NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Waylon Jennings, who underwent heart surgery six months ago, says everything is back to normal -- except that's he's quit smoking, eats his veggies and rides his bike.
As the future County Music Hall of Famer puts it, 'I'm doing everything a person is born to hate.'
Jennings, 51, underwent triple bypass surgery in December and says he's completely changed his lifestyle.
'I'm feeling great. I have to stick to my diet, get lots of exercise. I walk and ride a bike,' he said in his first interview since undergoing the operation.
Jennings, who said publicly that he gave up the use of drugs several years ago, said the doctors didn't try to scare him about potential health problems.
'The whole thing is everything that happened to me I blame on myself. So I said to myself, 'It's time to make a change around here. I've done everything else, It's time to do something right.'
'I had to change the way I eat. I quit smoking. That's one of the great things that came out of this. I was tired of being a second-class citizen. They (non-smokers) really make you feel that way. But smoking is what caused my problem. I smoked for 41 years and I was smoking five and six packs a day in the last few years. It's ridiculous. Most people smoke less than that but any time you smoke it's bad on your arteries. It's just bad,' Jennings said.
'You've got to find a place to get off. That's the way I worked with everything. When I was in the hospital for three days, I had an oxygen mask on so I couldn't smoke. So I said I had no reason to go back.
'It was probably the easiest thing I ever did except I never thought I could do it. It has helped me in every way. You'd be suprised how quick your lungs clear up, almost immediately. I still reach for a pack of cigarettes all the time. It's a nervous habit.'
Jennings also has embarked on an unusual project. He switched over several years ago to Polygram from RCA where he established his reputation as one of the 'Outlaws' of country music.
The term originally was aimed at Jennings and Willie Nelson because they wanted control of their music. Later it was embellished as a successful gimmick.
Now, Jennings has joined with RCA in the release of 'Waylon Jennings: The Early Years.'
'When they said they were going to do it, I said let me help with it,' Jennings said.
'I can remember all the way back who played on those songs. Sometimes I've had as many as nine guitars and I remember where every one of them went. I thought it would be fun and good for me to do it. What I realized was that a lot of the things we try now to get in the studio we got naturally with a four-track. That's the cleanest sound I've ever heard.'
The cuts included on the album are: 'The Only Daddy That'll Walk The Line;' 'That's The Chance I'll Have To Take;' 'Love Of The Common People;' 'Stop The World (And Let Me Off);' 'Time To Bum Again;' 'Anita, You're Dreaming;' 'Brown Eyed Handsome Man;' 'For Lovin' Me;' 'Mental Revenge;' 'Leavin' Town;' 'I'm A Man Of Constant Sorrow;' and 'Your's Love.'
Jennings, who remixed the entire album and chose which songs to use, was asked if ordinary fans will be able to tell the difference between the old and the new.
'Yes, they will. The thing is the simplicity. Chet Atkins was a genius at simplicity. He produced all of these things. It was so much fun. I learned so much from him during those years about cutting records. Chet would make you do your thing. I'd say how do you want to do it and he'd say, 'You do it.' The thing was him being there when you got into trouble. He was always there to get you out of it.
'I learned one main thing: It's not what you do so much as what you don't do. You can't go too far with arrangements. Chet had a great ability to draw things out of the artist. He made me work. That's what you should do to get the artist more involved. When I would get myself against the wall, he was there to scrape me off. He created the whole thing. He was the first real producer here,' Jennings said.
Jennings said the genius of both blues and country is simplicity.
'If you start dressing them up, you get away from it.'