Take a seat, get cozy, and listen carefully as Merle Haggard tells the story of his life through music. As a singer, songwriter, and even actor, Merle Haggard has transformed into a living legend over the past fifty years. Music was in his blood, but Haggard had to find and appreciate it. Born outside of Bakersfield, CA in 1937, Haggard grew up struggling with poverty, living in an old converted boxcar with his family. When Haggard was only nine, his life was turned upside down when his father, James, tragically died of cancer, catalyzing his rebellious nature. It began with Haggard hopping his first train and running away from his hometown at the age of ten. He spent many years in and out of juvenile detention centers and jail from petty crimes, infamous for escaping and fleeing each. A bright light surfaced at the end of the dark tunnel of destruction for Haggard. At twelve, He received his first guitar from his brother and discovered his love and talent for music, passed down from his fiddle and guitar playing father. Emerging in the 1960s as a young adult, he changed his troubled path, becoming a leading figure of country music and in 1994, an inductee of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Influenced by Jimmie Rodgers, Lefty Frizzell, and Bob Wills, Haggard sings his stories with a mixture of Hank Williams and Tom T. Hall, and just a hint of Johnny Cash. His traditional American music is a blend of country, jazz, rock, blues, and folk, creating his own distinctive brand of music that bring you back to a simpler time. Each song tells an honest story, just as your grandpa would, focused on aspects of his rough and troubled past including sorrow, pain, hope, and humor. His songs span his personal endeavors stretching from political views of war to his sentimental songs about his wives. As you listen, the simplicity of his songs encompass all senses as he describes his memories, enabling you to close your eyes and paint a picture in your mind, feeling as though you lived each one. My favorite, Mama Tried tells the story of how his widowed mother struggled to “steer me right” with church and guidance during his rebellious years. He wrote, “She tried to raise me right, but I refused.” Many others became instant classics, topping the charts time after time. His music remains consistent, inventive, and always honest. He sees himself as a professor - studying, analyzing, and observing the details of life that happens around him that become the lyrics to the story of his life. Grab a chair and relive his life stories at the Taft on June 24!