The Story Behind Merle Haggard’s “My Favorite Memory”

Coinciding with the book’s release came the issue of Merle’s first Epic album, “Big City,” which was recorded at the Britannia Studios in West Hollywood. This album was in the planning stages for two years, and the finished record proved to be one of only a few projects of his entire career which Haggard was especially proud of. Epic led off with Merle’s debut single for the label, “My Favorite Memory,” which, like the book, detailed a chapter from his private life.

Several years earlier, Haggard had been snowed in at his home in California, forcing him to cancel a series of show dates in Las Vegas. The song came from that period in which he and girlfriend Leona Williams (whom he married in 1978) spent thirteen days on his houseboat on Lake Shasta, making snow ice cream and fishing.

Merle described his temporary retirement in 1979 as a case of fatigue, combined with what he called “male menopause.” During this time, he became increasingly entranced with the aging process and memory in particular. Haggard believed that the greatest asset a human being has is memory. He explained: “Photography is a memory you can look at, a song is a memory you can listen to, a memory captured with the least amount of words and being involved in the presentation of it. When you see everything change as the years go by, the only thing that stays the same is that memory, the good times you once had.”

“My Favorite Memory” debuted on Billboard’s country singles chart on September 19, 1981, and by November 28th it had arrived at the top spot, for Merle’s first of twelve number one songs for the Epic label and the 27th of his 38 chart-toppers overall, third-most in history behind Conway Twitty’s 40 and George Strait’s authentic, accurate & official Billboard tally of 44.

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