|Maverick country singer Merle Haggard
represents an unusual intersection in American music -- a crossroad
where the grand traditions of folk, pop, jazz and blues are used to
create his own surprisingly soulful form of expression. With an
impressive 39 #1 country hits and numerous awards, Haggard has
always set his own trends -- clearly a powerful, creative force.
Haggard remains an uncompromising artist whose work relies upon the
honesty and purity of his vision, not the obligations of being a
country star. "I don't like all of country music," he says. "In
fact, I like very little of it."
the flag-waving aggression of his 1969 number one hit "Okie From
Muskogee," Haggard has produced elegantly crafted, moving songs with
a consistency that ranks him solidly alongside such renowned talents
as Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. The quality of his writing
transcends all boundaries; his songs have been recorded by a wide
variety of rock & rollers, from the Grateful Dead to Elvis Costello,
a fact that underscores Haggard's appeal and his staunch refusal to
recognize any restriction imposed by public perception, making him
the ultimate underground anti-hipster.
Born in a converted boxcar in Oildale,
California, by adolescence he was wandering as far as Texas,
beginning a pattern that ruled his life for over a decade: arrest,
incarceration, escape, re-capture. Classified an incorrigible -- the
fruit of his reputation as an escape artist -- he wound up doing
hard time in San Quentin. After his release in 1962, thoughts of
solitary confinement and the prison yard death of a friend made him
realize what a mess he'd become and Haggard, who'd been singing and
playing guitar for years, finally turned to a career in music.
By 1965 he was signed to Capitol Records and
began scoring a string of hit records, hard-boiled classics like
"Lonesome Fugitive," "Branded Man" and "The Bottle Let Me Down."
Eventually winning a full criminal pardon from then Governor Ronald
Reagan -- a permanent display a the Country Music Hall of Fame --
Haggard positively roared through the music business, brawling and
boozing with an unstoppable fervor. His creative drive is equally
formidable -- he reassembled Bob Wills' Texas Playboys for a final
recording session with their old boss, but only after mastering the
fiddle, a previously unfamiliar and physically demanding instrument
-- and he managed it in a incredible six months flat.
Now, after 40 years of traveling America's
highways, Merle Haggard has found a new musical home at Cracker
Barrel Old Country Store. When Cracker Barrel asked him to do an
exclusive CD, he selected 12 previously unreleased recordings that
pay tribute to the working man. The CD, “Working Man's Journey,”
blends new songs with new recordings of some of his classics. "I had
the working man in mind when I went through the archives," says
Haggard. "All of these songs seem to work together. We're talking
about a guy who spent his lifetime writing songs for the common
On sale now at 559 Cracker Barrel locations
and online at crackerbarrel.com, “Working Man's Journey” features
six new songs that contribute to Haggard's status as the "voice of
the common man." Fans will quickly identify with "C'mon Sixty-Five,"
a tribute to the working man who dreams of retirement. Haggard says
that the CD's previously unreleased version of "Shade Tree Fix-It
Man" reminds him of fishing trips with his favorite uncle, a man who
often fixed his own truck. "I think back to when I was nine years
old," he says. "We would throw a two-man boat in the back of that
silver truck. Every time I see an old 1931 Model-A pickup, it takes
“Working Man's Journey” also features
previously unreleased versions of "If We Make It Through December,"
"Are the Good Times Really Over," "Working Man Blues," "Kern River"
and "Rainbow Stew." Haggard’s other new CD is a collaboration with
Willie Nelson and Ray Price entitled “Last of the Breed”; on the
double CD, the three legends display their unabashed love for
Texas-fried country, providing the perfect soundtrack to beer-soaked
heartbreak and honky-tonk blues.
From a bio by Mark Williams for
Last of The Breed