HomeEntertainmentMusicCountry Rewind: The Highwaymen Whip Crowd Into Frenzy With ‘Highwayman’ Performance in 1990

Country Rewind: The Highwaymen Whip Crowd Into Frenzy With ‘Highwayman’ Performance in 1990

by Suzanne Halliburton
Photo by Rob Verhorst/Redferns

Take a look at this The Highwaymen clip. The country supergroup of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson look so outlaw cool as they delivered their signature.

You know the song. It’s called Highwayman. And that’s singular. Each country star of The Highwaymen took a verse to sing about an immortal man who time travels. They opened a concert at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY, in March 1990 with this song.

Willie Nelson took the first verse. He sang about the highwayman “with a sword and pistol by my side. … They finally hung me in the spring of twenty-five. But I am still alive.”

Then Kris Kristofferson was the sailor who “was born upon the tide. And with the sea I did abide… I went aloft and furled the mainsail in a blow. And when the yards broke off they said that I got killed. But I am living still.”

Waylon Jennings was a builder on the Hoover Dam. “I slipped and fell into the wet concrete below. They buried me in that great tomb that knows no sound. But I am still around.”

Johnny Cash flew the starship “across the Universe divide. And when I reach the other side, I’ll find a place to rest my spirit if I can. Perhaps I may become a highwayman again. Or I may simply be a single drop of rain
But I will remain. And I’ll be back again, and again and again and again and again and again and again.”

The Highwaymen Concert Was Turned Into a Video

The concert more than three decades ago featured a setlist of 23 songs. The Highwaymen gave a show that featured some of the best work of each of the singers. There was Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys after Highwayman.

And the concert closed with Boy Named Sue, then Why Me Lord.

There’s even a video capturing this concert in all its glory. It’s wonderful to see it now. Only two of The Highwaymen still are living — Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. And Nelson is the only one still performing. Waylon Jennings passed away in 2002. And Johnny Cash, Jennings’ old roommate, died in 2003.

John Carter Cash, Johnny’s only son, talked about The Highwaymen in a 2003 interview with Rolling Stone.

“Yes, they are the country supergroup, but it was founded by friendship,” John Carter Cash said. “And it’s the honesty and the purity of that friendship that made The Highwaymen stand out. Individually, these gentlemen had their own style, their own thoughts, their own feelings, their own emotion. But they came together as friends, and that’s the unifying power of the Highwaymen.”

It was Johnny Cash’s idea to start the group. The other three came to Montreux, Switzerland in 1984 to film a Johnny Cash Christmas special. They enjoyed themselves so much in Switzerland they decided to get together again back home.

Glen Campbell and Marty Stuart also were part of some early playing sessions.

The Highwaymen did three studio albums. And their first album was called Highwayman. At this point, the group didn’t have an official name. But Highwayman, their first single, went to No. 1 on the country charts. Jimmy Webb wrote the song and won a Grammy for it in 1986.

Enjoy a timeless country classic. The sweet sounds of all four, like the Highwayman, are still around.