The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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July 21, 2013

Waking up Merle Haggard


Ben Haggard's dad is no hack on the guitar, either. Merle fashioned himself a guitar player long before he took the microphone as a singer.

"It's part of what I do," Haggard says. "I didn't really intensely try to play guitar myself—I've had great guitar players working in my band — but that's how I started in this business. Oh, God, I was about 24 years old, 1960. I didn't want to sing. I wasn't much of a singer."

More than a half-century later, he is quite the singer. Fans of all ages recognize Haggard's deeply soulful vocals.

"I see 3-year olds in their mama's arms coming to my shows," he says. "I walked out of the bus awhile back, and there was a little girl in her parent's arms and I heard her say, 'Is that the man that sings 'Big City'?"

I have exhausted my list of questions, and figure I better not press my luck. I've had my moment with a king. I thank Mr. Haggard, for his time, his music and for calming my nerves.

"And I'm sorry if I woke you up," I say."No need to be that way," Mr. Haggard replies. "I'm glad you called."

Me, too.


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