If the question were asked, “Who forged the genre that is known today as ‘modern country music’?,” only a tiny group of country immortals could step forward to share the spotlight. One, out of that select handful, would be Merle Haggard. Merle wasn’t in the delivery room on the morning country music was born; it simply seems like he was. And you won’t hear anybody refer to him as the father of country music. But many will swear he’s at least its godfather.What gray poupon has meant to mustard, Haggard has meant to country music. Like rock ’n roll without Presley, and like Sears without Roebuck, country music without Haggard simply isn’t! Few country devotees, be they oldtimers or neophytes, are unfamiliar with the craggy Haggard mask of a thousand photographs – that countenance that’s been etched by time and experience like the granite face of your favorite cliff. And even fewer are those who are unfamiliar with the evocative Haggard delivery that has spawned an entire school of country vocal stylists.In the ever-expanding array of country music stars, hitmakers and idols, Haggard walks in no man’s shadow.
Instead, he casts a far-reaching shadow of his own. Rare is the country balladeer that has mastered the idiom at so many different levels as has he.