My wife and I were on the 605 freeway earlier today heading out to the hospital to see my mother when I heard on the radio that Merle Haggard had died. Sad, sad news. He was a favorite of my wife and I.
Merle Haggard might have had his roots in Oklahoma but he was pure Californian. He was born and raised in Bakersfield. Merle Haggard wrote and sang his songs to and for the American working man and all that went with that: marriage, raising kids, hard drinking, friendships and a life time of working with ones hands. He seemed to have an innate understanding of all of it and this is what connected him to his fans.
Jeri and I saw Merle Haggard in concert three times over the years. The first was at an outdoor concert in the summer of 1982 at the Chino Downs Ranch in Chino, California. The second time was a few years later at Universal Studios during the mid 1980's. The last time we saw Merle Haggard was at the Pechanga Hotel and Casino in Temecula, California in 2010, courtesy of our daughter Meranda, when she gave us two tickets as a Christmas gift in December of 2009. All three concerts were great but this last concert was the most intimate and satisfying of the three. He really connected with the crowd that night. Haggard was an amazing entertainer. We had hopes of seeing him one last time. We will miss him.
Today was also his 79th birthday. R.I.P. Merle Haggard and thank you for sharing your music with us.
The photo below was taken by Jeri at the Chino Downs Ranch concert in 1982.