Things I've Learned by Merle Haggard
I've lived at the very end of what must have been a wonderful country.
They've left the redwoods up alongside the highway so we'll think they're all there. But go up in an airplane and you'll see that they've clear-cut everything behind.
The kids just don't know how big the tear on the rip-off was. If they had any idea, I believe they could do something about it. But it may be too late. We'll see. They're smarter. They can talk to one another. I don't look for a politician to bullsh** his way in this time.
When I was nine years old, right after my dad died, my mother got me some violin lessons with this big heavyset lady. It took nine lessons before this lady said to my mother, "You're wasting your money. He's got too good an ear. He's not going to fool with learning to read when he can play something that he hears on the radio." When I heard her say that, I knew I had something.
We weren't thieves by nature. Pranksters. Practical jokers. We were without a car one time, Dean Holloway and I. We just went out and started borrowing cars. Sometimes we'd bring 'em back. Put gas in 'em. Clean 'em up. Leave a little note: THANKS FOR THE CAR. Like the Phantom.
I'm in a very small percentage of people ever in the joint who beat it. It's like 2 percent of 2 percent. If you've ever been to the joint, you're going back.
I'll tell you why it's different when somebody else is singing "Mama Tried": They're reading the words. I'm telling the story.
I got out something like nine that morning. February 3, 1960. There's a big metal security device at the main door coming out of San Quentin. When they open that door, it comes up and you have to step over it. Just as I was stepping over that device, a Hank Snow record came on. "The Last Ride." My foot just stopped in midair. The song was coming from a radio near this guard who was standing there with his gun. He said, "What, did you change your mind?" I said, "No, that's a really great song." I stayed there and listened to the rest of the song.
Couldn't have done the music without it. Wouldn't have thought of it. Wouldn't have been part of me.
Willie Nelson is an idol for me. The music is sort of immaterial. Willie is seventy-four. A lot of people don't realize how healthy he is. He doesn't eat any strict diet. But he doesn't eat very much of anything. He understands the value of water.
Seventy is a big mark. I'm feeling good. But Bing Crosby felt good, too, and he came off the eighteenth hole, just kind of laid down in the grass, and that was that.
Freedom is what prohibition ain't.
I probably had as bad a sex urge as anybody when I was younger. I remember an old guitar player, Eldon Shamblin, told me, "When you get p**** off your mind, you can go ahead and learn something." Isn't that great?
Willie Nelson's the one who told me the reason it costs so much to get divorced is because it's worth it.
I remember going to a dance when I was a kid — my older brother took me in. Roy Nichols was playing. My brother said, "Hey, there's a little guy in there playing guitar. He don't have to pick cotton or go to school." Roy Nichols became my idol on the guitar. Many years later, he went on to play for me for half price. But he and I could never look directly at each other. I never knew why. At first, I thought it was because I admired him too much. But it was Roy, too. Anyway, late in his life, Roy had a stroke. Paralyzed him on one side. Right down the middle. Half of his nose he could blow, the other half was dead. After his stroke, I went over to Roy's house. He looked me right in the eye and said, "Look here: I love you." I got chills. He said, "That old sh** went down the hole with this stroke."
Lefty Frizzell said you don't have to experience everything to sing about it. But you've got to believe it.
I think what we're lacking in music today is it seems like all the good stories have been already taken. "Stardust" has already been written. "Your Cheatin' Heart." "Imagine." God almighty, lightning may never strike again like that.
If only somebody could come up with something different — start a new trend. Real music. If only somebody could sing a song, had something to say, had a good melody, and could do it in person, without help from any electronics. I think the people would go nuts. It's bound to happen. There's got to be a guy out there somewhere. A natural.