The often-dubbed “Outlaw movement” of the 1970’s had a profound impact on the music of Texas and Nashville and even effected a change in the cultural landscape. Artists like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Bobby Bare were the leading renegades, rebelling against the established industry system and demanding more creative freedom and control of their music. Their influence resulted in one of the most significant and game-changing eras of country music.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville explores the movement in a new exhibit, “Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ’70s.” The exhibit takes a close, all-encompassing look at the cultural explosion that was triggered in two major music centers, Austin and Nashville. “Outlaws & Armadillos” opened to the public on May 25th and will run for close to three years, ending Feb. 14th, 2021.

Jessi Colter performs during the CMHOF Outlaws and Armadillos VIP Opening Reception in Nashville. Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for Country Music Hall Of Fame & Museum

This is one of the largest exhibits ever undertaken by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “Outlaws & Armadillos” will fascinate viewers with its sheer number of artifacts and personal memorabilia. Among the many items on display: a leather-bound folio with handwritten lyrics from Waylon Jennings; the actual door from the general store in Luckenbach, Texas, which adorned the cover of Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Viva Terlingua” album; costumes worn by Waylon Jennings’ wife Jessi Colter for two of her album covers; some vintage and never-before-seen photos, and various guitars belonging to Doug Sahm, Joe Ely, Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson and many others.

Several artists from the era are featured in the exhibit, including Nelson, Jennings, Kristofferson, Cowboy Jack Clement, Guy Clark, Billy Joe Shaver and Colter. Fans will be treated to sweeping displays that explain and enlighten the “Outlaw” movement, with interviews, personal memorabilia, commissioned artwork and other artifacts. Poster art from Nashville’s iconic Exit/In club and Austin’s Armadillo World Headquarters will also catch viewers’ attention and bring the era into clearer focus. The Armadillo, an old armory building that transitioned to a performance venue, enacted a huge impact on the Austin music scene as a spot where traditionalists and young hippies could come together and bond over their mutual love of music.

Joe Ely performs during the CMHOF Outlaws and Armadillos VIP Opening Reception in Nashville. Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for Country Music Hall Of Fame & Museum

Media and other invited guests were given a preview of “Outlaws & Armadillos” at a special reception, held at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum May 24th. Among those on hand were Colter, her son Shooter Jennings and Ely, along with music industry members and executives. Colter, Jennings and Ely also performed for the audience. It was estimated that more than 800 people attended the reception, the most for an opening in the Hall of Fame’s history.

As a companion piece to the exhibit, a two-CD set, also titled “Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ’70s,” has been released and is now available. The set includes 36 tracks plus a 32-page booklet detailing the period. Songs include “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” by Waylon Jennings, “Old Five and Dimers Like Me” by Billy Joe Shaver, Nelson’s “Red Headed Stranger,” and “Easy From Now On” by Emmylou Harris.

Your next visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville should definitely include “Outlaws & Armadillos: Country Roaring ’70s.” This is a must-see exhibit for fans of any age. For more information, please visit the Hall of Fame website.