Thanks Phil Weisman for sending me.
Thanks Phil Weisman for sending me.
photo: Dan Schram
by: Spencer Griffith
Koka Booth Amphitheatre, Cary
Sunday, May 22, 2016
In early April, I called my mother and invited her to join me in mid-May to see Willie Nelson play at Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre. “Sure! Who else is playing?” she asked, perhaps spoiled by Alison Krauss & Union Station providing stellar support when Nelson passed through the same venue two years ago.
Hearing my reply of Merle Haggard, she bluntly replied, “Oh. I thought he was dead.” I assured her that Haggard would be there, recent poor health notwithstanding. But it was just a matter of days until the country legend actually did pass. Mom, like usual, turned out to be right.
Sunday night, our date finally arrived. Filling the huge hole left in the bill by Merle’s death, Kris Kristofferson opened alongside Merle’s sons Ben and Noel Haggard, backed by The Strangers—the late Haggard’s backing band. For my mom, Kristofferson’s appearance was bittersweet; it seems her high school crush had somehow aged in the intervening forty-odd years. I was more focused on his voice, which—especially early in the set—was, well, rather haggard. The hour-long show followed a revue format, in which Kristofferson and each of the Haggard sons took turns on lead vocals, sprinkling some of Kristofferson’s best-known songs with plenty of Merle classics.
Having joined The Strangers on lead guitar at age fifteen—nearly a decade ago now—Ben, Merle’s youngest son, did an admirable job of filling his father’s role on those tunes, injecting them with youthful energy and recounting his dad’s wishes for him to carry on with The Strangers. Meanwhile, Noel—almost thirty years Ben’s senior—lent his rich baritone to “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink,” sounding every bit like a man who’d lived through plenty of the song’s broken-hearted nights. By the time Kristofferson led off “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” his voice had warmed up considerably, containing just the right amount of weariness for his sighing hit.
The crowd responded with a standing ovation. Ben thanked everyone for coming to celebrate his father’s music. Kristofferson wiped away tears. The set closed on an upbeat note, sandwiching Kristofferson’s gospel number “Why Me” between Haggard’s “Ramblin’ Fever” and a spirited singalong of “Okie from Muskogee.”
The emotional tribute to Merle carried over into Willie Nelson’s headlining set in a surprising way. Sure, Nelson may appear to be as weathered as his trusty guitar Trigger, but as a performer, he seems to be drinking from—or smoking something out of—the fountain of youth. Almost four years older than Haggard, Nelson carried on Sunday night as if he could do so forever—and it’d be easy to convince yourself of just that, had it not been for the too-fresh reminder of Merle’s mortality.
Across an hour and fifteen minutes, Nelson barreled through more than two dozen songs with hardly a pause, ripping off nimble runs on Trigger, perhaps none more impressive than on a cover of Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages.” Following along to whichever song title Nelson shouted out, The Family provided rocksteady rhythms, rousing harmonica solos, and barrelhouse piano fills. Willie remained the star, even when flanked by the backing vocals of fellow Highwayman Kristofferson. His voice sounded clear as a bell on timeless ballads like “Georgia on My Mind” and “Always On My Mind.”
Nelson seemed somehow ageless, as if defying what I’d told my mom a couple hours earlier during Kristofferson’s set—“You know we’re all getting older, mom.”
photo: Dan Schram
Kris Kristofferson with Ben Haggard and Noel Haggard & The Strangers setlist:
Shipwrecked in the Eighties (Kristofferson on lead vocals, duo performance with Scott Joss)
The Running Kind (Ben Haggard on lead vocals)
Heaven Was A Drink Of Wine (Ben Haggard on lead vocals)
Help Me Make It Through The Night (Kristofferson on lead vocals)
Me and Bobby McGee (Kristofferson on lead vocals)
I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink (Noel Haggard on lead vocals)
What Am I Gonna Do (With The Rest Of My Life) (Ben Haggard on lead vocals)
The Pilgrim, Chapter 33 (Kristofferson on lead vocals)
Working Man Blues (Ben & Noel Haggard on lead vocals)
Honky Tonk Night Time Man -> Folsom Prison Blues (Noel Haggard on lead vocals)
Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down (Kristofferson on lead vocals)
Ramblin’ Fever (Ben Haggard on lead vocals)
Why Me (Kristofferson on lead vocals)
Okie From Muskogee (Ben & Noel Haggard on lead vocals)
Willie Nelson & The Family setlist:
Still Is Still Moving To Me
Beer For My Horses
Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
It’s All Going To Pot
Good Hearted Woman
Funny How Time Slips Away -> Crazy -> Night Life -> Listen To The Blues
Me & Paul
If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time
Georgia On My Mind
Jambalaya (On The Bayou)
Hey Good Lookin’
Move It On Over
On The Road Again
Always On My Mind
Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die (with Kris Kristofferson on backing vocals)
I’ll Fly Away (with Kris Kristofferson on backing vocals)
The Party’s Over (with Kris Kristofferson on backing vocals)
Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain
Willie Nelson & Family with special guests Kris Kristofferson and The Strangers featuring Ben and Noel Haggard honoring Merle Haggard
Join us for a special concert event honoring the late Merle Haggard with legendary musician Willie Nelson & Family plus a very special guest and another original Highwaymen, Kris Kristofferson LIVE in concert. Also joining the lineup is Merle Haggard’s incredibly talented sons, Ben and Noel, collectively known as The Strangers performing on May 19th in honor of their father.
Willie Nelson paid tribute to his late friend Merle Haggard onstage days after he passed away. At a recent tour stop, the Red Headed Stranger performed “It’s All Going to Pot” while in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Joining Nelson on the stage was Jamey Johnson, who sang Haggard’s parts within the song, which was released on Nelson and Haggard’s joint project Django & Jimmie last year.
While Nelson enlisted Johnson’s help on the song, singer Melonie Cannon soon joined in, as did Nelson’s son, Lukas, and harmonica player Mickey Raphael for a spirited performance in memory of their old friend.
Haggard passed away on April 6 at the age of 79 after a series of health struggles. Nelson paid tribute to his friend and frequent singing partner on Facebook with a photo and link to a video of their most famous collaboration, 1983’s “Pancho & Lefty.”
“He was my brother, my friend. I will miss him,” Nelson wrote.
Haggard canceled tour dates several times over the past few months. In December of 2015, he learned he had double pneumonia. In an interview with Willie’s Roadhouse on Sirius XM, Haggard revealed he was “nearly dead” when he was hospitalized for two weeks. Earlier this year, Haggard also canceled shows scheduled for Jan. 30 and 31 after his double pneumonia returned. Then, in March, he announced he was canceling all of his scheduled shows for April on doctor’s orders.
Haggard’s manager, Frank Mull, confirmed that the country legend died of pneumonia at 9:20AM on April 6 — his 79th birthday — in Palo Cedro, Calif.
Read More: Willie Nelson, Jamey Johnson Duet on ‘It’s All Going to Pot’ | http://tasteofcountry.com/willie-nelson-jamey-johnson-duet-its-all-going-to-pot/?trackback=tsmclip
In 2007 that Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Ray Price recorded their Last of the Breed album, of western swing, country classics and some of the best country music ever written — most of it by them. The artists took their show on the road and toured in support of the album in March of that year.
There were no 14-year-olds on that tour, but those guys toured like they were teenagers promoting their first album, blazing a trail across the country performing 15-shows in 17 days. I got to see their show a couple times here in Colorado, and I was blown away. These talented musicans were at the top of their game and were having so much fun performing together. And the music! They were joined by friend and fellow musical genius Freddy Powers, and sang their award-winning hits to sold-out halls everwhere. We all left those shows knowing we’d just experienced something very special.
The Last of the Breed album was released before the tour, a double-album, and a DVD quickly followed. Now, on March 3, 2009, Image Entertainment will release a live cd, recorded from their concerts. This is good news, because it is going to get wider distribution, and will also be available, for the first time, through i-tunes for download.
They are the Last of the Breed — the elder statesmen of classic country music who have inspired artists for decades. No one else sings country music with the passion and purity of Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Ray Price. In March 2007, these living legends and Country Music Hall of Famers united on stage for a once-in-a-lifetime concert event that was captured for television and recorded to give fans the ultimate concert experience. Backed by the GRAMMY Award-winning Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel and Ray Price’s Cherokee Cowboys, LIVE FROM THE LAST OF THE BREED TOUR presents Willie’s, Merle’s and Ray’s greatest hits that they performed on this magical evening.
In March 2007, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Ray Price performed on-stage together for the first time in the Last of the Breed tour.
by: Jack Whyte
Two musical events last week set my thoughts swirling and took me, as usual in such cases, in directions I had no idea I wanted to explore.
The first was the death of country singer Merle Haggard, at the age of 79, and the other was a long-postponed evening taken to watch a month-old recording of the November 2015 award ceremony when Willie Nelson, at 82, became the seventh person to receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
Two men, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, both achieving front-of-consciousness prominence — for me at least — in the same week, though for vastly different reasons.
Yet old as they may be in terms of years lived, both are destined to remain young forever in the realm of their achievements, individually and collectively.
Each of them took pride in labelling himself an outlaw, though the outlawry they laid claim to was a purely musical distinction.
They were among the founding fraternity of what is now called outlaw music, the group that rebelled in the 1970s against the saccharine sweetness of the stylized, orthodox country music being peddled and promoted by the Grand Ol’ Opry of Nashville.
Repelled by the cloying unctuousness of the Nashville Opry, Willie and Merle threw in their lot with Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and others in establishing a new sub-genre of country music.
It was raw and it was raucous and irreverent and profoundly human, and it’s known today as outlaw music.
Out of that association, depending upon who’s telling the story, emerged the phenomenon known today as the Austin City Sound — a far more free-wheeling and gutsy style of country music than the Nashville variety — that proudly traces its roots back to the rockabilly traditions of the 1950s and Elvis Presley.
What endeared these two men, their colleagues and their entire genre of songs to me originally, though, was the fact that they were, and always will be, storytellers in the grand, traditional sense enjoyed by bards and minstrels since the beginning of time.
They and the others of their ilk are, in a very real and very pertinent contemporary sense, the embodiment of the Spirit of America, the seannachies of the American people, the tribal celebrants of the people’s ways, customs and culture.
Their music is everyman’s. It speaks for, and to, the masses of the people on the most basic, communal level, proving that it is no accident that American country music is the most popular style of music in the western world.
It was at that point, thinking along those lines, that I found myself contemplating the differences between everything that we, as Canadians, respect and admire about the United States and its culture, and the ludicrous spectacle that we see every night on our television screens as the dog and pony show of the Republican party candidacy race unfolds.
In growing disbelief, we sit gawking at the news, watching wide-eyed and slack mouthed as the struggle between a blustering, egotistical fascist and a rabid, right-wing religious fundamentalist grows ever more bitter and contentious. And we are collectively appalled — or most of us are — to realize that these cynical, manipulative demagogues are fighting each other for control over the destiny of the American people.
That said, though, we continue to believe, for the protection of our own sanity, that wisdom will prevail in the end; that the current farce will fizzle out and the contestants will be consigned to the midden with all the other inedible orts from history’s table.
But there is no denying that the unbelievable is actually occurring as we watch. Nor is there any doubt that supposedly knowledgeable, analytical minds are taking these events seriously, with people making dire predictions and assumptions about the implosion, perhaps even the disintegration and demise, of Abe Lincoln’s Grand Old Party.
Politics makes strange bedfellows. We all know that, but at this time, on the GOP side at least, there appears to be no means in sight of arranging a rapprochement between the two leading, rutting billygoats.
The chances of containing the egregious damage they are causing to their party, and to their country’s international image, appear to be dwindling ever day, but even if a miracle occurred and the rabies-like symptoms of both front runners were to disappear, where would the leavening influence come from to heal the open rifts already caused?
Could anyone unknown to this point emerge from the wings to spread healing balm across the ruptured Republican spectrum? From where I’m sitting, that doesn’t appear likely.
There are only two of the original musical Outlaws left now, it seems, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. And seriously, I think I’d rather vote for Willie as a representative leader of America than I would for either Trump or Cruz.
Jack Whyte is a Kelowna author of 15 best-selling novels. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or read more at jackwhyte.com.
by: Patrick Doyle
Merle Haggard, who died last week at 79, considered Willie Nelson one of his closest friends. “I love Willie and I think Willie loves me,” Haggard told Rolling Stone in 2014, detailing how the two bonded on the Nevada casino circuit in the Seventies. “We’d play a couple of long shows a day, then spend all night long jamming,” said Haggard. “There’s seldom a straight moment between us. He likes to pop a good funny, and so do I.” They went on to score a Number One hit with 1983’s “Pancho and Lefty.”
Merle Haggard Merle Haggard: 30 Essential Songs »
As the two got older, Haggard came to admire Nelson’s work ethic as well as his talent. “That’s why we all admire Willie: because he doesn’t go out every six years. He goes out every six minutes, and he’s on all the time. Anytime you call on him, he can handle it. He can be Willie Nelson. He’s gonna do it till he drops. I guess I’m the same way.” Nelson spoke with Rolling Stone about their friendship, which Nelson calls “a bond that went a long way.”
Merle and I were buddies from way back. I first met him at a poker game at my house in Nashville in the early Sixties, before he went back to Bakersfield and I went back to Texas. We always had a lot in common. We both hopped trains as kids. We both got our starts playing bass in other bands before stepping out on our own. We’d both been married for the last 20 years. We both had our sons playing guitar with us. Over the years, we played a lot of dates, a lot of poker. He was a great audience for my jokes. I told him recently, “You know what you call a guitar player without a girlfriend? Homeless,” and he laughed.
“I always had a lot of admiration for him.”
In the early Eighties, he came to stay with me in Texas to record. We were living pretty hard back then, but we’d also try to be a little healthy. We used to go jogging a lot. We’d burn one down and run two miles in cowboy boots. In Texas, we went on a 10-day cayenne-pepper juice cleanse. It was horrible. One day after we’d been up all night, Merle went to the condo to get some rest. Around 4 a.m., we woke him up to sing his part on “Pancho and Lefty.” He sang it half in his sleep, but Hag sings pretty good in his sleep.
I always had a lot of admiration for him. He came onto the scene with a bang. He wrote more Number One songs than me, Kris [Kristofferson], anybody. He was a great one to follow. He was able to talk about his life in his songs intelligently and ingeniously, really. And from the time he met Johnny Cash in prison to “Okie from Muskogee,” it’s a great story.
Willie Nelson; Merle Haggard
It’s hard to pick a favorite Merle song. “Looking For A Place to Fall Apart” is a great one. “Somewhere Between” is another. He could play guitar with anybody. When we’d play together, he’d do his show and I’d sing a couple with him and then he’d come back out on my show and just jam the rest of the evening. It was so much fun.
Merle was also a great imitator. I just happened to see a thing recently with him on the Glen Campell show. Merle does imitations of Glen, Johnny Cash and Buck Owens. He does a great job.
Last year, we did another record together, Django and Jimmie. We’d text ideas back and forth. He wrote a song called “The Only Man Wilder Than Me,” which I took as a great compliment. Our last tour was special. I loved singing “Okie From Muskogee” with him. He wrote that song straight from the heart. But as he lived, his thinking progressed. The last time we did it, it was tongue-in-cheek, and the audience knew it. That’s the way he was – he always evolved.
When he called me to cancel the tour, he told me he had lung cancer. I told him they have a lot of great stuff these days, and they can do miracles. I was hoping they would be able to do something, but it had already gone too far, I guess. We’re finishing the tour in Merle’s honor. We’re getting through it.
The Django and Jimmie album and tour were big hits, and we had a lot of fun together. His last year was probably one of his best ones. Old Merle’s timing has always been perfect, and it was here, too.
Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/willie-nelson-on-merle-haggard-we-had-a-lot-of-fun-together-20160415#ixzz45wBBbzb0
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Friends and family join Willie Nelson & Family on tour, to celebrate Merle Haggard’s life and music.
photo: Ben Noey, Jr.
by: Timothy Finn
This show was supposed to celebrate two of country music’s greatest stars, their enduring friendship and their most recent collaboration.
Last June, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard released the album “Django & Jimmie” and shortly after that announced a co-headlining tour that included a stop at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena on Monday night.
In March, however, Haggard announced he would be leaving the tour temporarily to recover from double pneumonia. Haggard died April 6, his 79th birthday, but Nelson continued the tour, enlisting Jamey Johnson and Ryan Bingham as support.
Nearly 5,800 fans filled the arena in Independence. Nelson made little mention of Haggard until the end of his set, when he and his Family Band performed “It’s All Goin’ to Pot,” a track from “Django & Jimmie,” then two Haggard tunes, “Okie From Muskogee” and “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”
Johnson, however, spent most of his set paying respect to Haggard — and he has the perfect voice to do it. He opened with “I Guess I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink,” “The Fighting Side of Me” and “The Day I Started Loving You Again.”
He was joined by a surprise guest, Lee Ann Womack, for “You Take Me For Granted,” a song written by Haggard’s former wife, Leona Williams, then “Silver Wings” and “Yesterday’s Wine,” a Nelson song that Haggard recorded as a duet with George Jones.
Bingham, who opened the show, also paid tribute to Haggard. His set, which included a cover of the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post,” ended with “Mama Tried,” one of Haggard’s best known and most beloved songs.
Nelson was in good form, vocally and otherwise. His voice was firm and his phrasing under control. His guitar playing was exceptional at times, like during his aggressive lead at the end of “Crazy,” his blues-drenched lead during the cover of “Texas Flood,” performed by his son, Lucas Nelson, and during the sophisticated Django Reinhardt instrumental from “Django & Jimmie.”
The crowd joined in on several songs, including “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” and “On the Road Again.” Toward the end of the set, Nelson paid respect to Hank Williams with “Jambalaya (On the Bayou),” “Hey, Good Lookin’ ” and “Move It On Over.”
After the three-song Haggard tribute, Nelson ended the show with his standard medley: “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” and “I’ll Fly Away.” This evening, however, it felt more like the perfect closing to an evening proving that the best music has a spirit that is enduring and unbreakable.
Whiskey River; Still Is Still Moving to Me; Beer for My Horses; Good Hearted Woman; Funny How Time Slips Away/Crazy/Night Life; Texas Flood; Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys; Angels Flying Too Close to the Ground; On the Road Again; Always on My Mind; Jambalaya (On the Bayou); Hey, Good Lookin’; Move It On Over; Nuages; Shoeshine Man; Georgia; I’ve Been to Georgia on a Fast Train; It’s All Goin’ to Pot; Okie From Muskogee; Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die; Will the Circle Be Unbroken?/I’ll Fly Away