Honky Tonk Outlaw: RIP Merle Haggard

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Merle Haggard died today, on his 79th birthday. Even though I’m Massachusetts born and raised, country music has always been a part of my life. My dad was from Anderson, South Carolina, and I learned to appreciate the twangy, “high, lonesome sound” at an early age. Later in life, I spent five years living in Louisiana’s bayou country, and you couldn’t find a jukebox in any honky-tonk joint around that didn’t have at least one Merle Haggard tune.

Many country musicians claim to be “outlaws”, but Merle was the real deal. His father died young (like mine), and as a teen Merle was always in trouble with the law (yep, me too!). He was arrested for burglary and bad checks, fighting and shoplifting, and wound up more than once in juvenile jail. At age 20, he did time in San Quentin for attempted robbery. When he was released, Merle channeled his energy…

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