On Thursday, March 14, Merle Haggard is scheduled to take the stage for an encore appearance at the historic Floore's Country Store in downtown Helotes, Texas, just beyond the outskirts of San Antonio.
In his 51-year, still vital recording career, the gifted songwriter experienced 84 Top 40 singles on Billboard's country chart. Incredibly, beginning with "Swinging Doors" in 1966 and concluding with "The Roots of My Raising" 10 years later, every Haggard single released during those years landed in the Top Five. The Kennedy Center recipient has been in the recording studio in recent weeks working on the follow-up to his well-received 2011 album, Working in Tennessee.
Haggard tours in two-week spurts, performing approximately 10 shows during the span. After resting for several weeks in the idyllic Northern California countryside near Lake Shasta, it's back to taking care of business for the talented guitarist, who first started playing a cheap Bronson guitar when he was only 10 years old.
In a revealing in-depth interview that will be published in full shortly after the singer's 76th birthday, Haggard contemplated his long relationship with touring: "There's a real war going on between me and the road. If I go out and play all the time, I'll lose my family. My family means everything to me. As long as I'm still holdin' my mud, I'll keep playing for folks."
Haggard has always felt a strong affinity for the Lone Star State, performing concerts all around the region's wind-swept bars and honky tonks since 1965.
Floore's Country Store celebrated its 70th anniversary last year. The name is really a misnomer, as the unique venue, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, consists of a fantastic dance hall, café, and outdoor performance stage with a combined capacity of nearly 2,500 people.
Widely renowned for its world famous tamales and homemade bread, plenty of iconic artists have visited and performed at the site, including John Wayne [a pair of his boots hang from the rafters], Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Ernest Tubb, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson.
Locals refer to Floore's as the musical birthplace of Nelson, as the long-haired, soft-spoken songwriter played there every Saturday night during the '60s. The original owner, John T. Floore, was Nelson's partner in the original Willie Nelson Music publishing company, and he is name-checked in the singer's classic 1973 Atlantic single, "Shotgun Willie." Haggard recorded multiple times with Nelson, including the popular Pancho & Lefty and Last of the Breed projects, respectively.
Noel Haggard will open his father's show with three songs while another sibling, Dana, is likely to perform three further country ballads. After a short intermission, Haggard tends to deliver a 70-minute, impromptu set focusing on his greatest hits. His wife, Theresa, will sing backing vocals throughout the evening and hopefully will take the spotlight for a duet with her husband, perhaps on "Jackson."
Of course, the exceptionally tight Strangers will add instrumentation. Members include the superb Norm Hamlet on steel guitar and occasional dobro. The Steel Guitar Hall of Famer has recorded with Haggard for an astounding 46 years and counting. Incidentally, his debut session produced the immortal "Sing Me Back Home" in September 1967 at Capitol Studios in Hollywood.
Scott Joss (fiddle, mandolin, rhythm guitar and background vocals), Jimmie Christie (drums), Will McGregor (bass), Floyd Domino (piano), Doug Colosio (piano; one of Haggard's co-writers in recent years), and youngest son Ben Haggard, channeling James Burton's lead guitar prowess via a sparkling silver Fender Custom Telecaster from the mid-'90s, complete the lineup.
In addition to Haggard, indie singer/songwriter Jon Wolfe will open the concert at 8:30 p.m. Doors open 90 minutes in advance at 7 p.m. sharp. The "What Have You Got Planned Tonight Diana" singer is scheduled to take the stage at 9:30 p.m.
If purchased prior to the event, tickets cost $35 for general admission (picnic tables or standing room). The at-the-door price is $40. Not surprisingly, reserved seating tickets are sold out. Tickets may be bought online or by calling (210) 695-8827. The address for Floore's Country Store is 14492 Old Bandera Road.
Definitely make plans to see the living legend while you still have the chance. As long as he is able and public demand remains significant, the veteran artist will never retire. Merle Haggard in concert offers the supreme crash course in American popular music, both past and present.
Author's Note: The Master of Telecaster, James Burton, was Merle Haggard's guitar compadre in the recording studio on countless Capitol sessions during the '60s. Also a member of the famed Wrecking Crew in Los Angeles, Burton is best known for his extensive work with Elvis Presley, John Denver, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Monkees, and Glen Campbell. To read a revealing four-part conversation with Burton marking the 25th anniversary of Rick Nelson's untimely death ["On The Road With Rick Nelson..."], simply click on the highlighted link.
Merle Haggard Spring 2013 Tour Dates
- 03/14/13 Helotes, TX: Floore’s Country Store
- 03/15/13 Goliad, TX: Schroeder Dance Hall
- 03/16/13 Ardmore, OK: Heritage Hall
- 03/17/13 Austin, TX: Travis County Expo Center
- 03/19/13 Midland, TX: Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center
- 03/20/13 Arlington, TX: Arlington Music Hall
- 03/21/13 Stafford, TX: Stafford Centre
- 03/22/13 Grant, OK: Choctaw Resort Casino
- 03/23/13 Abilene, TX: Outlaws & Legends Music Festival
- 04/04/13 Canyonville, OR: 7 Feathers Casino Resort
- 04/05/13 Tacoma, WA: Emerald Queen Casino
- 04/08/13 Folsom, CA: Three Stages At Folsom Lake College
- 04/09/13 Folsom, CA: Three Stages At Folsom Lake College
- 04/10/13 Solana Beach, CA: Belly Up Tavern
- 04/11/13 Anaheim, CA: Grove of Anaheim
- 04/12/13 Chandler, AZ: Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino
- 04/13/13 Bakersfield, CA: Majestic Fox Theater
- 04/14/13 Agoura Hills, CA: Canyon Club
Further Reading: Jordanaire Ray Walker recorded and performed in concert with nearly every country artist imaginable, including Merle Haggard, Patsy Cline, and Buck Owens. Of course, rock and roll fans recall the Jordanaires' work with Rick Nelson and Elvis Presley. In a 2011 article written by this writer, the genial bass singer recalled what it was like to sit front row center during an Elvis recording session. Things got pretty crazy when the "Alabama Wild Man", Jerry Reed, unexpectedly showed up to add some patented gut-string guitar to a few country rock numbers. Visit the following article, "Jordanaire Ray Walker Recalls Studio Nights With Elvis Presley and Jerry Reed," for the complete lowdown.
Exclusive Interview: Ray Stevens scored numerous hit singles on the country and pop charts in his 50-year recording career. His best-loved recordings are often humorous in nature and include the Grammy-winning "Everything Is Beautiful", "Mr. Businessman", “Gitarzan,” "Turn Your Radio On," “The Streak,” “Misty,” “Shriner’s Convention,” and “Mississippi Squirrel Revival." In a wide-ranging three-part interview ["Ray Stevens: Still Trying To Figure Out What He's Gonna Do When He Grows Up"], Stevens is candid on topics such as seeing Louis Armstrong in concert, hearing himself on the radio for the first time, the moment when he realized he could make a living as a musician, his buddy, Jerry "Guitar Man" Reed, playing trumpet on an Elvis Presley recording session, his versatile musical abilities, how he approaches writing a song, and much more...
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