Tomorrow night, Miranda Lambert will be awarded the first ever Merle Haggard Spirit Award by the Academy of Country Music at the ACM Honors, and the honor has sparked some harsh words for the industry from singer/songwriter Sturgill Simpson. He didn’t hold back on Facebook with a strongly worded post about the use of Merle’s name and legacy.
Many years back, much like Willie and Waylon had years before, Merle Haggard said,
“Fuck this town. I’m moving.” and he left Nashville.
According to my sources, it was right after a record executive told him that “Kern River” was a bad song. In the last chapter of his career and his life, Nashville wouldn’t call, play, or touch him. He felt forgotten and tossed aside. I always got a sense that he wanted one last hit..one last proper victory lap of his own, and we all know deserved it. Yet it never came. And now he’s gone.
Im writing this because I want to go on record and say I find it utterly disgusting the way everybody on Music Row is coming up with any reason they can to hitch their wagon to his name while knowing full and damn well what he thought about them. If the ACM wants to actually celebrate the legacy and music of Merle Haggard, they should drop all the formulaic cannon fodder bullshit they’ve been pumping down rural America’s throat for the last 30 years along with all the high school pageantry, meat parade award show bullshit and start dedicating their programs to more actual Country Music.
While Im venting about the unjust treatment of a bonafide American music legend, I should also add, if for no other reasons than sheer principal and to get the taste I’ve been choking back for months now out of my mouth, that Merle was supposed to be on the cover of Garden & Gun magazine’s big Country Music issue (along with myself) a few months back.
They reached out to both of us in October of last year while I was on a west coast tour. Merle was home off the road so I took a day off and traveled up to Redding.
He was so excited about it and it goes without saying that I was completely beside myself along with my Grandfather who has always been a HUGE Merle fan. We spent the whole day of the interview visiting in his living room with our families and had a wonderful conversation with the journalist. Then we spent about two hours outside being photographed by a brilliant and highly respected photographer named David McClister until Merle had enough…he was still recovering from a recent bout of double pneumonia at the time and it was a bit cold that day on the ranch.
But then at the last minute, the magazine’s editor put Chris Stapleton on the cover without telling anyone until they had already gone to print. Don’t get me wrong, Chris had a great year and deserves a million magazine covers…but thats not the point.
Its about keeping your word and ethics.
Chris also knows this as he called me personally to express his disgust at the situation. Dude’s a class act.
The editor later claimed in a completely bullshit email apology to both Merle’s publicist and ours (Chris and I share the same publicist) that they didn’t get any good shots that day.
2 hour shoot..
no good photos..
OK buddy,..whatever you say.
Anyway, Merle passed away right after it came out.
Some days, this town and this industry have a way of making we wish I could just go sit on Mars and build glass clocks.
What do you think of his remarks? I have to say that’s how this whole place works. We love you. We hate you. You’re not good enough. You’re amazing!