Dwight Yoakam Says The Best Part Of Merle Haggard’s Story Is “His Struggle To Escape From Emotional Prison”

Country Music

Gear up folks, a new Merle Haggard biography, The Hag: The Life, Times, and Music of Merle Haggard, has finally hit the shelves.

Written by author Marc Eliot who has penned biographies on Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles, and Clint Eastwood, the biography documents the full-throttle, rollercoaster life of one of the greatest country singers of all time.

According to USA Today, Eliot knew Merle for about 25 years up until his death in 2016, and he grew up listening to him with his buddies in the early ’60s.

He admits:

“I’ve always been attracted to underdogs. So it’s compelling to write about people who overcame living both the American dream and the American nightmare to succeed.”

Eliot had nearly 100 conversations with artists who knew Haggard, or had a story about him.

This includes the likes of Mary Stuart, Dwight Yoakam, members of Merle’s band “The Strangers,” and Merle’s best friend Fuzzy Owen.

Dwight Yoakam weighed in on what he thought was the essence of Merle… escapism:

“The best part of Merle’s story was his struggle to escape, not just from prisons, which he was good at, but from the emotional prison over which he had no control.

The rest of his story is a somewhat trite show-biz saga… he wrote this, he sang that, he did this show, he won that award, and so on.

The real drama took place offstage, apart from the physical world, where a battle for self-reconciliation was fought.”


Eliot also discusses how Merle’s father’s death haunted him his whole life:

“Because he thought his father’s death was his fault, it haunted him. He acted out his frustrations by becoming a delinquent and ending up in (California’s) San Quentin (State Prison) by the age of 19.

Moreover, he took up the guitar because it connected him with his father. However, the anger, rage, and fear related to his father’s death remained with him for the rest of his life.”

Eliot also said that his sound was constructed from growing up in the prison systems and at the bars:

“That atmosphere worked its way into the music. The songs had upbeat and rhythmic pop-crossover styling with electric guitars, but lyrics that appeal to tough, drunk guys.

It’s not romance and love with girls; it’s womanizing with women. It’s not Coca-Cola (they’re drinking); it’s hard whiskey. They’re not driving around in Cadillacs; they’re driving around in Volkswagen buses. It created a formula that artists still use today.

Merle was singular. He did a thing that nobody had ever done before. Haggard made anti-romantic country music that was as pragmatic as it was autobiographical.

In his writing, he was both timely and timeless. Every generation comes back to (Merle’s) roots.”

The one and only… Merle Haggard.

If you get a chance, pick up a copy of the new biography: The Hag: The Life, Times, and Music of Merle Haggard.

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