In Interview, Merle Haggard Shares His Opinion Of Johnny Cash

In Interview, Merle Haggard Shares His Opinion Of Johnny Cash | Society Of Rock Videos

via Country At Its Finest/YouTube

Country Legends

Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard are two of the biggest country legends of all time. Between the two of them, they left such a rich and stunning legacy in music.

In 1958, Cash played at the San Quentin State Prison where Haggard was a then-20 year old inmate. And Haggard later credited Cash for inspiring him to pursue a career in music. Life had been tough during his teenage years but he was musically talented and it was after watching Cash’s concert when he decided to finally get his life on track. He stopped getting into trouble and began focusing on music.

And in 2017, Rolling Stone magazine published a lost 2007 interview with Merle Haggard.

Speaking about the San Quentin Prison show, Haggard shared: “He [Cash] didn’t know that until years later, but I was. I was in a 1958 audience New Year’s Day at San Quentin. He lost his voice that day. It was just a whisper. But his charismatic manners sold him to the convicts. They really liked him, and I did, too, and I was prepared not to like him for some reason. When he didn’t have a voice and he was able to bring the people around, I understood the power of Johnny Cash. It was overwhelming.”

He added, “It was like seeing Muhammad Ali or something. He was on top of the world, and he took time to come by. He did it again and again and was appreciated again and again. Finally, the world understood.”

And although they were titans in country music, they “never talked about each other’s career.”

When asked why he thought Cash kept on performing at prisons, Haggard said: “I think, “For the grace of God there go I.” That was his feelings towards the convicts. He was about a quarter of an inch from there himself. Had he not had money he probably would have wound up there. He was Johnny Cash, and he got away with things that he knew he shouldn’t have got away with. There’s probably guys in prison for doing less than things he did every day. And he knew that. One time he told me, “Haggard, you’re everything that people think I am.” I said, “Yeah, but not by choice.” He never really had been to jail. He spent like four hours one time in a jail. But he identified. He understood somehow, and the convicts knew it.

Also, Haggard and Cash kept each other in check. And as to their friendship, Haggard said: “He helped me every time he had a chance to help me, and I would have done the same for him.”

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