Merle Haggard Biography

Review The Artist (5)

Merle Haggard-photo
Maverick country singer Merle Haggard represents an unusual intersection in American music, a crossroad where folk, pop, jazz and blues traditions are used to create his own soul-baring form of expression. With an impressive 39 #1 country hits, numerous awards (Grammy, CMA, ACM, and BMI have all acknowledged him), the 63 year old Haggard has always set his own trends: he's the only country performer ever featured on the cover of jazz bible Downbeat; the only California born singer in the Country Music Hall of Fame; and the only artist who's done stints both as an invited entertainer at the White House and in San Quentin's infamous solitary confinement "hole" -- clearly a powerful, creative force.

Haggard remains an uncompromising artist whose work relies upon the honesty and purity of his vision, not the obligations of being a country star: "I don't like all of country music," he has said. "In fact, I like very little of it."

Despite the flag-waving aggression of his 1969 number one hit "Okie From Muskogee," Haggard has produced elegantly crafted, moving songs with a consistency that ranks him solidly alongside such renowned talents as Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. The quality of his writing transcends all boundaries; his songs have been recorded by a wide variety of rock & rollers, from the Grateful Dead to Elvis Costello, a fact that underscores Haggard's appeal and his staunch refusal to recognize any restriction imposed by public perception. Haggard is the ultimate underground anti-hipster. Born in a converted boxcar in Oildale, California, by adolescence he was wandering as far as Texas, beginning a pattern that ruled his life for over a decade: arrest, incarceration, escape, re-capture. Classified an incorrigible (the fruit of his escape artist reputation), he wound up doing hard time in San Quentin. After his 1962 release, thoughts of solitary confinement and the prison yard death of a friend made him realize what a mess he'd become and Haggard, who'd been singing and playing guitar for years, finally turned to a career in music.

By 1965 he was signed to Capitol Records and began scoring a string of hit records, hard-boiled classics like "Lonesome Fugitive," "Branded Man" and "The Bottle Let Me Down." Eventually winning a full criminal pardon from then Governor Ronald Reagan (it's on permanent display a the Country Music Hall of Fame), Haggard positively roared through the music business, brawling, boozing, getting high ("Son, Muskogee is the only place I DON'T smoke it," he said in 1974) with an unstoppable fervor. His creative drive is equally formidable -- he reassembled Bob Wills' Texas Playboys for a final recording session with their old boss, but only after mastering the fiddle, a previously unfamiliar and physically demanding instrument -- and he managed it in a incredible six months flat.

On his new album "Roots", Merle perfectly captures the style and mood of classic '50s Country. "Roots" is an elevated form of musical expression with a presence of his own, and the Strangers, particularly steel man Norm Hamlet, pianist Doug Colosio and fiddler-mandolinist Abe Manuel Jr. have risen to the occasion with an equally reverent restraint that's resulted in a mix of creative rediscovery and pursuit of simplicity.

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just listening | Reviewer: zio stepane | 9/11/13

never see like that all of my life,i just heard it once in my life and i like it and i enjoyed all of his music,yes i'll rememmber all of your music,But now i'm living in Tombak alone leave the world and now i'm alone

Hag's Place | Reviewer: BobSSS | 7/9/13

I grew up tripping with the family to Lake Isabella listening to Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and others... and ALWAYS making note of Hag's Place on the way up...

I credit Merle and Johnny with the fact that I never went to jail. Growing up with a picture in my head of what Prison is like, was enough to make me steer clear of any law heading my way...

Growing up, I remember our community cops sending under-covers out to catch Dealers, so I quit dealing... better to lose the money than do the time...

Currently, I know more about vehicle and civil law than most cops do...

It makes me ill to think what today's music does to kids

Thanks, Merle and Johnny

I just started loving him a year or two ago. | Reviewer: Peggy | 5/2/13

I recently bought the cd titled My love affair with trains. Of course the best. Your account is right on and I,m sure theres more to the story. My hope is to see him in person some day.Thanks,Peg

Texas Barrel House Bakersfield, CA. | Reviewer: Bill Wright | 9/30/12

I played the piano for Tex at the Barrel House. When the Strangers were off the road they would work there. I enjoyed working with Norm, Biff, Roy and Don on sax. Those were the days I miss the most. Mark Yeary and I would trade off on keyboards a lot of the times. I use the stage name Henry Fencepost these days and play at Calico Ghost Town in California.

Bakersfield | Reviewer: Johannes Adriaansen " Dutch " | 5/23/08

I've always enjoyed your music Merle,but they seem to have even more meaning in this day and age..Lived in Porterville for years and frequented, Kernville,Kern River and ofcourse Bakersfield, Yes , I walked the streets of Bakersfield...Now living in Grants Pass Oregon.. Thanks for the memories... "Dutch"

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-------- 11/21/2014
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