As famous for his music as his hard living days and ways, country music star Merle Haggard passed away earlier this week. The term “Outlaw Country” was used widely to describe his brand of country music and deservedly so; he was serving a prison sentence for a drunken escapade in San Quentin when Johnny Cash played there famously in 1958.
According to CMT:
He attempted to rob a restaurant along with two other burglars; the three were drunk at the time. Believing it was three o’clock in the morning, the trio tried to open up the back door of the restaurant. However, it was 10:30 and the establishment was still open. Although the trio fled the scene, Haggard was arrested that day. The following day, he escaped from prison in order to make peace with his wife and family; later that day, he was recaptured. Haggard was sentenced to a 15-year term and sent to San Quentin prison.
That’s some classic “alky” behavior there… fortunately for him, California’s then-Gov. Ronald Reagan must have been a fan and in 1972 granted him a full pardon for the crime.
I can appreciate his story of struggles and redemption, but what really stands out is the sheer volume of songs he wrote about alcohol, many of which went to number 1 on the country charts. He is surely one of only a few that can boast a greatest hits album that consists of nothing but drinking songs. Drinkin -http://www.amazon.com/Drinkin-Merle-Haggard/dp/B00005OAE2
“I never did party too much, ” he says. “There were periods of my life where I was in between wives, when there was a flamboyant lifestyle that was debatable as to whether anybody should have had that much fun. And you know, the Lord knows all about it, and I’m sure that I’ll have to pay for it all. But there was a period of time that went by in my life that I doubt that there were many people on the face of the earth in any period of the past or in the future that enjoyed their life much more than I did.”
That having been said, there were five months in 1983 when Haggard, as he puts it, “spun off pretty bad.” he had been jilted by a woman who he thought loved him, and his response was to buy $2,000 of cocaine and retire hurt to his houseboat. “For about five months there, man, I had quite a party,” he recalls. “And different famous people came in and out of that party and saw the condition of it, and I’m sure a lot of them figured I’d never survive.” Haggard says he snapped out of it when he realized that he had been on his houseboat naked with some good-looking woman for five days and had yet to have sex with her, though that was what they were both there for.
He says he never did cocaine again, and that’s what would be expected from an Okie from Muskogee, as he crooned in 1969 –
We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee
We don’t take our trips on LSD
We don’t burn our draft cards down on Main Street
We like living right and being free.