When it comes to singing the classics, there ain’t too many nowadays that can do it like Cody Johnson.
Currently sitting atop the Billboard Hot Country chart with his own hit single, “‘Til You Can’t,” Cody was recently part of an all-star lineup chosen to honor the great Merle Haggard at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry.
On April 6th, Merle’s birthday and also the date of his death, CoJo took the stage along with Suzy Bogguss, Merle’s son Marty Haggard, Joe Nichols, Eli Paperboy Reed, Lainey Wilson, and more.
In addition to some of his own hits like the aforementioned single, “Dear Rodeo” and more, Cody honored Merle with a couple of covers, including his 1966 hit, “The Bottle Let Me Down.”
Released as the third and final single from Swinging Doors and the Bottle Let Me Down, it was just the third studio album of Merle Haggard’s country music career.
Peaking at #3, it was his biggest hit to date.
‘The Bottle Let Me Down”
But wait, there’s more…
In addition to “The Bottle Let Me Down,” CoJo also tipped the cap to Merle with a spirted cover of “Footlights.”
Written solely by Merle Haggard, “Footlights” originally appeared as the opening track from his 1979 album, Serving 190 Proof, it was never actually released as a single, although it went on to become one of his most iconic songs.
A song that every touring musician can relate to, it was reportedly written when Merle had to go on stage right after learning that Lefty Frizzell had passed away:
“You have to go out and smile when you don’t feel like smiling, somebody points a camera at you, and you put on that old Instamatic grin.
Which is part of the profession, I guess. But sometimes part of the profession makes you feel like a prostitute. That’s what that song is about.”
It was a favorite of George Jones, it was recorded by Hank Williams Jr., and has been covered live by everybody from Jamey Johnson and Eric Church to Daryle Singletary and Joe Nichols.
Here’s a clip of George Jones begging Merle for just a verse and chorus: