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When Luke Bryan Had To Apologize For His Outlaw Country Singers Comment

Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Luke Bryan all deserve a spot on country music’s Mount Rushmore. Just kidding! Actually, three of those artists have legitimate arguments, while the other is lucky to still be considered country. I think we all know who we’re talking about here, right? Good, let’s move on.

Anyone familiar with real country music knows Jennings, Nelson, and Haggard are essentially the forefathers of the genre. Their outlaw movement in the 1970s and early 1980s was one of the most influential periods in music history, especially in country music. This style of country is what many people love, unless your name is Luke Bryan, that is.

This story feels like a blast from the past but is worth revisiting. Everything is settled now, no hard feelings, but there were definitely ruffled feathers when Bryan seemed to condemn outlaw country. Back in 2015, Luke Bryan gave an interview to Hits Daily Double. When asked about the party atmosphere of country music at the time, and its hip hop and rock influences, Bryan seemed to take a shot at legends Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings.

“I think that people who want Merle, Willie, and Waylon just need to buy Merle, Willie, and Waylon. I’ve never been a ‘those were the good old days’ kind of guy. I’m not big on looking back. I’m not an outlaw country singer. I don’t do cocaine and run around. So, I’m not going to sing outlaw country. I like to hunt, fish, ride around on my farm, build a bonfire, and drink some beers. It’s what I know. I don’t know about laying in the gutter, strung out on drugs. I don’t want to do that.”

As a 47-year-old who still sings about partying on Spring Break, it seems he could sing about things he’s never done, or at least no longer does. Unsurprisingly, this landed Bryan in hot water. He promptly went into damage control, calling and apologizing to anyone who might have been offended by what he claimed was a misconstrued quote. Although I give him the benefit of the doubt, it sounded like he was putting down some of country music’s greats.

Luke’s comments made their way back to the Jennings family, who were not pleased with the cheap shot at the legend. Waylon’s daughter-in-law, Kathy Pinkerman Jennings, took to social media to call Luke out. “I hope your family is proud of you for using your platform to disrespect my father-in-law. You’ve shown the world your true self. Waylon’s drug use is documented and something he overcame; he was never ‘laying in a gutter.’”

Waylon’s son Shooter Jennings also addressed the controversy and said that Luke even reached out to his mom, Jessi Colter, to clear the air. Shooter’s admiration for Luke’s effort to apologize was evident. “Luke Bryan called my mom to clarify he would never disrespect my dad or any of us. He also asked for Buddy’s number to call Kathy. That takes guts. I’ve said things about people before that I didn’t have the guts to apologize for. That won me over.”

Shooter also understood where Luke was coming from and defended the changing landscape in country music. “I love Kathy for defending our family. But as my mom says, some people want things to stay the same. I’m not defending pop music, but I am defending new music. My dad never liked labels, and neither do I.”

Luke’s comments weren’t a big deal to Shooter because he understands how media can twist interviews for headline-worthy quotes. For his part, Luke also took to social media to address the controversy, claiming he wasn’t trying to disrespect the legends who came before him. “It’s frustrating that something negative came out. I would never speak against any artist. Willie, Waylon, and Merle are musical heroes. I was trying to state what I’m about and where my music comes from. It’s that simple.”

It sounds like any beef between the Jennings family and Luke Bryan has been squashed, at least as far as Waylon’s son Shooter is concerned. But does that mean Shooter’s out there bumping “Country Girl Shake It For Me?” Not exactly. “His music isn’t something I listen to, but that’s not personal. I don’t listen to much new country, except a few underground acts. The point is he owned up and apologized. In the long run, his image has improved.”

Ben Haggard, Merle Haggard’s son, also received an apology. He posted about it on Instagram: “Luke Bryan called to personally apologize to me and the Haggard family for his comments. I’ve never talked to Luke before, but his sincerity was clear. Let’s remember, we’re all humans. We make mistakes and say things we wish we hadn’t.”

Not only did he call the families of Jennings and Haggard, but Bryan also put out a statement on social media trying to fix any bad blood. “Hey guys. I’ve been thinking about this. Every now and then, I need to defend myself. I did a great interview with many topics. It’s frustrating that something negative came out. I would never speak against any artist. Willie, Waylon, and Merle are heroes. I was stating who I am and where I come from with my music. It’s that simple.”

Source: Hits Daily Double, Instagram, Associated Press