Many among us would attempt to claim the title of “World’s Biggest Willie Nelson Fan,” but the person who earns that distinction will probably be the one who pays big bucks to own the braids that Willie cut off in 1983 after losing a bet to Waylon Jennings. Those braids—along with a whole lot of other memorabilia—are for auction in Phoenix this weekend, as Guernsey’s Auctioneers and Brokers host the “Remembering Waylon” auction, making available to the public a vast array of items from the outlaw country legend’s personal collection.
The braids may be the marquee item for Willie fans, in other words, but the auction features an impressive collection of artifacts from Waylon Jennings. The iconic Porsche-designed sunglasses? For sale. His custom Fender? Could be yours. His own crayon drawings of Johnny Cash? You can hang it on your wall. Boxing gloves and a robe that celebrate Jennings’ unlikely friendship with Muhammad Ali? Place a bid. Waylon’s boots could be your boots. You could own the letter John Lennon wrote him, or the costume that Waylon wore in the Sesame Street film Follow That Bird!.
But first, let’s talk about the braids.
The Phoenix New Times estimates that they’re not gonna be going cheap (did you think they would be?). The alt-weekly estimates the value at $50,000-$60,000, which is an awful lot of money for something that is, let’s face it, kind of gross. Still, there’s something appealingly Victorian about owning that particular piece of Willie Nelson memorabilia, and “one-of-a-kind” is almost an understatement when it comes to describing them.
They’ll be a conversation piece that makes people uncomfortable, in other words, but you could cheer up visitors by telling them the story behind them. As the New Times puts it:
The story behind these braids is that Nelson and Jennings, fast friends, had a bet going on who could give up drugs the quickest. [Nelson] lost, and as a result, chopped off his braids and had his wife present them to Jennings at a party.
That’s a good story, for sure, and it might temporarily distract people from the fact that they’re staring at a man’s actual preserved hair from 31 years ago.
Less gross is the 1958 Ariel Cyclone motorcycle that Jennings was given by the other members of Buddy Holly’s backing band, the Crickets, after the bandleader’s death. The bike originally belonged to Holly, and various members of the band kept it until it was eventually given to Jennings. All due respect to Willie’s braids, but this is probably the actual marquee item of the auction, as it hits three distinct groups of collectors: rabid Buddy Holly fans, rabid Waylon Jennings fans, and people who collect vintage motorcycles who would love to acquire one that, according to the New Times, “has very little wear on it and, besides the tires, contains all original parts.”
That video is of Holly enjoying his Cyclone, and the fact that it exists probably boosts the value of the bike well into the six-figure range.
For the less fabulously-wealthy Jennings fan who nonetheless needs something the man owned, the New Times highlights one intriguing option: An unidentified-brand guitar with a curious mosaic pattern on it. The playability of the guitar might be in question (there’s only one string in the photo), and it is—frankly—pretty ugly, but the estimated value on it is around $1,500, which is downright reasonable. (That’s a thousand bucks less than Romeo Rose’s guitar.)
One other big-ticket item that it’s hard to argue with, meanwhile, is the desk that Johnny Cash gave to Jennings when the two were members of the Highwaymen, along with Willie and Kris Kristofferson. The stunning wooden desk is a fine piece of furniture in its own right, but, as the New Times explains, it’s got some markings that make it particularly intriguing. Jennings apparently shunned Rolodexes and had idle hands, which led him to carve into the rich wood of the desk’s top drawers the phone numbers of his friends: Cash, Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., and others. That’s a heck of an artifact of both country music history and the pre-cell phone era, which is probably why this baby is expected to fetch upwards of $30,000-$50,000 at auction.