Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Music: Merle Haggard

When singer/songwriter Merle Haggard told his idol, Johnny Cash, that he had seen one of his early concerts at San Quentin, Cash was puzzled. He didn't remember Haggard being among the performers visiting the prison. "I was in the audience," he explained. Haggard was serving a sentence for armed robbery. After his release in 1960, Haggard channeled his outlaw tendencies into a genre of country music named after his hometown of Bakersfield, California. A reaction against the sometimes over-produced Nashville recordings of the 1960s, the Bakersfield sound was relatively lean and unembellished.

I went to Bakersfield a few years ago to visit relatives. We stayed in a motel just down the road from Buck Owen's Crystal Palace. After check-in, I headed out alone to look at the Palace. It was early evening, and the parking lot was radiating heat like a griddle. At an older, seedier motel next to ours, a shirtless man lounged in a plastic lawn chair, drinking straight from a bottle of whiskey. I pretended to not see him. He saw me, however. "HeLLO!" he said. "Excuse me..Miss?...HeLLO!" He stood up and headed unsteadily in my direction. I was about to break into a run when the cowboy appeared. He rode a fine palomino across what was left of the seedy motel's lawn, and clopped into the parking lot. "Howdy!" he said, looking handsome in his cream-colored stetson. He rode across the parking lot and disappeared around the corner of my motel. The creepy guy beat a hasty retreat. I returned to my room--never did get to see the Crystal Palace.

The clip above is Haggard singing "Swinging Doors," from about 1965.

Bakersfield Sound [Link]


cvweber said...

Wow! You were part of a Western movie rescue! Couldn't you fudge the ending a bit and say the cowboy reached down, pulled you up on the saddle in front of him and then rode off into the sunset!?

The Fifty Foot Blogger said...

When I got back to the hotel, it was hard enough convincing my mom and husband that I had just seen a cowboy at all. They were like, "Sure you did...."

Anonymous said...

I made a side trip to Muskogee while traveling through Oklahoma one time,just to do a doobie. I'm sure I am not the first person to ever do this.

The Fifty Foot Blogger said...

I never believed white lightnin' was the biggest thrill around, even in the 60s.

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