07 April 2016

Another giant gone

Country music legend Merle Ronald Haggard died yesterday, on his 79th birthday. Not least among his many achievements as singer, songwriter, bandleader, and instrumentalist was that he used his own fame as a country superstar to bring great older music such as that of Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills back into the spotlight.

An appreciation from John Lawless, drawing attention to Haggard's great influence on the bluegrass world, can be found on Bluegrass Today, with contributions by Steve Gulley and James King and a video of a Haggard composition, 'Back to the barrooms', performed by J.D. Crowe & the New South. Thanks to Vernell Hackett for these words from Dale Ann Bradley:

The bluegrass world loved Merle Haggard. He influenced a generation of people, musicians and fans. I know when my uncle and others left the south in the late 60s and early 70s and went north to find work, it was Merle Haggard who comforted them while they were away from their southern homes. Everybody had Merle Haggard 8-tracks in their cars and they had his vinyl, and his music brought them back home. When you started playing guitar, his songs were the ones you learned first. I think his music is timeless and will always be viable in society. He was just cool, and always will be.

The IBMA's monthly journal International Bluegrass published in May 2015 a major feature by Nancy Cardwell on Ronnie Reno, whose sixty-year career includes being in Haggard's band in the 1970s and 1980s and recording on ten of his albums. Reno's memories include Haggard telling him: 'Ronnie, I've recorded over 300 songs. I expect you to know all 300. I may want to sing any one of them at any time.' 'And he would,' said Ronnie.

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