Merle Haggard Interview


(CSC) 1. (What an honor to speak with you!) Youíre ready to hit the road once again. What are you most looking forward to about performing with your band & how have you been?


(Merle Haggard)

Well you know I had a little bout last year with the Cancer thing. I got that out and didnít have to do any chemo thankfully. I guess I dodged a bullet you might say. I got back on the road with a full crew, full force and I am enjoying it more than ever!



(CSC) 2. I understand your wife and your sons are in your band as well, right?


(Merle Haggard)

My wife Theresa sings the tenor with me and my son plays guitar. Iím pretty fortunate to have that happen for me. 



(CSC) 3. I think its fitting to say that the ďLast of the BreedĒ tour you took part in with pals Ray Price and Willie Nelson pretty much sums up the current state of country music today. What are your thoughts on the music business?


(Merle Haggard)

Well itís like everything else you know, itís pretty slow right now and itís strange what there is of it that is left it has been making some real changes over the last few years.



(CSC) 4. Growing up in Southern California, what first attracted you to country music, and who were some of the artists at that time that inspired your early musical style?


(Merle Haggard)

I grew up in Bakersfield, in Oildale, an adjacent city which was quite a bit like Texas in as much as we had oil and we had country music. It was more of a bar room brand and maybe the east of the river type. I was lucky to be in the kind of area that supported that kind of music they had when television first came on the air in 1953. There was quite a bit of music in Bakersfield. I was young and able to take advantage of what was performing there.



(CSC) 5. Who were some of the artists that you enjoyed listening to back then?


(Merle Haggard)

Bob Wills was real big at the time in California, Texas, and Oklahoma; letís just say the western half of the United States. (Laughs) I was very much influenced by him and his music. Also Lefty Frizzell was a big artist, and Hank Williams were a few of the other ones I enjoyed. Then doing shows at the bars we had to do a lot of rock and roll. We had to perform a lot of Chuck Berry, a lot of Elvis, and Ricky Nelson; people like that.



(CSC) 6. Lifeís thrown you many curves along the road to stardom both in your personal and professional life, what do you attribute to overcoming them?


(Merle Haggard)

Well I guess it was like I attributed to most of the things that I just mentioned. Itís where I got my start. Then also going down to Capitol records in Los Angeles and getting on a label and having the thing go nationwide or international actually. One thing led to another and I got inducted into the Hall of Fame. Over the years I had four of a hundred songs in the top ten billboards. Iíve had a wonderful career to say the least; and itís not over yet!



(CSC) 7. You wrote a song about a very well-known superstar in country music. Tell me about ďAlways Wanting You.Ē Had you hoped to make those feelings known to that individual?


(Merle Haggard)

Yeah, with that song, Dolly and I was screen boarding each other. We were writing songs back and forth. She canít associate with me right now because sheís got those ďreasons.Ē (Laughs) Sheís too busy satisfying the movie industry. Dolly is a good person, a good human being. Iíve known her since she was about twenty years old. I especially like her husband Carl.



(CSC) 8. You ought to record a duet with her one day!


(Merle Haggard)

Oh IĎd like to record with Carl! (Laughs)



(CSC) 9. You were an essential part of the ďOutlawĒ movement in country music. Do you feel that you were ever accepted by Nashville?


(Merle Haggard)

Actually, Nashville has been very nice to me. But thatís not really the way theyíve been to a lot of west coast artists through the years. Theyíve come to appreciate my music, I guess, over the years. Regardless of the fact that I didnít live there, they were kind to me when it came time for the awards each year.



(CSC) 10. Tell me about your protťgťs the Malpass Brothers. How did you initially discover their music, and why did you decide to take them out on the road with you?


(Merle Haggard)

Well they remind me a lot of myself and people that I knew when I was young. I intend to use them in some film projects in the future. Iím a guy thatís got a stage for them to play on. Iím proud that I can afford to take them out on the road with me. They have their hearts into what we call ďtraditionalĒ country music. Itís valuable to me that we cultivate the young talent for that kind of music.



(CSC) 11. Thereís a lot of young talent out there in todayís country music scene trying to imitate you and your style. Whatís your take on that?


(Merle Haggard)

Itís a compliment, to say the least! If you canít get your own records played, at least you can get somebody thatís trying to play like you! I appreciate that coming from those artists.



(CSC) 12. Being a seasoned veteran in the music business, what career accomplishments mean the most to you at this point in your life?


(Merle Haggard)

Well it all takes the whole pie. You know you canít really single one thing out in the pie. Iím glad that I was a writer. Iím glad that I was able to write the majority of my own songs. I think itís important to be a writer. As you can tell by even the new artists, this Taylor Swift, sheís writing those songs of hers and that means something.



(CSC) 13. Do you have any regrets about your past? Something you wish you wouldíve done different?


(Merle Haggard)

No. I think if I changed one thing, it would be an avalanche of the wrong thing to do. Nobody has the wisdom I think, to go back and straighten out what they did. Unless hind sightís 20/20 which it is; you know itís so strange what life deals you and itís interesting.



(CSC) 14. What do you want to be remembered for by future generations of country music fans?


(Merle Haggard)

Singer/songwriter Merle Haggard!! I think thatís funnyÖ You know, just to be remembered is good enough! (Laughs)



(CSC) 15. Whatís one misconception about yourself that youíd like to clear up?


(Merle Haggard)

I donít know that there are any. Theyíve taken me to be pretty much what I am, I guess. Iím unpredictable. My mother always said that about me.



(CSC) 16. Did your parents perform music at all? 


(Merle Haggard)

My dad had the musical gene that was passed onto me. My mother was the writer. I got a little bit of both of their talents. She was the penmanship champion of the state of Oklahoma when she was sixteen years old and very much a writer.



(CSC) 17. Did she write poems as well?


(Merle Haggard) Yes she did. She really liked to get into that also. She was good at it.



(CSC) 18. Did your dad play and did you get to play with him when you were growing up?


(Merle Haggard)

No. He passed away when I was nine and during that period I didnít get to play much. All I got to do was hear about how he used to play. He was on the tail end of the depression when I grew up. He worked like ten hours a day at the railroad. He didnít have the hands to play the fiddle with because of his job. I didnít get to see him play that much. But I got to hear how great it was. He played fiddle and sang like Jimmie Rodgerís. So thatís where I got my talent from.



(CSC) 19. So you live out in northern California, right? 


(Merle Haggard)

Right I do.



(CSC) 20. What do you enjoy doing out there when youíre not working?


(Merle Haggard)

Well it is an interesting part of the country. Iíve been here for about thirty years. We came here back in 1977. I lived in a houseboat on Lake Shasta for about ten years. Then we had another set of children, so we had to get off the lake so we wouldnít lose them in the water! (Laughs) Itís an interesting place to live though. There are a lot of high taxes here so I wouldnít advise anybody to move here right now; but itís a nice place. It cools off at night and gets pretty hot in the daytime. But comparatively speaking to a lot of places in the United States, Iíd rather be here.



(CSC) 21. Do your sons that play with you have any aspirations to go out and do solo work of their own?


(Merle Haggard)

Well Noel does work and he lives in Texas. I have a son older than him that does Gospel music. They both work on their own. My younger son is playing guitar with me in my band and also playing gigs on his own. Heís only sixteen years old and heís still doing well in school. So heís got a full plate of activities to keep up with. (Laughs) 



For the latest on Merle Haggard, check out his official website here:


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