When I was a kid, country-western was trying its darnedest to cross over with pop music; the Nashville power-brokers were pushing to try to rake in some of that Top 40 money. From the early seventies to the mid-eighties, C&W was sodden with bloated pop pretenders – the Eddie Rabbits and Ronnie Milsaps and Lee Greenwoods and Barbara Mandrells that peaked during that lost 15 years, not to mention the legit country singers – Dolly Parton among others – who bottomed out during thqt woebegone stretch.

Standing athwart that current, yelling “stop” before Waylon and Willie, before the Highwaymen and Dwight Yoakam and all the Outlaws of Country, much less the “country roots” revival of the late eighties, was Merle Haggard.

Even before I worked my first country gig (KDAK in Carrington ND, in 1982), I was drawn to the fact that Merle was a legendary anti-hippie:

And while he was never a flashy player, he was no slouch on the guitar.

Anyway – if you’ve been under a rock orĀ on a ballistic missile sub on patrol, Haggard passed away yesterday at 79, leaving behind a C&W scene dominated by American Idol winners and frauds like “Florida-Georgia Line”.

Just when we needed him most.

7 thoughts on “Roots

  1. Merle and his music were the “punk” version of C&W.

    I absolutely detested country in the 70s and 80s, but some of the stuff before that was pretty good, and Merle fell into the tolerable crowd. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I listened to Dwight in his garage band days and he was always a massive Merle fan.

  2. Love the cigarette in his right hand. Made it to 79 as a smokin’ man. Love seeing and meeting old smokers – gives me hope. Always loved Mama Tried and The Bottle Let Me Down and Workin’ Man’s Blues.
    But, come on now, Mitch. You really didn’t like Barbara Mandrell? You didn’t have to listen to her; just buy the posters. And Eddie Rabbit and Ronnie Milsap are classics to me. Was a kid in the 70’s and 80’s. “Drivin’ My Life Away” and “Wouldn’t Have Missed it for the World?” Those are instant crank the radio songs if ever I come across them scanning the dial when driving. And Dolly Parton was exactly that. Probably still is!

  3. I’m curious for “real” Country fans: what’s with the waves in Country where it becomes just pop with steel guitar? Seriously, Sam Hunt’s “Take Your Time” is more Rap/Pop than than Rabbit’s “I Love A Rainy Night” is Country.

  4. nerdbert,
    Along similar lines, check out on Youtube where Kid Rock performs in a show live with Hank Williams Jr. where they do “Family Tradition”. Not sure how I feel about that.

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  6. Anyone that thinks Florida Georgia Line is country doesn’t have an opinion worth noting.
    Anyone that thinks Florida Georgia Line is good has no taste.

    Eventually country music will swing back around and produce musicians like Merle, just not anytime soon.

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