The Western View: Goodbye to Merle Haggard

Taylor Hillman Features, Western View

Merle Haggard passed into history on April 9. He was one of us – a California farmer, a country boy who excelled in his field of work.

The Western View: Goodbye to Merle Haggard

He left a legacy of songs that tell the stories of country people everywhere. It was the Bakersfield sound – a homey, comfortable sound that touches the heart and mind, and was instantly understood and cherished by the world.

Merle Haggard was born in Oildale, where he grew up poor. His father died when he was just 10 years old. Frequently in trouble, the young Merle Haggard worked at odd jobs between bouts of criminal activity – and frequently ended up in jail. Eventually he found himself in San Quentin, where he committed to turning his life around. When he was released he dug ditches by day and made music by night, and it wasn’t long till he had a recording contract. The rest is history.

I got to meet him once, years ago, at the Madera county fairgrounds. It was a small friendly gathering, a stage with a circle of benches where Merle could play a few songs and maybe share a drink or two with his new and old friends – he was that kind of guy. His music was the original Bakersfield sound of the working man, the people who work hard and play hard, and when they get knocked down, they pick themselves right up and get back to work.

The music he left behind will stand the test of time.

I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.