Merle Haggard Perfectly Summed Up The Bro-Country Era: “Screwing On a Tailgate, No Substance, a Bunch Of S**t To Me”

Merle Haggard with a guitar
(Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

April 6th of this year marked six years since we lost one of the country music greats, Merle Haggard.

I was listening to some Merle and reading some of his most famous quotes over the decades when I came across a gem of an interview he did with InForum back in 2015.

When asked about the current state of country music at the time, right in the thick of the bro-country (barf) wave of trash, the legend did not hold back one bit…

“I can’t tell what they’re doing. They’re talking about screwing on a pickup tailgate and things of that nature.”

Luckily, that’s not happening as much these days, but there are still plenty of lab-made bros with horrendously poppy buzzword songs on country radio. As we all have learned, you don’t need country radio to become one of the best in the business (hey, Tyler Childers).

Merle detailed what was really bothering him..

“I don’t find no substance. I don’t find anything you can whistle, and nobody even attempts to write a melody.

It’s more of that kids’ stuff. It’s hot right now, but I’ll tell you what, it’s cooling off.”

He was right, it cooled off plenty, and since then we’ve seen a resurgence of more traditional country in the mainstream. We also saw a recent boom in songs taking us back to the glory days of ’90s country.

That’s a win overall, but please do me a favor and go listen to some Charles Wesley Godwin right now. Thanks.

Merle also made sure to praise his friend, Sturgill Simpson.

“As far as I’m concerned, he’s the only one out there – the rest of them sound like a bunch of s**t to me.”

You are missed, Merle.

Same, Merle, same.

Merle Haggard And Willie Nelson Once Went Through 52 Cases Of Beer Backstage

If there’s two country music singers who could put away 52 cases of beer with their crew, it was Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.

In a show review from the Los Angeles Times in 1980, columnist Robert Hilburn covered the six-hour Country Fall Festival at Anaheim Stadium, that featured Merle and Willie as headliners.

It was held at the former Rams stadium, and in order to avoid damage to the field for football Sunday, the crowd was only allowed in the stands.

But the fans still came to party… along with the rest of the artists, which also included performances by Alabama and Emmylou Harris.

At one point, a worker of the concessions stands was in awe at how much beer they’d gone through before the show even started. He said he’d never seen anything like it:

“I’ve never seen anything like it. These people are drinking more beer than the Rams crowd.

We’ve gone through 52 cases already.”

And if that doesn’t sound like a whole lot of beer for 30,000 people, it’s because they were referring to the backstage crew alone:

“I’m not talking about the crowd. That was just for backstage.” 

If we do a little quick math, that’s over 1,200 beers between Merle, Willie, perhaps Emmylou and Alabama, as well as their bands and crews… and remember, the concert hadn’t even started yet.

Who really knows what the final tally was…

I wish I could say that I’m surprised, but considering the time frame of this event and the fact that both Merle and Willie were in their prime, I feel like it’s pretty on par.

Though I can only imagine they were feelin’ pretty dang good when it was their time to hit the stage, it sounds a like a complete dream to see those two perform at the same festival.

And Merle actually recorded his performance there for his 1981 live album, Rainbow Stew Live at Anaheim Stadium, that included songs like “Misery And Gin” and “Rainbow Stew.”

And you can watch his kickass live performance of “Misery And Gin” here.

I mean, it simply doesn’t get any better than this:

Merle Haggard Sets The Guinness World Record For Buying The Largest Round Of Drinks

I think I’ll just stay here and drink…and with 5,095 drinks, you could stay quite awhile.

The legendary Merle Haggard once held the Guinness World Record for buying the largest round of drinks ever bought by one person – and it’s a record that stood for more than three decades.

The Hag set the record at Billy Bob’s Texas back in 1983 when he ordered 5,095 “C.C. Waterbacks,” a shot of Canadian Club whiskey with a water chaser, for patrons at the bar. Merle bought the shots in honor of his 28th hit song, “C.C. Waterback,” from his 1982 duets album with George Jones, A Taste Of Yesterday’s Wine.

The bar used around 40 gallons of whiskey for the round of drinks, and the bar tab for Merle’s massive order came out to $12,737.50 – or $2.50 each. (If he had bought the same round of drinks today it would have cost him over $40k).

But when the bar owner, Billy Bob Barnett, presented Merle with the check, he offered to buy the Hag a drink on the house – and Merle took him up on it.

Merle’s record stood in the Guinness Book of World Records until 2016, when a U.K. brewery bought 412 beers at a pub to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday.

And I know what you’re thinking: Wait, only 412 beers? Merle Haggard bought over 5,000 shots.

Well apparently because the beer order amounted to over 42 gallons, while Merle’s was just under 40, the brewery technically broke Merle’s record.

Sounds like some bullshit to me.

I mean, 5,000 shots of whiskey will make a lot more people happy than 400 beers will. So while he may not officially have the Guiness World Record anymore, I’m still choosing to count Merle’s as the largest round of drinks.

But the question remains: Who’s going to break Merle’s record now? George Strait lives down near Billy Bob’s, and he has his own tequila line. So maybe it’s time for the King to step up and buy a few thousand rounds of Codigo to get himself yet another record for the books.

I’ve just gotta make sure I’m there if he does it.

Merle Haggard Performs “Mama Tried” With His Mama In The Front Row

Merle Haggard, man.

The country music legend is known for being a cornerstone of the “Bakersfield Sound” as well as country music in general. Known as a bit of a country music outlaw, a reputation accompanied by his days in San Quentin Prison, however here, we have a much more heartfelt moment from The Hag.

Merle Haggard was locked up in Bakersfield, CA, on counts of burglary, and was transferred to San Quentin after a failed escape attempt 1958. It was in San Quentin that he fell in love with country music, after hearing a prison performance from the Man In Black himself, Mr. Johnny Cash.

His days in San Quentin were the inspiration for a lot of his songs, including the song we all know and love, “Mama Tried.”

The lyrics in “Mama Tried” describe the hardships that Merle’s mother went through while trying to raise him and his siblings, and how his childhood in poverty led him to a life of crime.

“And I turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole.
No one could steer me right, but Mama tried, Mama tried
Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleading I denied
That leaves only me to blame ’cause Mama tried…”

This song landed Merle his fifth number one song on The Billboard Hot Country Singles charts in 1968, and ultimately won the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999. It was even selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry due to its “cultural, historic, or artistic significance” on March 23, 2016, only 14 days before Haggard’s death.

With all of the notoriety “Mama Tried” brought to Haggard, he couldn’t forget the one person who influenced this song the most: Mama Haggard herself.

Here we see a tenderhearted moment between a mother and her son, as Merle sings “Mama Tried” to the “mama that tried” her hardest. With his mom sitting in the front row, bursting with emotion as her son performs a song in her honor, you can only imagine how special this performance was for ol’ Merle.


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