Oklahoma remembers Merle Haggard
As the world mourns country music singer Merle Haggard, Oklahomans are remembering the man who helped shape our culture.
Haggard died Wednesday on his 79th birthday. While he was born in Bakersfield, California, his family traveled from the Sooner State. He was made famous by the hit song "Okie from Muskogee."
"I was very sad, I grew up a Merle Haggard fan, that's what we listened to in my family growing up here in Oklahoma," says Larry O'Dell, with the Oklahoma Historical Society.
"He performed a lot. He was supposed to be in Muskogee this year and do a big festival, so it's a big loss to Oklahoma, Oklahoma musicians and the world," he adds.
"Even though he never lived in Oklahoma, his family were Okies, they migrated to Bakersfield during the depression. Then his iconic song in 1969, 'Okie from Muskogee', really set his career in orbit," adds Jim Blair with the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.
A masterful guitarist, fiddler, and songwriter, as well as singer, Haggard was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and recorded for more than 40 years, releasing dozens of albums. Haggard inspired a whole generation of red dirt country singers.
"There's probably not a country or red-dirt artist out of Oklahoma that doesn't list Merle Haggard as a huge influence. And that expands even into the other genres of music. Everybody out of Oklahoma feels and lists Merle as a major and significant impact on their career," says Blair.
Haggard died of complications of pneumonia.