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  • Writer's pictureCountry Stars Central

Merle Haggard Interview



(CSC) 1. (What an honor to speak with you!) You’re 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 didn’t 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. I’m pretty fortunate to have that happen for me. 

 

(CSC) 3. I think its fitting to say that the “Last of the Breed” 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, it’s like everything else you know, it’s pretty slow right now and it’s 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; let’s 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. Life’s 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. It’s 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. I’ve had a wonderful career to say the least; and it’s not over yet!

 

(CSC) 7. You wrote a song about a very well-known superstar in country music. Tell me about “Always Wanting You.” 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 can’t associate with me right now because she’s got those “reasons.” (Laughs) She’s too busy satisfying the movie industry. Dolly is a good person, a good human being. I’ve 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 I‘d like to record with Carl! (Laughs)

 

(CSC) 9. You were an essential part of the “Outlaw” 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 that’s not really the way they’ve been to a lot of west coast artists through the years. They’ve come to appreciate my music, I guess, over the years. Regardless of the fact that I didn’t live there, they were kind to me when it came time for the awards each year.

 

(CSC) 10. Tell me about your protégés 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. I’m a guy that’s got a stage for them to play on. I’m proud that I can afford to take them out on the road with me. They have their hearts into what we call “traditional” country music. It’s valuable to me that we cultivate the young talent for that kind of music.

 

(CSC) 11. There’s a lot of young talent out there in today’s country music scene trying to imitate you and your style. What’s your take on that?

 

(Merle Haggard)

It’s a compliment, to say the least! If you can’t get your own records played, at least you can get somebody that’s 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 can’t really single one thing out in the pie. I’m glad that I was a writer. I’m glad that I was able to write the majority of my own songs. I think it’s important to be a writer. As you can tell by even the new artists, this Taylor Swift, she’s writing those songs of hers and that means something.

 

(CSC) 13. Do you have any regrets about your past? Something you wish you would’ve 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 sight’s 20/20 which it is; you know it’s so strange what life deals you and it’s 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 that’s funny… You know, just to be remembered is good enough! (Laughs)

 

(CSC) 15. What’s one misconception about yourself that you’d like to clear up?

 

(Merle Haggard)

I don’t know that there are any. They’ve taken me to be pretty much what I am, I guess. I’m 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 didn’t 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 didn’t have the hands to play the fiddle with because of his job. I didn’t get to see him play that much. But I got to hear how great it was. He played fiddle and sang like Jimmie Rodger’s. So that’s 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 you’re not working?

 

(Merle Haggard)

Well, it is an interesting part of the country. I’ve 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 wouldn’t lose them in the water! (Laughs) It’s an interesting place to live though. There are a lot of high taxes here so I wouldn’t advise anybody to move here right now; but it’s 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, I’d 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. He’s only sixteen years old and he’s still doing well in school. So, he’s got a full plate of activities to keep up with. (Laughs) 





 

 

 

 

 


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