Merle, Burials, and Boxer Briefs

The Can You Hear Me? crew finally addresses the loss of the late great Merle Haggard on this week’s episode.  They’ve been talking to one another off air about how much Merle meant to them in their personal musical pantheons, but they finally bring it out to the public.

merle haggard sixties

Merle Before the Beard Was One Cool Looking Dude

But, as you know by now, they can’t stay on topic and in short order, Gustav yanks the wheel hard to the right and they go careening into the bar ditch for their normal bumpy ride.  The first thing to derail Gustav is the professional connection between Merle Haggard and Clint Eastwood in the late seventies/early eighties.  Instantly, it’s no longer about Merle Haggard, but instead turns into: an dust up over spaghetti westerns, harsh opinions about Sandra Locke (Clint’s girlfriend during that era), and the iconic status of Johnny Cash, both in his heyday and in the final years of his life.

The day before this episode was recorded, Heavy and Gustav had gone back to their hometown which is somewhere in the 903 area code.    They attended a funeral for a long time family friend who had been in bad health for many years.  As they stood at the graveside on a hot June afternoon, they both were contemplating the phenomena of the rural funeral.   A heated discussion ensues which devolves into doctrinal differences between Methodists and Baptists, Gustav’s tale of dueling preachers at his great-grandmothers funeral and the wonderful book Salvation on Sand Mountain, which details a snake handling congregation in Appalachia.

After such serious topics as funerals and theology, the guys lighten up with some banter about our fathers with smart phones, Heavy’s new underwear and Gustav and Ty stockpiling socks. The guys also give a big shout out to their fellow podcasters at Partial Recall who fondly look back at the nineties and aughts.   Take a moment to check them out.


Unexpected Merle Haggard Vinyl

Because the Can You Hear Me Podcast? records multiple episodes in one sitting, we aren’t always able to deal with topics in an immediate manner, like the recent death of Merle Haggard.   We are working on figuring out the technology to record a quick episode in order to deal with breaking news, but so far we are still out of step with the rest of the world, which could be a metaphor for our lives.

One potential good thing about us not being able to respond to things on the podcast in a timely fashion is that it gives us a chance for reflection on a topic.  The death of Merle Haggard falls squarely into this category.  Merle Haggard was Country and Western Music.  He lived a hard life at times and made a lot of great music.  But like most artists who’s careers span multiple decades, the listeners and fans have their favorite eras.  For me, I prefer Merle’s work “Before He Grew the Beard”.  I saw him in concert in the early nineties “After He Had the Beard for Many Years” and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I didn’t head out and buy any new Merle albums after the show.  Instead, I kept listening to what I had always listened to.  It’s  shame that I had fallen into the “play the hits” trap, but I feel that is all too frequent a danger with the icons of Country and Western.

As the next recording session for the Can You Hear Me? Podcast draws closer and closer, I had been thinking about what Merle Haggard meant to me.  I had been revisiting his albums and thinking about the working relationship he had with Clint Eastwood in Bronco Billy which always stuck out in my mind or how he guest starred on an episode of “The Waltons”.

I ventured out last night from my hotel in Pennsylvania and visited a string of thrift stores that are strung out down a particular stretch of highway.  I had bought a few board games for my board game collection that we talked about in a previous episode but hadn’t found anything particularly special or exciting.  But much to my surprise at my last stop at a Salvation Army store, the selection of vinyl records had changed dramatically.  In the past, the store’s record assortment skewed heavily towards an odd assortment of Finnish records and easy listening artists.  I first noticed a few Country and Western albums of the Eighties, which if you listened to Episode 2, you’ll know that I am not a fan of that era.  There were several Seventies light Rock albums as well, but I passed on them.  Then I hit the jackpot!

Merle Haggard classic vinyl "Rainbow Stew Live"

“Rainbow Stew Live”

I found “Rainbow Stew Live” by Merle Haggard which was recorded at Anaheim Stadium and released in 1981.  I kept digging and there was more Merle!

Merle Haggard Classic Vinyl Record "The Best of the Best of Merle Haggard"

“The Best of the Best of Merle Haggard”

While I was pretty sure that I already had this album, I wasn’t going to risk it, so I added “The Best of the Best of Merle Haggard”, which was published in 1972, to my pile.  Even if I may have this one back home in the collection, I’m sure I can find it a good home to a fellow Merle fan.  I kept digging and found one more!

Merle Haggard classic vinyl "Back to the Barrooms"

“Back to the Barrooms”

The third Merle Haggard was “Back to the Barrooms” which was published in 1980.  All three records were in great shape.  I was grinning ear to ear.  Then I found a copy of the Rolling Stones “Hot Licks” and was on  cloud nine, until I saw how scratched up the second LP of the Stones album was so I passed on it.

The elderly lady at the counter chatted to me a bit about how lucky I was to find Merle albums after his recent death.  Then after I had payed, I told her “I don’t need a sack.” and she laughed and said “Oh that’s right you’re from the South!” She then had to explain to her much younger co-worker what a sack was, just like we talked about in the Can You Hear Me? Podcast Episode 7.  I got three great “Before He Grew the Beard” Merle Haggard records for $5.28, but I had to go to Eastern Pennsylvania to do it.