LITTLEFIELD, Texas—At first glance, it looks like a typical liquor store, with “Liquor” and “Beer” stenciled on its tan walls. However, those who know the “flying W” symbol, the signature orange and black colors and the song, “Waymore’s Blues,” that store—Waymore’s—holds a legacy unlike any other.
Old photographs, album covers and posters line the walls behind rows of colorful wine and liquor bottles. The whole room, a museum of sorts at Waymore’s Liquor Store, is dedicated to James Jennings’ brother and country music star, Waylon Jennings.
With each item, James has a story to tell. Waylon’s framed gold record—the same record that became the first platinum country music record—was a gift to his mother. An old sanded-down guitar with Waylon’s name and first wife’s name barely visible had been sold in a pawnshop, and James had to buy the guitar from its new owner to put it in his store.
James said he “ain’t ever going to be through” collecting Waylon’s belongings and memorabilia. But he wished he had more, even though he already has a roomful of items and more at his house. The memorabilia that cover the liquor store walls were collected mostly from Waylon’s wife, Jessi, his friends, relatives and the fans who visit.
“When you’re living around something your whole life, you don’t think about it,” he said. “Looking back, you wish you’d have grabbed on to all that stuff.”
As soon as Waylon was mentioned, James went back and forth across the room pointing to an album cover in one moment and a family picture in the next, sharing new stories or singing one of Waylon’s songs each time.
“Do you know this song?” he asked before cheerfully launching into one of his brother’s songs.
James created Waymore’s with his wife Helen four years ago along the boulevard named after his brother. It used to be a gas station with a separate room for their Waylon museum, but James said he suddenly got the idea to turn it into a liquor store.
“We’ve been in the service station business and I was ready to get out—gas prices were jumping high. I was ready to do something different,” Helen said. “I knew if James had faith in it, it’d work.”
They kept the museum in the same room but have since added shelves for liquor and wine, a Christmas tree and a playpen for their great-grandson. Helen said it isn’t the museum most people expect. She said visitors come to Waymore’s to meet her husband, hear his stories and go on his “25-cent tour” of Waylon’s life in Littlefield.
James conducted Littlefield tours from his pickup truck, pointing out the house where he and Waylon grew up, the place where they dug caves, the radio station where Waylon worked, and the house where Waylon was born. Each conjured up a new memory and story.
“(Waylon) said, ‘You know, my first remembrance of anything was a guitar. I can remember trying to get to that guitar.’ That was even before he could walk,” James said. “(Waylon) said, ‘There was just something about that guitar that caught my eye.”’
It was stories like these that brought visitors from all over the country and the world to the small-town liquor store. Whenever fans come to Waymore’s, Helen has them sign their name in a guest book. People from Europe, Asia and Australia have scrawled their names in the book.
“We get a lot of people who come through. You’d be surprised to see them stop in Littlefield, Texas,” said James’ daughter, Darla. “I like all the visitors—you never know who you’re going to meet.”
A man from Japan flew to Lubbock and drove to Littlefield just to meet him and see the town where Waylon grew up, James said. When he met visitors from foreign countries, he said he was surprised at how much they knew about his brother.
“You can start talking about a song Waylon did a long time ago, and they’d chime right in,” James said. “They followed Waylon and his whole career.”
Even at the end of Waylon’s career, when he had diabetes problems, James said Waylon had no intention of retiring.
“(Waylon) said, ‘I’m not quitting—I’m going back on the road,”’ James said. “You just got to play the hand you got, and he said, ‘I know.”’
That’s how James feels about his store. He says people have often asked him if he would ever sell any of the memorabilia, but James told them he never will. To him, Waylon was always famous and he said he wants to keep the store and Waylon’s items in the family.
Darla will continue what her father started as Waymore’s new owner.
“Five generations (of Jenningses) grew up on this corner,” Darla said. “This is all we know.”