Merle - 5/15/2013

        When I am home, I really don’t like to leave unless I have to.  I am on the road so much that I just like to ‘stay put’ with my family.  If it's not Mom, baseball, or church, I don't usually leave the yard.  However, I couldn’t resist making a little trip across the border into Quebec on Friday to see my ultimate musical hero, Merle Haggard, perform in Kahnawake.  If I make it to Heaven, God is going to let me open my mouth and sound like the Hag for just a few minutes and I’ll be happy.  Adding to my admiration, he is as good a songwriter who has ever lived, in my opinion.  I cannot adequately express how I feel about him.  There’s only one Merle Haggard.  I had listened to his music my whole life, but I had never seen him live.  A friend of a friend in Merle’s organization lined me up with two VIP tickets, so I picked my seventeen year-old son up from practice and headed north.  In the car, Kelley changed into his black and red Scully cowboy shirt, blue jeans, and black Justin boots.  He was ready.  He'd been listening to Merle since birth as well.  We blasted Willie’s Place for the hour and fifteen minutes.  The kid is as nuts about classic country and bluegrass as I am.  Corina calls him my clone.  
     We arrived early and I snapped a picture of my son in front of a tractor trailer with Hag’s likeness on the side.  We planned to eat at the venue.  I hadn’t brought any cash, but I had my handy-dandy debit card wih me.  No go.  They wouldn’t accept it nor would the Kahnawake Sports Complex ATM machine.  I asked, “Would you miss a meal for Merle?”  He agreed, but we scoured the vehicle for food a few minutes later.  I ate a granola bar and Kel wolfed down some crackers.  We were ready for some music.
       Merle did not disappoint.  I marveled at the tone of his voice, his phrasing, his control.  He delivered his hits but also dug out some deep album cuts and ‘tribute’ songs to Lefty, Jimmy Rodgers, Bob Wills, and Johnny Cash.  At first, I was annoyed that everybody around me was singing along, but then I realized that it was exactly what Merle wanted.  He was feeding off the energy, and soon I was singing, too.  ‘Mama Tried’ knocked me out.  Happy tears flowed down my face as the memories flooded me.  I could not believe how great the show was making me feel.  I hardly ever sit in an audience.  This was powerful stuff.  The man had us all in the palm of his hand, and when someone yelled, “I love you, Merle!” he responded, “We love you, too, and that’s why we’re here.”  He kept going…’Sing Me Back Home’,  ‘Footlights’, ‘Rambling Fever’…I was in heaven and so was Kelley.  We all were.  At one point, Kelley put his arm around me, something my teen hasn’t done in a while.  There was no place in the world I’d have rather been at that moment.  Merle still has the fire.  There were many ovations throughout the show, but none like after his closing number, 'Okie From Muskogee',  an hour and forty minutes after he began with 'Big City.'  I yelled, “I love you, Merle!”  I meant it.