6 April 1937, Bakersfield, California, USA. Like a razors edge, Merle Haggard sings is how John Stewart described his voice in Eighteen Wheels, and that razor has been honed by his rough and rowdy ways. In the 30s Haggards parents migrated from the Dustbowl to the land of milk and honey, California. Life, however, was almost as bleak there and Haggard himself was born in a converted boxcar. His father, who worked on the Santa Fe railway, died of a stroke when Haggard was nine. Many of Haggards songs are about those early years: Mamas Hungry Eyes, California Cottonfields, Theyre Tearin The Labour Camps Down and The Way It Was In 51. Haggard became a tearaway who, despite the efforts of his Christian mother (Mama Tried), spent many years in reform schools. When only 17, he married a waitress and they had four children during their...
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