Merle Haggard: The Running Kind (American Music (University of Texas))

By David Cantwell

Merle Haggard has loved inventive triumphs few can fit. He’s charted greater than 100 state hits, together with thirty-eight quantity ones. He’s published dozens of studio albums and one other part dozen or extra dwell ones, played upwards of 10000 live shows, been inducted into the rustic song corridor of reputation, and noticeable his songs played by way of artists as diversified as Lynryd Skynyrd, Elvis Costello, Tammy Wynette, Willie Nelson, the thankful useless, and Bob Dylan. In 2011 he was once feted as a Kennedy middle Honoree. yet in the past, nobody has taken an in-depth examine his occupation and physique of work.

In Merle Haggard: The working Kind, David Cantwell takes us on a revelatory trip via Haggard’s track and the lifestyles and occasions out of which it got here. protecting the complete breadth of his occupation, Cantwell focuses specifically at the Sixties and Seventies, while Haggard created a few of his best-known and so much influential tune, which helped invent the the US we are living in this present day. Listening heavily to a masterpiece-crowded catalogue (including songs resembling “Okie from Muskogee,” “Sing Me again Home,” “Mama Tried,” “Working guy Blues,” “Kern River,” “White Line Fever,” “Today i began Loving You Again,” and “If We Make It via December,” between many more), Cantwell explores the interesting contradictions—most of all, the will for freedom within the face of limits set by means of the realm or self-imposed—that outline not just Haggard’s track and public character however the very middle of yank culture.

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It debuted on Billboard’s scorching nation Singles chart simply as “Okie from Cantwell_4809_BK. indd 29 7/8/13 11:50 AM 30 merle haggard Muskogee” used to be itself poised to take the head spot. Haggard had reduce his personal “Cottonfields” again within the spring, and even though it wouldn’t be published for a number of years (on 1971’s sometime We’ll glance Back), it complemented completely the wealthy, inventive Okie universe he used to be busy constructing on the time. along with “Okie from Muskogee,” there have been “Tulare Dust,” “The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde,” “They’re Tearing the hard work Camps Down,” and, in fact, “Hungry Eyes,” all Haggard originals and all reduce in the a number of months that bookended “Muskogee”’s arrival at the charts.

It’s Christmastime 1957, and Merle is on the kitchen desk, killing a bottle or 3 of inexpensive wine with an outdated acquaintance he’d run into past within the day and invited as much as the home, and with Leona Haggard (née Hobbs), Merle’s spouse of simply over a yr and the mum of his eight-month-old daughter Dana. Merle were within the Ventura County penitentiary, doing 9 months for grand robbery automobile, while Dana used to be born, and he’d simply complete a threemonth stint on a street gang after attempting to seed his personal scrap steel company by way of assisting himself to a person else’s scrap.

Indd sixty eight 7/8/13 11:50 AM He Loves Them So sixty nine both that or they’re nasal and exaggeratedly declamatory: Like Hank Williams making a song “Hey, solid Lookin’,” they’re essentially down-home, white equivalents to big-city blues shouters. And no matter if thought of nasal note-benders or nasal shouters, nation singers were largely perceived as both cartoonishly overwrought or cartoonishly taciturn, missing totally in impact, power, or corresponding intelligence. those different types of state vocalizing do exist, primarily, kind of, and thank goodness.

No approach does it sound love it may empower a person. however it did. Haggard claimed then, as now, that “Okie” was once a comic story, or that it all started as one besides. His lyrical offerings again him up. The song’s first line—“We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee”— Cantwell_4809_BK. indd 152 7/8/13 11:50 AM He Lik es Li v ing R ight a nd Being Fr ee 15 three doesn’t mirror Merle’s own flavor in intoxicants; he advised one reporter within the early Seventies that Muskogee was once concerning the merely position he didn’t smoke pot. extra to the purpose, the antiquated “pitching woo” is cornball even for nation track; the decidedly un-Haggard-ish word “manly sneakers” simply should be intentionally farcical; and because whilst did Merle, an established disdainer of authority figures, supply a shit approximately collage deans?

The metal guitarist on the fortunate Spot was once named Fuzzy Owen, an Cantwell_4809_BK. indd 86 7/8/13 11:50 AM The Ba kersfield Sound a nd Fury 87 Arkie transplant, Bakersfield membership fixture, and a customary on Cousin Herb Henson’s tv software. The extra Fuzzy heard Merle, the extra excited he turned. the 2 struck up a friendship and shortly determined to chop a few aspects on Merle for liberate on Tally documents, the label Owen had cofounded with, and lately received outright from, his cousin Lewis Talley.

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