Jessi Colter

Jessi Colter
Jessi Colter

Jessi Colter performing at the South by Southwest music festival 2006
Background information
Birth name Miriam Johnson
Born May 25, 1943 (1943-05-25) (age 68)
Origin Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.
Genres Country, Outlaw country
Occupations Singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals, piano
Years active 1975–present
Labels RCA, Capitol, Triad, Peter Pan, Shout! Factory
Associated acts Duane Eddy, Shooter Jennings, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings
Website Official Website

Jessi Colter (born Miriam Johnson May 25, 1943)[1] is an American country music artist who is best known for her collaboration with her husband, country singer and songwriter Waylon Jennings and for her 1975 country-pop crossover hit "I'm Not Lisa".

Jessi Colter was one of the few female artists to emerge from the mid-'70s "outlaw" movement.[2] After meeting her future husband, Colter pursued a career in country music, releasing her first studio LP in 1970, A Country Star is Born. Five years later, Colter signed with Capitol Records and released her first solo single, "I'm Not Lisa" which topped the country charts and reached the Top 5 on the Pop charts. In 1976 she was featured on the collaboration LP, Wanted: The Outlaws, which became an RIAA-certified Platinum album, and helped her become one of the few female outlaw country stars.


Early life

Colter was born Miriam Johnson and raised in Phoenix, Arizona in a strict Pentecostal home.[1] Her mother was a Pentecostal preacher and her father was a racecar driver. At age 11, Colter became the pianist at her church.[3] After high school, she began singing in local clubs, in Phoenix.[citation needed]

Music career

Early career: 1970 – 1974

In 1970, Jennings and Colter sang duet on two Top 40 country chart hits which also helped Colter gain a recording contract with RCA Records the same year. She released her debut album, A Country Star is Born on RCA, with Jennings and Chet Atkins co-producing [1] The album was not successful and did not make an impact on the country music market. It was Colter's only album for RCA, and she left the label soon after. However, her face appears on several Jennings record covers from this period.

Breakthrough success: 1975 – 1979

In 1975, Colter was signed with Capitol Records. On the label, she released her debut single, "I'm Not Lisa." [4] The song was Colter's breakthrough single, reaching #1 on the Billboard Country Chart and also peaked at #4 on the Billboard Pop Chart, becoming a crossover hit in 1975. Her second album titled, I'm Jessi Colter was also released that year, and debuted at #1 on the Top Country Albums chart and #50 on the Billboard 200.[1] The follow-up single from her album, "What's Happened to Blue Eyes" was also very successful,[5] peaking at #5 on the Billboard Country Chart and #57 on the Pop Chart. The single's B-side, "You Ain't Never Been Loved (Like I'm Gonna Love You)" charted among the Top Pop 100 also in 1975. Colter couldn't follow-up her success on the Pop Charts; she was not able to chart among the Pop Top 40. That year, Colter launched her own nationwide tour at the Los Angeles Civic Center. In 1976, Colter released her second and third Capitol studio albums, Jessi and Diamond in the Rough. Both albums were as successful as Colter's 1975 album,[1] both debuting at #4 on the Top Country Albums chart. The lead single off of her Jessi album, "It's Morning (And I Still Love You)" was a Top 15 country hit in 1976. Her second album that year, Diamond in the Rough produced only one charting single, "I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name".[1] The album consisted of recordings by each of the featured artists. The album also included the song "Without You" which was re-released later that year and peaked at #2 on the Billboard Country Chart. For the remainder of the decade, Colter toured with her husband Waylon Jennings and released her studio album, Miriam in 1977. She then released her next album, That's the Way a Cowboy Rocks and Rolls the following year.[1] Her success began to decline through the remainder of the decade, with her final two albums of the decade not producing any Top 40 country hits.

Later music career: 1980 – 2002

In 1981, Colter and her husband returned to release a duet album entitled, Leather and Lace.[1] The album's first single, "Storms Never Last," was written by Colter,[5] and the second single, "The Wild Side of Life"/"It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" was also a major hit in 1981,[1] peaking at #10 on the Billboard Country Chart. The album was certified Gold in sales by the RIAA that year, Colter's second RIAA-certified album to date. Stevie Nicks wrote the title track of the album, however after receiving word that Colter and Jennings might divorce, released her own version of the song as a duet with Don Henley, which peaked at #6 on Pop chart, also in 1981.

Also in 1981 Colter released her final studio album on Capitol records, Ridin' Shotgun,, which also spawned Colter's last charting single on the country charts, "Holdin' on." As the decade progressed, Colter's success began to decline. She released in album in 1984 on the Triad label titled, Rock and Roll Lullaby, produced by Chips Moman.[1] However, in the later years of the decade, she decided to let her recording career decline in order to help take care of and nurse her husband through his drug abuse and various medical problems. She remained active during this time.[6]

In the early 1990s, she focused her attention towards performing and released an album of children's music titled, Jessi Colter Sings Just for Kids: Songs from Around the World in early 1996. It featured a guest appearance by Jennings, who recited some of his poetry for the video.[1] In 2000, Colter performed on Jenning's live album Never Say Die, released two years before his death in 2002, when he was sixty-four years old.[6]

Return to music: 2006 – present

In 2006, Colter returned to recording with a new studio album released off the Shout! Factory label, Out of the Ashes.[1] "Out of the Ashes" was Colter's first studio album in over twenty years. The album was produced by Don Was and reflected on Jenning's passing away. Her late husband, Waylon Jennings, had an unused vocal, "Out of the Rain", that was featured on the track.

The album was given many positive reviews, including Allmusic, which gave the album four out of five stars in 2006.[7] Out of the Ashes was her first album since 1981 to chart on the Top Country Albums chart, peaking at #61.[8] In 2007, Colter recorded a duet version of her 1975 hit, "I'm Not Lisa" with Deana Carter on her 2007 album, The Chain. [9]

Personal life

She met Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist Duane Eddy in Phoenix. He produced her first record, and she toured with him. They were married in 1962, in Las Vegas, settling in Los Angeles. She pursued a career as a songwriter under her married name, Miriam Eddy. Her songs were recorded by Don Gibson, Nancy Sinatra, and Dottie West.[1] Colter and Eddy have a daughter, Jennifer. In 1968, Eddy and Colter separated, divorcing later that year. Colter moved back to Arizona.

In 1969 she met and married Waylon Jennings.[5] At this time, Colter adopted her stage name, Jessi Colter, in honor of her great grandfather, Jesse Colter.[citation needed] Colter then moved to Nashville, Tennessee with Jennings. In the early 1980s, Colter and Jennings nearly divorced due to his addictions to drugs and other forms of substance abuse.[6] However, they remained together until Jennings' death in 2002.


Studio albums
Collaboration albums
Compilation albums
  • 1995: The Jessi Colter Collection
  • 2003: The Very Best of Jessi Colter: An Outlaw...a Lady

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Ankeny, Jason Jessi Colter biography at
  2. ^ Jessi Colter biography Allmusic. retrieved 8-8-08.
  3. ^ Biography @
  4. ^ Zimmerman, Keith and Kent (2003), The Very Best of Jessi Colter, retrieved 8-8-08
  5. ^ a b c Wolff, Kurt (2000). In Country Music: The Rough Guide. Orla Duane, Editor. London: Rough Guides Ltd., p. 351
  6. ^ a b c CMT bio of Jessi Colter
  7. ^ Out of the Ashes album review at
  8. ^ Grammy Hall of Fame Honors Country Songs
  9. ^ Deana Carter's New CD Due October 9 Country Music Television: Jessi Colter news & updates

External links

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