Merle Haggard has rightfully earned his perpetual spot among the greatest artists in the genre, leaving behind a magnificent and memorable legacy – and of course, some of the most iconic tunes we could only hope for.
On top of that, he’s an important part of the outlaw country movement, a prominence that came with his days in San Quentin Prison – where he served for burglary for almost three years. However, it was also the very same place where he first fell in love with country music after witnessing a performance from Johnny Cash.
The Man In Black was arrested quite a few times but was never sentenced to prison. But out of the kindness of his heart and a feeling of compassion, he would often play an unpaid gig for some of the country’s hardest prisoners.
And on New Year’s Day in 1958, Cash showed up to perform at San Quentin.
“It was like seeing Muhammad Ali or something,” Haggard said, who was then a starstruck prisoner reveling in the extraordinary concert he and his fellow convicts had been denied of. Little did Haggard know, the chance meeting behind bars would turn his life around.