Merle HaggardThis article may require cleanupto meet Wikipedia's quality standards.
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Emerging from prison in the 1960s, Merle Haggard has become one of the true giants of country music, as a singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist. With his hard biting electric guitar, he almost singlehandedly introduced the electric sound to country music. Along with Buck Owens, Haggard and his band "The Strangers" helped create the Bakersfield Sound, characterized by twangy telecaster guitars, tight vocal harmonies, and a rough edge not heard on the polished Nashville Sound recordings of that era. By the 1970s, he was aligned with the growing outlaw country movement, and has continued to release successful albums through the 1990s and into the 2000s. His songs display unflinching personal honesty about such universal themes as love, loss, regret and redemption.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Country success
- 3 Later years
- 4 Equipment
- 5 Discography
- 6 38 #1 Hits
- 7 Awards
- 8 References
- 9 Footnotes
- 10 External links
Haggard was born in Bakersfield, California in 1937. His parents, Flossie Mae Harp and James Francis Haggard, moved from Oklahoma to California during the Great Depression; at that time, much of the population of Bakersfield was made up of economic refugees from Oklahoma and surrounding states. Haggard's father died when Merle was nine years old, and Merle soon began to rebel through petty crimes and truancy. His older brother gave him a guitar when he turned twelve years old. Authorities put him in a juvenile detention center for shop lifting in 1950.Template:In Haggard's 40. In 1951, Haggard ran away to Texas with a friend but returned that same year and was arrested for truancy and petty larceny. He ran away from that juvenile detention center to which he was sent and went to Modesto, California. He worked odd jobs - legal and not - and began performing in a bar. Once he was found again, he was sent to the Preston School of Industry, a high-security installation. Shortly after he was released, 15 months later, Haggard was sent back after beating a local boy during a burglary attempt.
After his third release, Haggard saw Lefty Frizzell in concert with his friend Bob Teague and sang a couple of songs for him. Lefty was so impressed, he allowed Haggard to sing at the concert. The audience loved Haggard, and he began working on a full-time music career. After earning a local reputation, Haggard's money problems caught up with him, and he was arrested for robbing a Bakersfield tavern in 1957. He was sent to prison in San Quentin for 10 years. Even in prison, Haggard was wild, running a gambling and brewing racket from his cell. Merle attended three of Johnny Cash's concerts at San Quentin. Seeing Cash perform inspired Haggard to straighten up and pursue his singing. Several years later, at another Cash concert, Haggard came up to Johnny and told him "I certainly enjoyed your show at San Quentin." Cash said "Merle, I don't remember you bein' in that show." Merle Haggard said, "Johnny, I wasn't in that show, I was in the audience." While put in solitary confinement, Haggard encountered author and death row inmate Caryl Chessman. Haggard had the opportunity to escape with a fellow inmate nicknamed "Rabbit", but passed on it. The inmate successfully escaped, only to shoot a police officer and return to San Quentin for execution. Chessman's predicament along with Rabbit's inspired Haggard to turn his life around, and he soon earned his high school equivalency diploma, kept a steady job in the prison's textile plant and played in the prison's band. He was released in 1960. Haggard said it took about four months to get used to being out of the penitentiary and that, at times, he actually wanted to go back in. He said it was the loneliest feeling he'd ever had. Haggard was later pardoned by Governor Ronald Reagan.
Upon his release, Haggard started digging ditches and wiring houses for his brother. Soon he was performing again, and later began recording with Tally Records. The Bakersfield Sound was developing in the area as a reaction against the over-produced honky tonk of the Nashville Sound. Haggard's first song was "Skid Row." In 1962, Haggard wound up performing at a Wynn Stewart show in Las Vegas and heard Wynn's "Sing a Sad Song". He asked for permission to record it, and the resulting single was a national hit in 1964.
In 1968, Haggard's first tribute LP Same Train, Different Time: A Tribute to Jimmie Rodgers, was released to great acclaim.
"Okie From Muskogee", 1969's apparent political statement, was actually written as an abjectly humorous character portrait. Haggard called the song a "documentation of the uneducated that lived in America at the time." (Phipps 2001). He said later on the Bob Edwards Show that "I wrote it when I recently got out of the joint. I knew what it was like to lose my freedom, and I was getting really mad at these protestors. They didn't know anything more about the war in Vietnam than I did. I thought how my dad, who was from Oklahoma, would have felt. I felt I knew how those boys fighting in Vietnam felt." Later, Alabama Gov. George Wallace asked Haggard for an endorsement, which Haggard declined. However, Haggard does express sympathy with the "parochial" way of life expressed in "Okie" and songs such as "The Fightin' Side of Me" (ibid). It should be noted, however, that after "Okie" was released, Haggard wanted to release a self-penned song titled "Irma Jackson" about an interracial couple; the single was quashed by his record company, although Tony Booth went on to record it in 1970. It should also be noted that Haggard has spoken publicly, most recently on a January 2008 episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, about a song he wrote for Hillary Clinton called "Hillary."
Regardless of exactly how they were intended, "Okie From Muskogee", "The Fightin' Side of Me", and "I Wonder If They Think Of Me" were hailed as anthems of the the so-called "Silent Majority" and presaged a trend in patriotic songs that would reappear years later with Charlie Daniels' "In America", Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA", and others. But other Haggard songs were appreciated regardless of politics: the Grateful Dead began performing Haggard's tune "Mama Tried" in 1969, and it stayed in their regular repertoire thereafter; singer-activist Joan Baez, whose political leanings couldn't be more different from those expressed in Haggard's above-referenced songs, nonetheless covered "Sing Me Back Home" and "Mama Tried" in 1969. The Everly Brothers also used both songs in their 1968 country-rock album Roots.
Haggard's next LP was A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (Or My Salute to Bob Wills), which helped spark a revival of western swing.
In 1972, then-Gov. Ronald Reagan gave Haggard a full pardon for his past crimes. Haggard often quips that few figures in history can become public enemy No. 1 and man of the year in the same 10-year period.
During the early to mid 1970s, Haggard's chart domination continued with songs like "Someday We'll Look Back", "Carolyn", "Grandma Harp", "Always Wanting You" and "The Roots of My Raising". He also wrote and performed the theme song to the TV series Movin' On, which in 1975 gave him another #1 country hit. The 1973 recession anthem "If We Make It Through December" furthered Haggard's status as a champion of the working class.
Later yearsThis article or section may contain an inappropriate mixture of prose and timeline.
Please help convert this timelineinto proseor, if necessary, a list.
"If We Make It Through December" turned out to be Haggard's last pop hit. He published an autobiography called Sing Me Back Home. Although he won a Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for 1984's a new kind of honky tonk had begun to overtake country music, and singers like George Strait and Randy Travis had taken over the charts. Haggard's last No. 1 hit was "Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Star" from his smash album Chill Factor in 1988.
Although he has been outspoken in his dislike for modern country music, he has praised newer stars such as George Strait and Randy Travis. The Dixie Chicks paid him tribute by recording Darrell Scott's song "Long Time Gone", which criticizes Nashville trends: "We listen to the radio to hear what’s cookin’ / But the music ain’t got no soul / Now they sound tired but they don’t sound Haggard," with the following lines mentioning Johnny Cash and Hank Williams in the same vein. Collin Raye paid him tribute with the song "My Kind Of Girl", where he said "How 'bout some music / She said have you got any Merle / That's when I knew she was my kind of girl. Country music artists Alan Jackson and George Strait sang "Murder On Music Row" in 2000. The song gained attention for It's criticism of mainstream country trends. They mentioned him in the song by saying "The Hag wouldn't have a chance on today's radio / Because they commited murder down on music row." In 2005, the country rock duo Brooks and Dunn sang a number called "Just Another Neon Night" off their Hillbilly Deluxe album. In the song Ronnie Dunn said "He's got an Eastwood grin and a too early swagger / Hollerin' turn off that rap / And play me some Haggard." Even George Jones praised him in the song "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes" in 1985.
In 2000, Haggard made a comeback of sorts, signing with the independent record label Anti and releasing the spare If I Could Only Fly to critical acclaim. He followed it in 2001 with Roots, Vol. 1, a collection of Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams and Hank Thompson covers, along with three Haggard originals. The album, recorded in Haggard's living room with no overdubs, featured Haggard's longtime bandmates The Strangers as well as Frizzell's original lead guitarist, Norman Stephens.
In October 2005, Haggard released his album, "Chicago Wind", to mostly positive reviews. The album contained an anti-Iraq war song titled "America First," in which he laments the nation's economy and faltering infrastructure, applauds its soldiers, and sings, "Let's get out of Iraq, and get back on track." This follows from his 2003 release "Haggard Like Never Before" in which he includes a song, "That's The News" questioning the strength and validity of President Bush's proclamation that the war in Iraq was over.
On December 19, 2006, the Kern County Board of Supervisors approved a citizen led resolution to re-name a portion of 7th Standard Road in Oildale "Merle Haggard Drive." Merle Haggard Drive will stretch from North Chester Avenue west to Highway 99. The first street travelers will turn onto when they leave the new airport terminal will be Merle Haggard Drive.
Haggard's Oildale home, made from a converted box car, is still lived in just south of Norris Road.
In 2008, Haggard was going to preform at Riverfest in Little Rock, Arkansas, but the concert was canceled because he was experiencing some sickness and 3 other concerts were canceled as well.
Merle Haggard endorses Fender guitars, both the Stratocaster and Telecaster, of which he has a Custom Artist signature model: a modified Telecaster Thinline with laminated top of figured maple, set neck with deep carved heel, birdseye maple fingerboard with 22 jumbo frets, ivoroid pickguard and binding, gold hardware, abalone Tuff Dog Tele peghead inlay, 2-Colour Sunburst finish and a pair of Fender Texas Special Tele single-coil pickups with custom-wired 4-way pickup switching. He also plays six string acoustic models.
- Main article: Merle Haggard discography
38 #1 Hits
- I'm A Lonesome Fugitive (1966)
- Branded Man (1967)
- Sing Me Back Home (1968)
- The Legend Of Bonnie And Clyde (1968)
- Mama Tried (1968)
- Hungry Eyes (1969)
- Workin' Man Blues (1969)
- Okie From Muskogee (1969)
- The Fightin' Side of Me (1970)
- Daddy Frank (The Guitar Man) (1971)
- Carolyn (1971)
- Grandma Harp (1972)
- It's Not Love (But It's Not Bad) (1972)
- I Wonder if They Ever Think of Me (1972)
- Everybody's Had The Blues (1973)
- If We Make It Through December (1973)
- Things Aren't Funny Anymore (1974)
- Old Man from the Mountain (1974)
- Kentucky Gambler (1974)
- Always Wanting You (1975)
- Movin' On (1975)
- It's All In The Movies (1975)
- The Roots Of My Raising (1975)
- Cherokee Maiden (1976)
- Bar Room Buddies (With Clint Eastwood) (1980)
- I Think I'll Stay Here And Drink (1980)
- My Favorite Memory (1981)
- Big City (1981)
- Yesterday's Wine (With George Jones) (1982)
- Going Where the Lonely Go (1982)
- You Take Me For Granted (1982)
- Pancho And Lefty (with Willie Nelson) (1983)
- That's The Way Love Goes (1983)
- Someday When Things Are Good (1984)
- Let's Chase Each Other Around The Room (1984)
- A Place to Fall Apart (1984)
- Natural High (1985)
- Twinkle, Twinkle, Lucky Star (1987)
AwardsYear Award 2006GrammyRecording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award2004IBMARecorded Event of the Year 1998Grammy Best Country Collaboration with Vocals, Hall of Fame Award 1994Elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame1990TNN / Music City News Living Legend 1984Grammy Best Male Country Vocal Performance 1983Country Music AwardsVocal Duo of the Year 1982Academy of Country MusicSong of the Year 1981Academy of Country Music Top Male Vocalist 1980BMISongwriters/Publishers of the Year 1977Elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame1976BMI Songwriters/Publishers of the Year 1974Academy of Country Music Top Male Vocalist 1972Academy of Country Music Top Male Vocalist Country Music Awards Album of the Year 1970Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year, Top Male Vocalist Country Music Awards Album of the Year, Entertainer of the Year,
Male Vocalist of the Year, Single of the Year 1969Academy of Country Music Album of the Year, Single of the Year, Top Male Vocalist 1968Academy of Country Music Top Vocal Duet Music City News Country Male Artist of the Year 1967Academy of Country Music Top Vocal Duet Music City News Country Male Artist of the Year 1966Academy of Country Music Top Male Vocalist, Top Vocal Duet 1965Academy of Country Music Top New Male Vocalist, Top Vocal Duet
- Di Salvatore, Bryan. (1998). "Merle Haggard". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 222-4.
- Di Salvatore, Bryan. "Ornery." New Yorker, February 12, 1990, 39-77.
- Fox, Aaron A. "White Trash Alchemies of the Abject Sublime: Country as 'Bad' Music", in Christopher J. Washburne and Maiken Derno (eds.), Bad Music: The Music We Love to Hate, New York: Routledge, 2004 (ISBN 0-415-94366-3).
- Haggard, Merle, with Tom Carter. My House of Memories: For the Record. New York: HarperEntertainment, 1999.
- Haggard, Merle, and Peggy Russell. Sing Me Back Home. New York: Times Books, 1981.
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