CountryView – Remembering Merle Haggard

CountryView Merle Haggard
By DJ Walker
DJ Walker in the Morning Show KAT 103.3

“In a year where we lost so many icons in entertainment we can only hope that scores of heroes were born, only we just don’t know it yet. ” That’s what my sister said over the holidays. I hope she’s right.

One of many people’s country music heroes was taken away from us in 2016, the late Merle Haggard. His musical influence can be heard from the honkytonks in Nashville to the local music scene in Modesto.

The Hag actually drifted into Modesto in the early 1950’s during some of his misspent youth. For a brief time he worked as truck driver, short order cook as well as other odd jobs. At 14 he and his friend Bob Teague wandered into the FunCenter, a dive bar on Crows Landing Road, and sang a few songs for $5 and all the beer they could drink. (Imagine that happening today!!)

Merle Haggard eventually found valley native Chester Smith singing up the road at the Riverbank Club House. That’s when he realized singing country music was his calling. Not just singing though. It was his gritty lyrics of life in the valley, surviving jail and fighting his demons that people identified with and made him a big singing star.

The Hag even pays tribute to Modesto in his song “Makeup and Faded Blue Jeans”
“In downtown Modesto I was workin’ the Holiday Inn,”

That refrain always rings in my head whenever I pass the Holiday Inn on Hwy 99.

In 2017 the scores of restaurants, bars, event centers, harvest festivals and fairs will help many local musicians develop their unique sound. Maybe this bright music scene that Modesto has always been known for, will bring about someone with a similar way of interpreting life through song. But there will always be only one Merle Haggard.



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