to current Galloping Goose owner, several years ago Virginia Padgett, former owner of the bar, told her grandson Clay who was heading to National Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas, “If you see Waylon, tell him hello.” Not ever believing he would see the singer, he told his grandmother he would give him the greeting. One day while he was riding in the elevator the door slid open and Waylon Jennings walked in. Clay told him that his grandmother said “hello.” Waylon responded by asking, “Hey, is that sign still working at the Galloping Goose?”

On February 13, 2002 Waylon Jennings died in his Phoenix home at the age of 64 of a diabetes-related illness.

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