Thank You Merle

“I make my living writing songs and singing them…”

Today is a very sad day. Another part, another chapter… of country music died. On the same day as he celebrated his 79 years on Earth…. he is now celebrating those with Jesus. This is also the same day we lost Tammy Wynette 18 years ago. (I remember it well. I was 18.)

I got the news via text but in the exact same moment our FedEx driver Phil Combs was at work dropping off a package and told my Daddy. Daddy yelled it out. I just looked at my brother in such shock and said “Merle Haggard died”. For the next 1o minutes, it was just Merle in the conversations. Todd and Ross Bailes stopped in and I said “Merle died y’all.” Haggard was an American icon. Country music icon.. yes. But even more… American icon and legend.

I’ve had Merle on my brain lately. Which is weird to me… now. I have tickets to see Willie and him next month. Had those tickets for awhile now… locked away in my firesafe box. I guess I will save them… no matter what happens with the show. I also adopted a new doggie this week from the local shelter and I had been going through names… and actually Merle was what I ended up picking yesterday for the little guy. Yesterday. Maybe it was meant to be.

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I have kept up with his updates on his illness. Actually this morning (before he passed) on WSM radio they gave an update on him… just stating that he still wasn’t doing well. I figured like most.. he would get better and get back on the road in May. Like he said himself. These guys and gals that play country music at their age are fearless and have no stop in them. And you know why? Because they truly love what they do. They love the road. They love the songs. And they love the people that allow them to be singers… still after all these years. I’m so in awe of them. Inspired. Touched. True performers.

Marty Stuart is on WSM tonight (listening as I type) and he said Merle died in his bus today. Where he chose to be. Man. Merle was in the hospital several hours away from his home and he decided several days ago he was ready to go home. So his bus went and got him and took him home. So that is where he took his final breath… in his bus. That alone tells you what the road meant to that man.

My best friend and I went back and forth today talking Merle. I can’t imagine our youth, high school years and early 20’s without his songs. She got to meet The Hag many years ago. He was her man. I was always a Waylon gal. Shit, I was a Merle girl too. Waylon for her too.

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His songs are the soundtrack to our lives, our weekends.. all of our memories. Every single time we took off for a weekend adventure or trip, we would put in either a cassette tape or CD and the first song we played for those trips was… Ramblin’ Fever as we took off for the road ahead. I was trying to think of my favorite Hag song today – Going Where The Lonely Go, Silver Wings, My Own Kind of Hat, Natural High, That’s They Way Love Goes, I Won’t Give Up My Train… man, I don’t know. How does one pick? You can’t. Silver Wings is Mama’s favorite. How about when he sang Footlights? Kill ME. The Way I Am has always been special to me. My favorite gal Miranda Lambert has always sang that one in her live shows. I know when I wanted to hear and feel a good, good country song.. I always put on Heaven Was A Drink of Wine. I shall play it now actually. (On the Serving 190 Proof record – FYI)

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One of the shows we went to back in the late 90’s. Taken with my good ole Polaroid.

I said today these singers will never really understand the true impact their music and songs have on common people. It is more than loving a hit song or their fame. Goes deeper than that. The fact that I can remember a “favorite memory” of mine because of a song.. says a lot. The happiest times in my life are attached to music. The saddest too. It’s like a photograph. You have it forever.

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This record. There may not be a George Strait (my all-time fav) if there hadn’t been this Haggard record.

I was blessed to see him a few times live. Blessed. It’s guys like him that I cherish so much. It’s why when I want to find concerts to go to these day… I’m looking for singers like him. I want to see the people I grew up loving. What they are doing. Where they are going. People that may not be around much longer. Today’s singers come second for me for live shows. I mean I even sold my Dixie Chicks tickets for the Nashville show that I was so adamant on getting and did get the day they went on sale. But I wanted that money back and put in savings. And thought.. I may can see them another time. I was looking forward to seeing Merle live next month with his best buddy Willie Nelson. Those two are something else. But like I said.. blessed to have already seen Merle live. Willie too.

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The one and only time I have gotten to meet one of my favs and our conversation was nothing but about The Hag tee I was wearing. 

I love country music. That’s old news. But it makes me sad that I’m getting closer and closer to the day where (for me) country music will die. Be dead and gone for good. And all I will have are these tapes, records, CD’s, videos but that is fine with me. Good music lives on forever.

We all know that song Jones sang… “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” Well, I know. No one. As more times passes and being a lover of TRUE country music like I am.. no one will. No one can. Impossible.

I love his songs, his words, his childhood stories. I like his sense of humor. I like his view on the country, on politics, on life, on music … he always told it like it was and oh how I loved how he told it.

Goodbye to country music’s poet. I sure hope a train took him to Jesus.

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Bet Joey and The Hag are singin’ a pretty tune in the Heavens tonight.

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