Re.: Merle Haggard.

Chris Brady cdbrady at
Fri Sep 13 02:43:27 MDT 2002

A blanket dismissal of "country & western" music as reactionary redneck
boilerplate is familiar fare from folks not so familiar with "country &
western" music.  The Nashville crap has been as formularized and gutted
as gushy strings over Motown, and the creative stuff runs the same
gauntlet as any creative art in a commodified culture.  Neverthehay,
there have been and there still are some great "country artists" out
there, like Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Tammie Wynette,
Patsy Cline, Hank Williams (NOT Jr.!), Laudon Wainwright III, Willie
Nelson, Dolly Parton, and even some of Garth Brooks.  And don't forget
Stompin Tom Connors!  I know I am slighting some here but I'm just
writing off the cuff.  Country & western has a big following in Maritime
Canada --and was very popular in Jamaica, believe it or not, but that
was in the mid-Seventies (and that Experience has not been duplicated
nor updated).

By the bye, speakin of girl bands, for too short a time I went out with
a musician named Sue-Anne from Texas back in the late Seventies.  She
played pedal steel in an all-girl band called "High in the Saddle".
She had, well, you know, far away eyes.  And that wasn't in Dallis
[sic]--I met her in Dazzels at the corner of 68th and Columbus on the
Upper West Side back before it got gentryfried. Hags "Okie" was a jokie
among the hippies we knew. I liked this bit about Merle; it sort of puts
a rough contrast of outlaw bonafides up against the
whatever-you-say-boss Nashville mould:

“Johnny Cash, no stranger to life behind bars in his wilder days, struck
a responsive chord with the wildly-appreciative audience.  Cash's first
performance at San Quentin was a rain-soaked gig on January 1, 1958,
which continued until guitar player Luther Perkins' amplifier drowned
out.  Among the inmates at that 1958 performance was  Merle Haggard.

 Haggard recalled that the New Year's Day performance was "an annual
occurrence that took  place that the authorities put on for us as a kind
of variety show.  They  brought in magicians, jugglers, and in this
case, Johnny Cash."  Haggard adds that,  "Nobody except me and about 15
guys cared for the fact that he was coming, because country music was at
an all-time low.””
- by Randy Krbechek
That site's got a copy of that great shot of a pissed-off Cash flippin
the bird
--the shot that was used in the ad he took out against the Nashville
cartel when they blackballed his U2 collaboration.

As for "country music was at an all-time low", it just depends on what
your listening to, and when, I guess. And with whom.
I wouldn't have liked country if I didn't like Sue-Anne.
And then, soon after we met, she played Blue Bayou for me on her pedal
steel guitar in her basement apartment.

At this point I'd have to say I disagree with Edith Piaf's most famous
(and C&W songs are full of regrets, and baloney too, a lot of 'em), but
that's life.

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