The great Merle Haggard passed away just as our last issue went to press. We were touched by all the thoughtful tributes posted on Facebook by our musician friends, and we thank them for allowing us to reprint them here.
BRYAN KENNEDY: Superman and Batman were awesome to me as a kid. But really, for me it’s always been Merle Haggard. No one has ever done it better. God Bless Merle Haggard. Rest in Peace.
GRETCHEN PETERS: Merle Haggard was a gateway drug for me. From Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, I eventually got to George Jones, Tammy Wynette, etc., but Merle was my way in.
I always thought of him as the John Steinbeck of country music. I could hear the folk music, the Woody Guthrie in him. He got this 19-year-old folkie from New York past my stereotypical impressions of country music, because the stories and the characters were so compelling and so real.
“Mama’s Hungry Eyes.” “If We Make It Through December.” He elevated and celebrated Everyman, the same way Woody did. His Serving 190 Proof album was the one I picked up just as I was discovering country music, and I wore the grooves off of it.
And that voice. That. Voice. RIP Merle. You will never be replaced.
NIK FLAGSTAR: I saw Merle play once, at a Willie Nelson July 4th picnic just north of Austin, Texas. It was a crazy sort of show because the Grateful Dead were playing as well—and a bunch of other important acts, but the Dead are important to the story because of two things. Lots of hippies and the fact that it rained a lot, and things turned into some twisted mid-Texas cowboy Woodstock with people getting’ nude and muddy.
That’s all important to the story, because Mighty Merle’s set started just as the heavy rains came, and instead of everyone running for cover, every damn person in that crowd got up from their blankets and mud holes and stood right where they were and listened to every damn note that man sang.
It was like seeing Abe Lincoln appear. The reverence was almost eerie. The crazy part comes next.
At the end of Merle’s set, with Willie next on the bill, you could hear Willie pluck a few notes on Trigger backstage. Merle said, Ladies and gentlemen, welcome my good friend, Mr. Willie Nelson! While the rain was stopping, as Willie walked out onstage, a rainbow formed quickly over the mountaintops behind the stage at the 2 Rivers Amphitheater. You could hear an audible gasp from the crowd, and then the cheers and tears began to flow.
RIP Merle, you will always be a legend to me.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
The correct title of Joe Bonamassa’s latest album is Blues of Desperation (“The Beat’s Record Roundup,” April 7-20 Beachcomber). We’ve fixed this in the online version at beachcomberdestin.com, and hope Mr. Bonamassa will continue to read our publication. And come play at our 15th Anniversary Bash in August. And bring Beth Hart with him…
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