April 6, 2016

"Let him sing me back home with a song I used to hear/Make my old memories come alive..."

"Take me away and turn back the years/Sing me back home before I die...."

Merle Haggard has died... on his 79th birthday.
Mr. Haggard was probably best known for his controversial hit “Okie From Muskogee,” a flippant broadside, released in 1969, that defended conservative heartland values against the hippie counterculture....
Yes, that's how a lot of people my age, including me, first knew him.
He later expressed ambivalence about the song’s message.... “I was dumb as a rock when I wrote ‘Okie From Muskogee,’ ” Mr. Haggard told the Americana music magazine No Depression in 2003. He added, “I sing with a different intention now.”
It's been a long time since we thought of Merle that way. Why, it was only 4 days ago that I embedded him — singing "Mama Tried" — on this blog, here.

ADDED: Merle Haggard, on meeting President Obama:
"It's really almost criminal what they do with our President. He's not conceited. He's very humble about being the President of the United States, especially in comparison to some presidents we've had who come across like they don't need anybody's help. I think he knows he's in over his head. Anybody with any sense who takes that job and thinks they can handle it must be an idiot."


Unknown said...

re Obama: "I'm sure some of it's true and some of it's not."

Saw him in concert with Shelly West a quarter century ago, phenomenal jazzy violinist.

Bay Area Guy said...

Merle Haggard was a great one, indeed.

I liked this nugget:

Defying the conventions of the Nashville musical establishment, Mr. Haggard was an architect of the twangy Bakersfield sound, a guitar-driven blend of blues, jazz, pop and honky-tonk that traced its roots to Bakersfield, Calif.

Jeez, I didn't know Bakersfield had so much musical street cred!

As for "Okie from Muskogee" -- Yeah, my wife would get pissed when I played it loud in the car, windows down, driving the mean streets of Berkeley, CA. F%@ 'em if they can't take a joke, I would say.

Kinky Friedman sang a response to "Okie" -- "Asshole from El Paso" . Pretty funny, too, in my opinion.

CWJ said...

On meeting Obama -

More projecting your own wishes on that empty vessel. That quote is almost perfectly 180degrees from the man's actual behavior.

Sebastian said...

Re O: Humility, if you can fake that you got it made.

Churchy LaFemme: said...

Probably the best known exemplars of the Bakersfield sound were "Buck Owens & The Buckaroos". I presume the money was good, but being half of Hee-Haw's "picking & grinning" hasn't done Owen's posthumous reputation any good. (But he's still got the shout-out in CCR's "Out My Back Door", so there's that..)

Bob Boyd said...

I always liked this Pure Prairie League song about a Merle encounter.

As I drove down on 65, I was cruisin' down that old
Well, I must have been doin' at least about 95
Well out there on the side of the road all broke down
Who do you think was standin' around
But the greatest country singer alive!

I'll fix your flat tire Merle
Don't ya get your sweet country pickin' fingers all
Covered with erl
Cause you're a honky, I know, but Merle you got soul
And I'll fix your flat tire Merle

Well I hear you had an adventurous youth, makin' love
In a telephone booth
And I even hear you did a little stretch in jail
But now you got a big ranch house with a bar
And eight, nine, ten of them fancy cars
And every other week a check comin' in the mail

I'll fix your flat tire Merle
Don't ya get your sweet country pickin' fingers all
Covered with erl
Cause you're a honky, I know, but Merle you got soul
And I'll fix your flat tire Merle

Now I heard all them records ya did, makin' fun of us
Long haired kids
And now ya know we don't care what ya think... Merle,
If you're gonna call the world your home
Ya know you're gonna have to get out and get stoned
An' it's better with a joint than with a drink, I think

So I'll fix your flat tire Merle
Don't ya get your sweet country pickin' fingers all
Covered with erl
Cause you're a honky, I know, but Merle you got soul
And I'll fix your flat tire Merle
So I'll fix your flat tire Merle

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Just too sad. He will be missed.

Birkel said...

She who shall not be named is puking in the "Donald Trumps Cruz..." thread.

Birkel said...

And the "Girls" thread

Clyde said...

Great singer, lousy judge of character in presidents. Love his music, though. And really, what better songs to sing along with than "The Bottle Let Me Down" or "The Fightin' Side of Me" or "Mama Tried"?

etienne said...

I think every condemned convict should get a song before the juice.


Roger Sweeny said...

And there was the Youngblood's Hippie from Olema, which ended, instead of "Muskogee, Oklahoma, U. S. A.", "Olema, California, Planet Earth."

ganderson said...

I first came to him through the Dead's versions of Sing Me Back Home and Mama Tried. California Cotton Fields is one of my favorites. Although he's forever tied to Muskogee, OK, he came from the Central Valley. He's the poet laureate of the Okies. RIP

robinintn said...

There's also the story that he was in the audience when Johnny Cash played at San Quentin. I don't know if it's true, but I listened to that record hundreds of times as a child, and now I like to think of Haggard being a little piece of the audience sound.
Bakersfield has huge music cred. You don't even have to be from there to have the sound - see the amazing Dwight Yoakam.

Oso Negro said...

Yes, no doubt Merle was a country progressive! Just consider the lyrics from "Are the Good Times Really Over" - a veritable manifesto for today's caring SJW.

Dr Weevil said...

The music is all copied onto iTunes, but somewhere in storage I have the deluxe 4-CD album which includes a picture of Haggard's pardon, signed by then-governor Ronald Reagan.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

My brother-in-law used to do local concert promotions and met Merle and worked with Merle and his people for those concerts. His impression was that Merle was a great musician but, in his old age, a grumpy misanthrope with little time for others. But he signed my BIL's guitar so it's all good. The Obama quote is pretty funny. I'm guessing Merle viewed black folks though a particular kind of prism.

Michael K said...

"On meeting Obama -

More projecting your own wishes on that empty vessel"

Sincerity is the key, If you can fake that, you've got it made.

Michael Fitzgerald said...

I remember an interview he gave the LA Weekly years ago. The reporter walks in the studio and Merle is smoking a bowl of weed. The reporter was surprised and mentioned the lyrics of Okie from Muskogee. Merle replied, Son, Muskogee's the only place I don't smoke marijuana!

John henry said...

I kind of like a lot of country music. the ones on my playlist come and go as I get tired of them and cycle some different ones through.

I have about 60 Haggard tracks ranging from some of his earliest work to his last CD. They never cycle off. When I can't find anything I want to hear, I know I can always go to Artist>Merle Haggard, put it on shuffle and just let it run.

He changed a lot over the years but it has all been good.

The clip you posted was particularly good, Ann. Great and apropos song. Of the dozens of versions, you picked the one from the concert he did with Asleep at the Wheel. That is one Hell of a concert. Go back and listen to some of the other tracks. The version of Big City from that concert is probably one of the best there is.

I am a huge Wheel fan too. Combine the two on a stage and it just hardly doesn't get any better.

RIP Merle. To paraphrase another country song, I won't be able to miss you because your music will not go away.

John Henry

John henry said...

Did Merle Haggard ever record with Bob Dylan?

I know Johnny Cash did. Nashville Skyline is probably the last good Dylan album. (IMHO)

John Henry

james conrad said...

You're home now Merle, RIP. A giant in his world, i think Merle in his prime had a voice that will never be equaled, simply the best.

John henry said...

Hey Cracker, Us old folks have earned the right to be grumpy!

You too, even.

John Henry

Ken Mitchell said...

Haggard wrote: "It's really almost criminal what they do with our President. He's not conceited. He's very humble about being the President of the United States, especially in comparison to some presidents we've had who come across like they don't need anybody's help. I think he knows he's in over his head. "

Young Haggard had the truth of it; Old Senile Haggard is wrong. Barack "I Won" Obama is the most arrogant president in the Republic's history. And since he's working diligently to END the Republic, I presume that he'd like to ensure his place in history.

Ken Mitchell said...

Bay Area Guy said... "Jeez, I didn't know Bakersfield had so much musical street cred!"

If you're ever driving down to LA, it's worth every penny and every minute to have dinner at the Crystal Palace in Bakersfield. The decorations are Hee Haw Corny, the food is outstanding, and the on-stage music sound like (and probably did) take music lessons from Buck and Roy personally.

I HIGHLY recommend it.

Gary Kirk said...

I was probably 14 or 15 and Merle and Waylon and Loretta were always on the console stereo record player. By the Mama Tried album I got over my embarrassment of being called a hillbilly. Now I'm embarrassed for what is now called country music.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it: this is a President who's able to make the rise of the oceans slow, but only mentioned the fact once. You can't get much more humble than that.

Howard said...

Merle was, appropriately, from Oildale. Bakersfield is Rancho Santa Fe by comparison. He died in Palo Cedro, another California redneck town.

William said...

He made it to 79. That's just about the full arc, and it didn't look like he denied himself too many of life's pleasures. Well, good for him and modern medicine. It does seem that c&w performers last a little longer than rock artists. Those in the heavy metal field are lucky to break seventy. I guess r&b singers have the earliest mortality, but few of their deaths are from natural causes. I'm not sure where to place jazz artists on the actuarial tables. .....I wonder if anyone has ever compiled the life expectancy of various musical artists. You'd think classical musicians and singers would lead prudent, balanced lives, but some of those opera singers carry on worse than rock stars. I just don't know........Shane McGowan is still alive. I'd pick him for the death pool, but he's muddled through the peak od and cirrhosis years.

PB said...

RIP Merle. The quality of your voice was even better than your songs.

Chuck said...

When you're runnin' down our country, Hoss, you're walkin' on the fightin' side of me...


Fran said...

Life expectancy of musicians by genre:


Curious George said...

Ever notice C&W stars have C&W names like Merle Haggard. Weird.

RJ said...

1. Mama Tried
2. Sing Me Back Home
3. If We Make It Through December

Bay Area Guy said...


Thanks for the tip. I did live in LA for years, and, dang it, I'm embarrassed to say we tried to avoid Bakersfield as much as possible:)

But no more. South on 99 and hitting the Crystal Palace next time - in honor of Merle.

gadfly said...

Merle Haggard, of course, has already been memorialized and included into the "Perfect Country and Western Song."

etienne said...

If Bernie can make it to 78 he'll serve a full term. Otherwise his VP (Hillary) will take over.

...and you know she will do a Vince Foster, or Ambassador Stevens on him way before age 78...

Bubba can't wait four years to get into the closet again...

tim in vermont said...

My memory is babysitting for a lady who had his album, on vinyl, of course, and listening to it and realizing I liked it. I really liked "Mama Tried." I only heard the Okie song translated through my brother, who is closer to Althouse's age:

"I'm proud to be an Okie from Miskokie
I'm proud to be a redneck from the south
All the Wallace voters seem to know me,
Either love me or I'll punch you in the mouth."

Of course it is the lefties like my brother that really believe the "Either love me or I'll punch you in the mouth" credo. Just ask garage on that score, though you will have to be subtle about it to get him to give his honest opinion.

Me though, I like country from that era, I think they call it "Vintage Country" now. It was good music. It was just one more thing I discovered that my brother was wrong about.

Comanche Voter said...

Never made it to the Crystal Palace, but I used to spend a lot of weekends in Western Kern County flying in model airplane contests at Taft. And the local radio station had a broadcast from the Crystal Palace on Friday and Saturday nights, so I'd tune in. Those folks at the Palace (mainly Buck Owens who was MC and principal singer) had a lot of fun.

As for Haggard's quote re Obama. It is criminal what years of hard living will do to an old man's brain.

But "Mama Tried", "If We Make It Through December" and "Kern River" will stay with me for a long time.

furious_a said...

Never made it to the Crystal Palace,

If you can't stop heading south, "Idle Spurs", in Barstow off Old 58, is pretty good, too. Central Valley Okies are the original Steinbeck people.

Wilbur said...

The Old Man from the Mountain.
Kentucky Gambler (a Dolly song, but Merle made it his own)
Daddy Frank the Guitar Man

I liked how Merle used to honor legends like Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills, and even hired old Texas Playboys like Eldon Shamblin and Tiny Moore for his road band.

Brando said...

The "Okie from Muskokee" song was terrific--I've always found the 1960s counter-counterculture intriguing. It sort of gets glossed over and dismissed in a lot of pop culture about the '60s (that would have you believe the vast majority of people were more Meathead than Archie) but it was much bigger and more vibrant than that. The country did, after all, vote almost 60% for Nixon and Wallace in '68 and over 60% for Nixon in '72, and John Wayne remained the most admired Hollywood actor through that period.

Meade said...

One of my favorite shows from Dylan's Never-ending Tour was in the summer of 2005 with Merle in Louisville.

etienne said...

I'll be honest, I never saw the thrill of playing in a band for $16 a day (Union scale). I'd like to have a royalty check from a record, but it must take a certain kind of people to want to travel all over in a bus just to get people to buy your records.

I spent 200 days a year deployed by the military for 14 years when I flew. If it wasn't for the fact that we got to blow up stuff and kill people, I'd have quit after a month.

Especially guitar playing. I gave up the guitar early on, but I still love playing the piano. No foot stomping music though. Just a nice melody will be fine.

walter said...

"Obama had always had a high estimation of his ability to cast and run his operation. When David Plouffe, his campaign manager, first interviewed for a job with him in 2006, the senator gave him a warning: “I think I could probably do every job on the campaign better than the people I’ll hire to do it,” he said. “It’s hard to give up control when that’s all I’ve known.” Obama said nearly the same thing to Patrick Gaspard, whom he hired to be the campaign’s political director. “I think I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” Obama told him. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

Jake said...

He's got a 1984 take on Obama.