American Masters Presents World Premiere of “The Highwaymen: Friends Till the End”

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23 May 2016
The Highwaymen: Friends Till the End
Courtesy of Sony Music Archives/Photo by Jim McGuire
“The Highwaymen: Friends Till the End”
Premieres Friday, May 27 at 9 PM ET on PBS

(Check your local listings)
Willie's the outlaw coyote. Waylon's the riverboat gambler. I'm the revolutionary communist radical and John is the father of our country.
-Kris Kristofferson
          Frequently referred to as "the Mount Rushmore of country music," The Highwaymen -- Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson -- were American country music's first bona fide supergroup, an epic quartet comprised of the outlaw country genre's pioneering stars. An essential musical and cultural influence, the Grammy-winning group was active from 1985-1995: recording three albums, touring the world and acting in the movie Stagecoach (1986). “American Masters -- The Highwaymen: Friends Till the End.”

          The documentary features vintage performances, rare, behind-the-scenes footage of life on the road and in the studio with producer Don Was, and new interviews with Nelson; Kristofferson; family members Jessi Colter (country singer and Jenning's wife), Annie Nelson, Lisa Kristofferson, and John Carter Cash; band members Reggie Young (guitarist) of The Memphis Boys, Mickey Raphael (harmonica player) and Robby Turner (pedal steel guitarist); and managers Mark Rothbaum and Lou Robin. Artists influenced by The Highwaymen, including John Mellencamp, Toby Keith, Marty Stuart, and Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, are also interviewed. Jennings and Cash add their perspective via archival interviews.

          Performances from a previously unreleased concert film with the group recorded live at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., in 1990, demonstrate the group's chemistry and the power of their combined music catalog including "Highwayman," "Sunday Morning Coming Down," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys," "Always On My Mind," "Me and Bobby McGee," "Desperados Waiting For A Train," "Luckenbach, Texas," "Silver Stallion" and more.

          Nelson, Jennings, Cash and Kristofferson liberated American pop and country music from record label-and-producer control to create a new musical landscape where the artists controlled their songwriting, recording and performing. Each had achieved considerable success prior to 1985, at which time they began to strategize about working together to revitalize the country music scene and satisfy their own restless creativity. This documentary examines how their towering individual personas and mutual friendships meshed to form the group's collective artistry, their success buttressed by the love and support they gave to each other.

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