Merle Haggard - vocals, guitar; Gordon Terry - fiddle; Dennis Hromek - bass; Don Markham - saxophone, trumpet; Roy Nichols - guitar; Ronnie Reno - guitar, harmonica, backing vocals; Mark Yeary - piano; Bonnie Owens - backing vocals; Biff Adams - drums; Norman Hamlet - steel guitar
With the exception of his friend and contemporary, the late Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard was arguably the most important country artist to emerge from the 1960s. A founding member of the outlaw country music movement (along with Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson, among others), Haggard not only sang about the lifestyle, he lived it.
Balancing a shaky marriage, tough financial times, a number of manual labor jobs and a genuine effort to break into the country music scene, Haggard ended up, in 1957, being arrested for a failed robbery attempt. That stint, plus an escape from the local prison where he was awaiting trial, landed him a 15-year stint in San Quinton State Prison in California.
While in prison, he turned his life around and was paroled after serving less than three years. He decided to focus on a career in country music and never looked back. That was 1960. By the end of the decade, Haggard was the biggest star in country music. His classic "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down" topped the charts in 1966, and he later scored three #1 songs in a row in 1969.
One of those songs was "Okie from Muskogee," a direct attack on the liberal political views of the hippie movement, and further polarized the country during the tumultuous Vietnam war. From that point on, Haggard has gone on to have a myriad of country and crossover hits, and continues writing, recording and touring today. He is largely credited (along with Buck Owens and others) with establishing the Bakersfield Sound.
This concert, recorded in 1981, is an example of the kind of country music Haggard has woven into the fabric of our culture.