Merle The ‘Okie from Muskogee’

By Ralphine Major

I got as close to the stage as I could and snapped a photo with my instamatic camera.  In those days, I do not think I had even heard of a camera with a telephoto lens or zoom feature.  Satisfied that I had captured the image on film, I returned to my seat and enjoyed the concert.

Merle Haggard was on stage at the Tennessee Valley Fair, also known as the Tennessee Valley Agricultural & Industrial (TVA&I) Fair.  I believe the year was 1969 and Haggard was a rising star in country music.  As I recall, the concert took place at the Homer Hamilton Theater, which seemed like a perfect setting for the performer often referred to as “The Hag” and “Okie from Muskogee.”

When I think of Haggard, one of his early songs, “Silver Wings,” comes to mind as well as his popular “Okie from Muskogee” hit song.  He also sang the theme song to the television series “Movin’ On” starring Claude Akins.  Not only was Merle a great singer, he was a talented songwriter.  Some of his songs are about planes or trains, and I once heard that he even had a model train that ran through his home in Bakersfield, California.  Many singers who came along after Merle have said that he was their inspiration.  Though I saw him in later concerts, it is that very first one that stands out in my mind.  Merle passed away last year, but he certainly left a legacy in the world of country music.

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