The Selling Power of Country Music: Outlaw Icons in Commercials

by Clayton Edwards

In the early seventies, albums like Red-Headed Stranger and Honky Tonk Heroes kicked off the Outlaw Country movement. By sticking to their guns and doing things their way, artists like Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash became country music icons. They sold millions of albums and made a lasting mark on the genre as a whole. Today, we’re going to look at how some of the biggest names in Outlaw country lent their images and voices to commercials.

Willie Nelson: Outlaw Country Pioneer and TV Commerical Star

The Red-Headed Stranger is one of the only living artists from the original Outlaw Country movement and he’s no stranger to commercials. Most recently, he appeared in a couple of Super Bowl ad spots for the comfort-forward shoe brand, Skechers. In the most memorable of the two, Willie advocates for the legalization of comfort. Check out the spot below.

In 2017, the Outlaw Country legend lent his classic tune “On the Road Again” to a Volkswagen commercial. The iconic song plays over an ad for the 2017 Passat. At the end of the spot, Willie appears to pass a Passat in an antique car. However, it is actually Roger Hegyi, vocalist of the Willie Nelson tribute act The True Willie Band.

Back in the early 90s, Nelson ran into a little trouble with Uncle Sam. So, to help bring in some extra money the Outlaw Country icon took did a handful of commercials. One of those was a Taco Bell ad in which he sings about the chain’s steak options. It ain’t “On the Road Again” but “The Woman with the Rose Tattoo” is still a pretty catchy tune. Even when he’s selling fast food, Willie is one hell of a songwriter.

Willie didn’t limit himself to one fast-food chain, though. He and Waylon Jennings, undoubtedly the most recognizable pair of Outlaw Country artists, teamed up for a Pizza Hut commercial. It’s great to see these icons together, singing, and eating pizza in the desert. However, it didn’t take Willie and Waylon to make pepperoni stuffed crust pizza look delicious.

Waylon Jennings Sold Beer & Pizza

Jennings, another Outlaw Country originator, didn’t appear in as many commercials as Willie. In fact, I could only dig up one that featured Hoss. However, his songs have been featured in a few TV Spots over the years.

He appeared in an ad for Stroh’s Beer. For most of the ad, we see cowboys riding in a rodeo and dancing at a bar afterward. However, we do see Waylon’s face for a few seconds.

For the most part, I want to feature commercials that actually featured Outlaw Country artists. If I went through all of the ads that featured their songs, we’d be here all day. However, this Coors Light commercial is too good to overlook. Waylon’s song “Fishing Just to Get Outside” plays while two guys enjoy some dock fishing and cold beers.

Johnny Cash Had Some of the Funniest Outlaw Country Commercials

Johnny Cash is the kind of artist who brings people together. Punks, metalheads, country music fans, and just about everybody else loves the Man in Black. So, with his status as one of the biggest country artists of all time, it’s no surprise that he did a few commercials. I found three ad spots. Two were for Canada Trust and their Johnny Cash ATMs and the other is for Taco Bell. However, Cash’s sense of humor shines in all three.

First, take a look at the two Canada Trust ads featuring Johnny Cash.

A Johnny Cash ATM? I hope whoever came up with that idea got a promotion.

Those are great, but Johnny Cash’s Taco Bell commercial takes the cake. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t give away the twist ending. I will, however, say that the whole ad is a setup for a dad joke of epic proportions.