Merle Haggard Photography

Merle Haggard

Country music found an entirely new identity when Merle Haggard came on the scene in the mid-1960s. Along with his band the Strangers, this singer/songwriter/guitarist/fiddler was a pivotal force in shaping the Bakersfield sound, which featured rougher-edged Fender Telecaster tones crossed with more traditional steel guitar stylings that contrasted the slicker Nashville productions of the time.

By the 1970s, Haggard joined the likes of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings in the “outlaw country” uprising, landing a slew of singles well into the 2000s. Signature solo songs include “Mama Tried,” “Okie from Muskogee” and “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink,” though he’s also known for collaborations with Nelson, George Jones and even actor Clint Eastwood.

Haggard was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994 and has a trophy case stuffed with three Grammys and countless Academy of Country Music and CMA Awards. This legend’s influence has also popped up on everyone from Big Brother and the Holding Company through Brooks & Dunn, the Dixie Chicks and Eric Church.

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