Today, Merle Haggard, the country music legend, passed away. He died on his birthday. He was a real man and a real legend. I had a date with Merle on my birthday coming up April 15th, in New Braunfels TX. He and Willie Nelson were scheduled to play together at the Whitewater Amphitheatre on my birthday and given my involvement with American Crossroads Radio, a Texas based internet radio station on TuneIn, I thought it would be a good birthday present to give myself after a year of really hard work opening my own small business.
Merle fell ill months ago, and I have been keeping a prayerful eye on his condition ever since. Then, on March 28th, the announcement was made that Merle wouldn’t be able to perform alongside Willie in Texas under the stars and beside the river.
I went to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville in early March to see the Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats exhibit. I think its really cool that two of my favorites were good friends and really enjoyed it.
Well, nothing against Willie Nelson, but I decided to get a refund for my ticket and make other plans. I’ll try to catch Willie when he’s closer. My lifelong mild obsession with Bob Dylan and curiosity about San Francisco made me change my plans to a few days in Cali instead. There’s a book store I want to visit and a bar where Dylan and some beatniks used to hang out.
San Quentin is close to San Francisco… San Quentin is the prison Merle Haggard was in when he was inspired by Johnny Cash who played his first prison concert there.
“Folsom Prison Blues” gave Johnny Cash his first top-10 country hit in 1956, and his live concert performance at Folsom—dramatized memorably in the film Walk The Line—gave his flagging career a critical jump-start in 1968. But the prison with which Johnny Cash was most closely associated wasn’t Folsom, it was San Quentin, a maximum-security penitentiary just outside of San Francisco. San Quentin is where Cash played his first-ever prison concert on January 1, 1958—a concert that helped set Merle Haggard, then a 20-year-old San Quentin inmate, on the path toward becoming a country music legend. -history.com
My date with Merle and Willie was cancelled a week ago, and we all lost a great legend today. Merle Haggard’s songs will still be with us and his legacy will remain. Prayers to his family.
When I’m in San Francisco in a few days, I probably won’t visit San Quentin. But, I will sit around the Golden Gate Bridge and think of how one legend can help form another… and how we all help form each other.