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The Okie From Muskogee is a Survivor

 

This is a long excerpt from Wikipedia’s entry on Merle Haggard, but it is very interesting. It seems that a small percentage of the many kids who start down the wrong track are saved by the fact that they have talent. Others, it seems, aren’t so fortunate:

Around the onset of adolescence, Haggard began committing petty crimes and truancy. Due to shoplifting in 1950 (aged thirteen), Merle was sent to a juvenile detention center.[2] In 1951, aged 14, Haggard ran away to Texas with a friend, but returned that same year and was arrested for truancy and petty larceny. Again escaping the juvenile detention center, he went to Modesto, California. He worked odd jobs—legal and not—and began performing in a bar. Once he was found again, he was sent to the Preston School of Industry, a high-security installation. He was released fifteen months later, but was sent back after beating a local boy during a burglary attempt. After his fourth release, Haggard saw Lefty Frizzell in concert with his friend, Bob Teague. After hearing Haggard sing along to his first two songs Frizzell allowed Haggard to sing at the concert. The audience enjoyed Haggard and he began working on a full-time music career. After he had earned a local reputation, Haggard’s money problems caught up with him. He was arrested for attempting to rob a Bakersfield tavern in 1957[3] and was sent to the San Quentin state prison for three years.

While in prison, Haggard ran a gambling and brewing racket from his cell. During a time of solitary confinement, he encountered an alcoholic mathematician and death row inmate, Drunk Adam. Haggard had the opportunity to escape with a fellow inmate (nicknamed “Rabbit”) but passed. The inmate successfully escaped, only to shoot a police officer and return to San Quentin for execution. Drunk Adam’s predicament along with that of “Rabbit” inspired Haggard to turn his life around. Haggard soon earned a high-school equivalence diploma and kept a steady job in the prison’s textile plant. Haggard cited a 1958 performance by Johnny Cash as his inspiration to join the prison’s band.[4] Upon his release in 1960, Haggard said it took about four months to get used to being out of the penitentiary and that, at times, he actually wanted to go back in. He said it was the loneliest he had ever felt.[citation needed] (Continue Reading…)

Okie from Muskogee, perhaps Haggard’s best known song, seems archaic now. But it was a cornerstone of the culture wars at a time when the nation seem even more polarized than today.

Above is I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink and below is The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde. Here is Haggard’s homepage and his Facebook and his MySpace pages.

Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

🎼🎺🎻🎹🎷🎶🎵

The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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