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Merle Haggard
June 9, 2001
If I Could Only Fly
If Only I Could Fly
Cabin in the Hills
Cabin in the Hills
Merle Haggard - Okie From Muskogee cover
Okie from Muskogee
Untamed Hawk
Untamed Hawk
Swinging Doors
Swinging Doors

Merle Haggard is his own legend, the bearded outcome of a hard-scrabble life spent in the kind of country his music's named for. He is an artist and an ex-con, a writer and a family man.
To his fans, he is an omnipotent creator. Few musicians are as productive (and successful) as Merle. He has cut over 100 albums, had 39 #1 country hits, received Grammy and Country Music Awards, and is the only California-born singer in the Country Hall of Fame.

Merle was born to migrants from Oklahoma, in a converted boxcar in Oildale, California (a small suburb of Bakersfield). As a child he became involved in petty crime that grew increasingly less petty, culminating in a solitary confinement stint at the California state prison, San Quentin.

It was not until his release in 1962 that he began to emerge as the musician, known affectionately as the "Hag." Close to forty years later, he's still a heavy weight on the country music scene, established as a very 'non-Hollywood-ized, non-Nashville-ized' country music star. Merle does not wear satin suits, white cowboy boots, or faux-diamond studded belts. Merle, not unlike Buck Owens and Lefty Frizzell (well-loved country music greats from his homeland), is Bakersfield.

In a town as hard and dry as the inimitable central valley flats that surround it, Merle is a voice one can recognize, raw, sometimes problematic, consistently beautiful.

His music speaks to young and old, those who cut their teeth on rebellion and drifter-ism. He is a quirky and original song-writer, drawing inspiration from Hank Williams, Jimmy Rogers, Lefty Frizzell, Buck Owens, and countless jazz, swing, and blues riffs.

His latest album, If I Could Only Fly is, perhaps, a tribute to the older Merle. He is growing reflective in his later years and it's harder to picture the hard-time-doin', roughhousing songster of his youth. His music is no less for it. The songs on this CD do not ooze a goopy sentimentalism. Instead, they provide lyrical apologies, love songs any central valley honey would pine for, and a truckload of the rich harmonies and well-wrought turns of song we've come to expect.

Merle Haggard
Scott Simon talks to Merle Haggard 

Listen to Scott Simon talk to Merle Haggard about life after 60 and his new CD.

Visit the official Merle Haggard web site, www.merlehaggard.com, complete with an audio clip from his autobiography, tour dates, "Hag Light" flashlights ("great for finding the keyhole on the pickup truck in a dark parking lot" according to the site) and many of Merle's CDs.