#3 Merle Haggard
Here’s my Top 100! I think anyone’s list of the top 100 Country music artist of all time would be skewed towards their own personal preference as much as you’d like to think you could stay Neutral. And of course influenced by their age, area and other factors. So with that in mind I wouldn’t be surprised or offended at all if you were to disagree with the order in which I’ve picked my top 100.
#3 Merle Haggard (The Working Man’s Poet)
It’s the same old story isn’t it?
-Boy loses Dad at an early age.
-Boy runs away from home and gets in trouble.
-Boy ends up in Prison at the age of 11.
-Boy is in Prison when Johnny Cash comes to play.
-Boy gets out of prison and becomes an Icon.
Yup, same old story?!?!
With his honest pen and honest voice Merle Haggard became known as the working man’s poet and would become one of the most influential artists of all time. He helped create the Bakersfield sound “We just added in some Rock and Roll Guitar down there in California”. He would never shy away from his time in Prison and was eventually pardoned by California Governor Ronald Regan. In the 70’s when the phrase “Outlaw Country” became popular, Merle would reject it. Although his music seemed to fit into the genre he was against the term Outlaw saying that he’d been there and done that and it was no fun.
Merle was just 9 years old when his father passed away and left him and his mother behind in Bakersfield California. His mother would do everything she could to provide for Merle but despite her best efforts he ran away often and by the age of 11 ended up behind bars for the first time. That was a pattern that would last until New Year’s Day 1958 when Johnny Cash came to San Quentin and Merle Haggard was right there in the audience. By that time he’d already decided he wanted to straighten out his life and Cash’s performance and command of the rowdy audience convinced him that he would use his talent and become a country star. When he was released he got a job working for Wynn Stewart and met the ex-wife of country music star Buck Owens, Bonnie Owens. With her connections she began to tell everyone about the next big country star, Merle Haggard. She was right and before long with the help of producer Fuzzy Owens, Haggard would become a house hold name all over the world. Embracing his past made it hard for tabloid journalists to get the upper hand on him and soon he was known for singing about his past and of course for his fantastic voice and songs.
On March 4th 1967 Merle Haggard got his first number one hit with a song that seemed to be written just for him. That’s when he took a song Liz Anderson wrote called I’m a Lonesome Fugitive to the top of the American Country Billboard Chart. The Hag would reach the top of the charts 39 more times. Between 1967 and 1976 no one was hotter in country music then Merle Haggard and he would reach number one 22 Times in that period alone. Over more than 5 decades Merle Haggard would become a country music Icon and receive almost every major award in country music. Merle Haggard was inducted into the country music Hall of Fame in 1994
Top 10 Songs
10) Today I started Loving you again
09) The Fugitive (I’m A Lonesome Fugitive)
08) Always Wanting you
07) The Fightin’ side of me
06) Pancho and Lefty
05) Sing Me Back Home
04) Hungry Eyes
03) If we Make it through December
02) Okie From Muskogee
01) Mama Tried
Something You Might Not Know:
Haggard wrote Always Wanting You about Dolly Parton. While on tour with Dolly Parton in the mid 70’s Haggard became infatuated with Dolly but those feelings were never reciprocated. The result was the #1 1975 hit Always Wanting You.
Merle Ronald Haggard passed away April 6th, 2016 from complications of pneumonia. It was his 79th Birthday.