Archive for the ‘Merle Haggard’ Category

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, “Poncho and Lefty”

Friday, September 4th, 2015

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, “Django and Jimmie” on vinyl

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015


Willie Nelson’s website has the new Django and Jimmie album on vinyl!

Get yours here:

Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Pancho and Lefty

Monday, August 31st, 2015

ponchoBy  John Duffy
Sunday News

In 1983, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard recorded the hit album “Pancho & Lefty,” the cover of which shows the two country legends against a desert backdrop, Nelson smiling and Haggard working his characteristic stoic grimace. The best of friends.

The title song, however, was written in 1972 by the late Townes Van Zandt, and explores the consequences of betrayal. When Nelson and Haggard pull into the York Fairgrounds this Friday as part of their Last of the Breed Tour, they will no doubt perform the song along with numerous other hits.

Country-rocker Steve Earle once called Van Zandt the greatest American songwriter ever, “and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.” Van Zandt is rumored to have replied that he had met Dylan and his bodyguards, and that there was little chance Earle would ever get near his coffee table.

Despite his well-known sense of humor, Van Zandt wrote some of the most hopeless and haunting songs in the country and folk songbooks. He was an American poet of the first order. Thorny, witty and relentlessly self-destructive, he was one of those artists who achieves ultimate recognition through the work of others.

Van Zandt was one of the songwriters every country crooner wanted to be, and “Pancho and Lefty” is the song everyone sang, including Emmylou Harris, Hoyt Axton, Delbert McClinton and bluegrass supergroup Old & In the Way. Â

Nanci Griffith gave a teary version on national television shortly after Townes died of heart failure in 1994.  Dylan has even performed it on several occasions, the ultimate nod. Nelson and Dylan played it together on their recent tours together.

But perhaps the most memorable version of the song is the one Nelson and Haggard took to the top of the country charts. While the rest of the album is filled with workmanlike (though never unpleasant) efforts, the duo’s version of “Pancho & Lefty” remains strong today.

The song is the ultimate Old West fable, professing the lessons of loyalty and betrayal, the inescapability of consequence and the twisted nature of notoriety.

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In 1983, Nelson and Haggard were near the zeniths of their popular careers, ensconced in middle age, though in fine voice, and rapidly approaching a time when they would seem anachronistic next to mainstream country artists. Together they sing “Pancho & Lefty” as if spinning a yarn from some lonely barstool: Pancho was a bandit boys/ His horse was fast as polished steel/ Wore his gun outside his pants/ For all the honest world to feel.

Pancho is finally killed, we are led to believe, by Mexican police with the assistance of a man called Lefty. Even if he didn’t pull the trigger, Lefty is somehow complicit in Pancho’s death.

Lefty escapes to Cleveland with money nobody can account for. There he grows old, forgotten and living in a cheap rooming house, while Pancho, whose dying words no one heard, is celebrated in song and verse: The poets tell how Pancho fell/ Lefty’s livin’ in a cheap hotel/ The desert’s quiet and Cleveland’s cold/ So the story ends we’re told.

The final verse implores the listener to say a few prayers for Pancho, but to save some for Lefty, too, because he “only did what he had to do.”

When Nelson and Haggard perform the song this week, some will be listening for the prophetic overtones of men growing old and passing their winter years with memories of triumph and regret. But unlike Lefty, the sacrifices of these two performers have yielded great results.

Haggard has always been candid about the twists and turns in his life: how he fought off temptation when offered the chance to escape from a California jail, having been in and out of correctional facilities for much of his youth. Haggard chose not to escape, vowing instead to turn his life around through music.

Nelson nearly gave up on music when he couldn’t fit in with Nashville’s “countrypolitan” scene of the early 1960s. He found refuge in Texas and the outlaw movement of the 1970s.  Nelson’s more recent public stand regarding his marijuana use and a fiercely anticonservative streak through his work with Farm Aid have no doubt cost him a few fans in Middle America.

But despite their choices, or perhaps because of them, Haggard and Nelson will themselves be the subject of song for future generations of poets like Van Zandt.

Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Ray Price will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, at the York Fairgrounds, 334 Carlisle Ave., York. The concert opens the 2007 York Fair, which runs through Sept. 16. For more information, call 848-2596.

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard on Tour

Sunday, August 30th, 2015


AUSTIN – Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard are set to tour this fall in support of their recent ‘Django and Jimmie’ album, according to Rolling Stone.

Nelson, 82, and Haggard, 78, will tour in mid to late-October, with Nelson performing an additional solo show Thanksgiving weekend in Fort Worth.

Dates for the ‘Django and Jimmie’ Tour:

  • Oct. 15: Florence Civic Center; Florence, S.C.
  • Oct. 16: Berglund Center Coliseum; Roanoke, Va.
  • Oct. 17: Santander Arena; Reading, Penn.
  • Oct. 21: Indiana University Auditorium; Bloomington, Ind.
  • Oct. 23: Eastern Kentucky Expo Center; Pikeville, Ky.
  • Oct. 24: Milwaukee Theatre; Milwaukee
  • Oct. 25: Theatre at the Resch Center; Green Bay, Wis.
  • Nov. 28: Billy Bob’s Texas; Fort Worth (without Merle Haggard)

Go here for more information from Nelson’s website

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard on tour

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

by:  Andrew Leahy

Two months after the release of Django and Jimmie, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard are hitting the highway for a joint tour.

The shows run from October 15th through November 28th, mostly centered around multipurpose arenas whose seating capacities range as high as 10,000. That’s significantly larger than most of the venues Nelson and Haggard play during their solo tours. As they move into their golden years, though, Nelson, 82, and Haggard, 78, have no reason not to go big.

The two have been working together for decades, officially kicking off their partnership with 1983’s career-boosting Pancho & Lefty. At the time, Nelson had already recorded more than a half-dozen duets albums with other country icons, including San Antonio Rose with Ray Price and Waylon & Willie with fellow outlaw Waylon Jennings. Even so, Pancho & Lefty was a different beast. Released during a time when country artists were beginning to borrow more and more heavily from pop music, the album doubled down on twang and dusty cowboy imagery, bringing a sense of old-school honky tonk back to a rapidly modernizing genre. Over the years, Nelson and Haggard have collaborated again and again, with this summer’s Django and Jimmie marking their sixth album of duets.

The Django and Jimmie tour kicks off in Florence, South Carolina, then makes an arc across the southwest and Midwest before coming to a close in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s Django and Jimmie Tour dates:

October 15 – Florence, SC @ Florence Civic Center

October 16 – Roanoke, VA @ Berglund Center Coliseum

October 17 – Reading, PA @ Santander Arena

October 21 – Bloomington, IN @ TBA

October 23 – Pikeville, KY @ Eastern Kentucky Expo Center

October 24 – Milwaukee, WI @ Milwaukee Theatre

October 25 – Green Bay, WI @ Theatre at the Resch Center

November 28 – Fort Worth, TX @ Billy Bob’s Texas

Read more:
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Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, “It’s Only Money”

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard announce Milwaukee Show on October 24, 2015

Monday, August 17th, 2015

by: Piet Levy

There’s no rest for the 82-year-old Red-Headed Stranger.

After headlining two shows at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino’s Northern Lights Theater a year ago this month–in addition to scores of other gigs and releasing two more albums–Willie Nelson is playing the Milwaukee Theatre on Oct. 24 with his family band. And this time, Merle Haggard, 78, will be joining him. The country legends collaborated on a new duets album, “Django and Jimmie,” which debuted at the top of the Billboard country charts in June.

Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are $49.50 to $98, available beginning at 10 a.m. Friday at the box office (500 W. Kilbourn Ave.), by calling (800) 745-3000 or visiting

Willie and Merle rock

Saturday, August 15th, 2015

by:  Edward Morris

Alert the media: The old guys still rock!

Willie Nelson 82, and Merle Haggard, 78, have the bestselling country album this week with Django and Jimmie, their buoyant tribute to their musical role models, Django Reinhardt and Jimmie Rodgers.

According to Nielsen SoundScan, the album sold 30,408 copies its first week out.



Win a Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard, “Django and Jimmie” Poster

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015


Enter to win a autographed 12 x 12 album flat of Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s new album Django and Jimmie!

Enter contest here

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, “Where Dreams Go to Die”

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

“>”How did a friendly game of dominoes inspire the song “Where Dreams Go To Die” from ‘Django And Jimmie’? Watch the clip to find out.”

Posted by Merle Haggard on Facebook

Merle Haggard at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

photo: Janis Tillerson

It would be incredible enough to get to spend the fourth of July with Willie Nelson and his family, and hear the play music, but he always piles it on and turns it into a magical gathering of great musicians. This year, he invited Merle Haggard to perform, and joined him at the end of his set to perform. These photos are from Merle’s set, taken by Janis.

photo: Janis Tillerson

photo: Janis Tillerson



Thank you, Janis from Texas for your great photos.

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard on the Fourth of July 2015

Monday, July 6th, 2015

photo: Janis Tillerson

Willie Nelson thrilled the picnic crowd when he joined Merle Haggard at the end of his set and sang, “Poncho and Lefty” and “It’s All Going to Pot”, and one other song I can’t remember right now.

photo: Janis Tillerson

photo: Janis from Texas

photo: Janis Tillerson

Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic 2015

Monday, July 6th, 2015

erikarich2photo:  Erika Rich
See more great photos from Erika here.
by: Peter Blackstock

For a solid 10 hours, everything went off without a hitch Saturday at the first Picnic at the Racetrack. Returning to Austin for the first time in five years, Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic booked a remarkably strong lineup at Circuit of the Americas, and around 20,000 fans turned out to join in the celebration.

After the sun went down, though, everything went a little haywire. The Picnic crew had made it through 20 acts without ever falling more than 10 minutes behind, admirably shuffling short sets by the first 10 performers from 11:15 a.m. to just past 3 p.m. on a makeshift stage in the venue’s Grand Plaza. A wide grass lawn offered plenty of room for standing or sitting, plus quite a few picnic tables in back.

After 3 p.m., sets began rotating between the plaza and the main Austin360 Amphitheater stage. Things stayed on track for another six hours, as legends such as Kris Kristofferson, Leon Russell and Billy Joe Shaver split time with a superb cast of rising stars including Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and Kacey Musgraves.

It was after Musgraves’ terrific 8 p.m. set that the back-and-forth shuffle between the two stages ceased, and the crew couldn’t keep up with the pace the rest of the way. A scheduled 15-minute reset on the main stage between Musgraves and Merle Haggard stretched to almost 40 minutes. By the time a scheduled short fireworks display followed Haggard’s set, the show was a full hour behind.

Adding to the down side was the necessity of sitting through an hour of Eric Church before Willie and his family band brought the show to its natural apex. Context is everything: When Church played the iHeartRadio Country Festival at the Erwin Center last year, he stood out as one of the night’s better acts, sounding about as good as mainstream country radio has to offer. But set against the likes of the Picnic’s otherwise brilliantly assembled lineup of songwriters, his songs about drinkin’ a cold one, drinkin’ a product-placement brand of whiskey and just drinkin’ the drink in his hand revealed him to be an empty suit.

For brief moments, he tried to break out, such as when he prefaced his quasi-anthem “Springsteen” with a heartfelt run through the first verse and chorus of Robert Earl Keen’s “Corpus Christi Bay” that begged for a full rendition. And he chose wisely in his set closer with The Band’s “The Weight,” inviting late-afternoon main stage highlight Chris Stapleton back out to sing one of the verses.

It was with Stapleton’s 4:40 p.m. set that the Picnic fully hit its stride. Kris Kristofferson had played the first set on the Amphitheater stage immediately before, performing solo with no fanfare but setting a proper tone that if you’re going to play Willie’s Picnic, you better bring along some top-shelf original songs. Stapleton, who’s written a lot of hits for other artists but is just now getting his shot in the spotlight with his acclaimed album “Traveller,” proved up to the task, shining with a soulful backing band that brought out the drama of songs such as “Nobody to Blame” and the record’s title track.

Next on the big stage was Sturgill Simpson, whose recent sold-out Stubb’s shows and “Austin City Limits” taping showcased a 2014 breakthrough album “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” that brilliantly synthesizes country and psychedelia. Simpson mostly avoided the latter on this day, choosing instead to delve more into his bluegrass roots — “I know we’re in Texas, but I’m from Kentucky!” he explained — in a 40-minute set that spotlighted his full-throated vocals and his band’s hot picking.

From a pure songwriting perspective, no one beat the main stage’s next performer, reigning Americana Music Association Artist of the Year Jason Isbell. As much as his 2013 album “Southeastern” sparked a career peak, it’s his upcoming “Something More Than Free,” due July 17, that stands to launch him into another league, judging from Saturday’s renditions of the album’s passionate title track and the spectacular first single, “24 Frames.” Isbell also reached back to his Drive-By Truckers days for “Outfit” and “Decoration Day,” both of which offered fitting alternate-view perspectives on the Independence Day atmosphere.

Amid this auspicious stretch of main stage up-and-comers was a strong anchor of sets from Picnic mainstays on the smaller stage. In succession, the swelling plaza crowd was treated to the classic honky-tonk of Johnny Bush, the outlaw mysticism of Billy Joe Shaver, the piano Hank-and-Stones shuffle of Leon Russell and the western swing revival of Asleep at the Wheel. Closing out the Plaza Stage run just before sundown was Jamey Johnson, who smartly kept the backing low-key so his vocals could shine on stirring covers of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

That was a perfect segue into the big-stage performance of Musgraves, who’s all the rage even in mainstream country circles these days but is smart enough not to lower herself to that common denominator. Dressed for the part in a spangly starred white outfit that played off her new album’s “Pageant Material” title, Musgraves proved fully worthy of a Picnic headlining slot with smart songs such as “Mama’s Broken Heart” and “Step Off” that pointedly refrained from Nashville bombast-and-cliche. And when she got to her smash hit “Follow Your Arrow,” it was a perfect fit for Willie’s Picnic, with its sly little exhortation in the chorus to “roll up a joint.”

It was all downhill from there, with the way-too-long pause before Haggard’s decent but unremarkable set sparked primarily by Willie’s cameo at the end for Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho & Lefty” and the novel single “It’s All Going to Pot” from their chart-topping new duo album. The fireworks, and Church’s lack thereof, chased some of the crowd home before Willie finally took the stage at 12:23 a.m. on July 5 – though the vast majority of the crowd did stick around in a heartfelt show of solidarity for their beloved host.

He and his Family Band — pianist Bobbie Nelson, harmonica player Mickey Raphael, bassist Kevin Smith and drummer/percussionists Paul and Billy English — rewarded them with about an hour of trademark Willie, from the obligatory “Whiskey River” and “On the Road Again” to medleys of his own timeless classics (“Funny How Time Slips Away”/“Crazy”/“Night Life”) and those of Hank Williams. Around 1:15 a.m., an official came onstage and apparently obliged them to wrap things up, so Willie invited out performers still on hand backstage including Kristofferson, Johnson and Church for “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “I’ll Fly Away” before a finale that he described as “my new gospel song” — “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”

A quick look at early-afternoon highlights, which featured 15-to-20-minute sets from a cross-section of performers:

Three-named Texans Ray Wylie Hubbard and David Allan Coe got the Picnic faithful smiling and dancing with hallmark numbers such as “Screw You, We’re From Texas” and “Take This Job and Shove It,” respectively. A trio of Nelson family acts helped the crowd ease into the heat of the afternoon, with Paula Nelson paying tribute to Waylon Jennings and Mickey Newbury after Raelyn Nelson rocked out on Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” and the duo “Folk Uke” (Amy Nelson and Cathy Guthrie, Arlo’s daughter) sang comic songs that were mostly unprintable but quite entertaining. Sirius/XM DJ Dallas Wayne, a fine songwriter in his own right, played two excellent tunes and deserved more time. Armadillo World Headquarters veterans Greezy Wheels played a short but energetic set that helped put the Picnic in historical perspective. And Hudson Moore, Amber Digby and Pauline Reese provided a spark for those just arriving to the Circuit of the Americas grounds before noon.

Despite the late-night scheduling snafu, COTA proved a good spot for the Picnic, though its outrageous concessions prices are a failing grade on an otherwise strong report card. If a family of four spent the full day at the picnic and needed two meals, a couple of snacks, a few beers and sodas, and consistent hydration from bottled water — there are a few water fountains on site, but they’re tucked away — just the cost of those essentials could easily run $200-$300 for the day. With no food or drink allowed in, that amounts to racetrack robbery.

American-Statesman/ staffer Dave Thomas contributed to this report.




Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

by:  Holly Gleason

“Everybody wants to be wilder than it’s accepted to be,” Merle Haggard, raggedy growl tempered with warmth, says without ceremony. “They wanna do and be more than people think is right. You know that saying ‘Well behaved women seldom make history’? It’s not just for women, you know.”

It’s afternoon in Lake Shasta, Calif., and Haggard has been kept twice as long by reporters as he was supposed to be. But the cantankerous legend is in a joyous mood, and he’s willing to ponder his reputation in light of Django & Jimmie, his duo project with Willie Nelson that hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums and No. 7 on the Top 200 Albums charts.

“Well-behaved men?” asks Haggard incredulously. “Never been around ’em. Step out of line, you’ll be remembered because you stood out! Though as old as I am, it’s hard to step anywhere, let alone out.”

Haggard laughs a dust cloud of red dirt, hard life and light. It rolls down the phone line like a tumble weed. Cagey even at 78, he’s not beyond a joke, even if it’s on him.

Of course, he and Nelson weren’t afraid to mix it up a little, leveraging their elder status to drop “It’s All Going To Pot” back in April. The song, as much social commentary as an endorsement of smoking dope over other highs, is a frolic that uses common sense and humor to make points beyond the obvious.

“That’s one of those [songs] you just know people are going to love,” Nelson says with a chuckle from his bus somewhere in Idaho a few weeks later. “I’m surprised how fast medical marijuana is going, and decriminalization…People are figuring out it isn’t going away, I guess.

“Plus there’s a whole lot of money those bottom-liners can pick up, and that works for some people. Colorado’s doing very well and showing the rest of the country how this can go. Other parts of the world are more evolved and handle it, like Israel and Copenhagen…Here we’re a little dumber, a little more redneck in our attitudes. There are medical benefits, everything else.”

Haggard, more hardcore honky tonk to Nelson’s zen country, is even more direct: “I like the insinuation of giving up pills and giving up whiskey, that stuff. The financial aspects of the alcohol industry, the Valium and Diazepam people, that’s big business. But Grandma doesn’t get whipped and the little girl doesn’t get molested when people are high.

“And now that people are seeing the industrial reality? The monetary implications are immense.”

But beyond the clever Buddy Cannon/Shawn Camp/Jamey Johnson song, there’s much more to their collaborating. Having recorded five albums together over 50 years, including 1983’s No. 1 Pancho & Lefty, they tap a vein of creativity that brings out the best in each other. On Django & Jimmie, each covers one of the other’s classics: Haggard does “Family Bible” and Nelson roadhouses “Swinging Doors,” as well as a freewheeling take on Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”

“There are things that don’t get considered on our own,” Haggard explains. “We’re both writers and we have an excellent understanding of great songs, so when you bring us together, our focus isn’t on who wrote it, but what’s there and how does it work? Like a love song? We can sing it together. It’s about her, the woman you love, which is different than to her.”

Nelson concurs. “There’s a creative thing that happens. When you can do something with another person [like Haggard], something comes from that creative energy. It’s pretty simple like that: two people can make more music than one!”

And for all the classics and covers, it is the new songs like “Wilder,” “Where Dreams Go To Die” and “Unfair Weather Friend” that show both icons firing at the top of their creative game. The LP also captures the essence of the Man in Black in “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash” with guest vocals from Bobby Bare, Nelson’s shufflin’ blues on “It’s Only Money,” and the crux of Haggard and Nelson’s relationship on “The Only Man Wilder Than Me.”

Culling some of Nashville’s best players, employing Nelson’s longtime producer Buddy Cannon, and setting up in Austin, the pair decided to have fun and savor the songs. Though there are no plans for the future, they’re enjoying the moment just fine.

“I write a little bit every day,” Nelson says. “It may not be any good, but I write and I get it out. When there’s something to write I try to put it down…and it feels good.

“Here we are with a No. 1 record, and that’s inspiring. The idea people want to hear what you have to say. Especially since we’re not getting any AM or FM airplay, really. I wanna enjoy this one for a little bit, just enjoy it without moving on to the next thing.”

Additionally, Haggard offers, “I’d like to leave a legacy of something. I can picture the music in my heart…I think it’ll keep my legacy alive. You look at Gene Autrey and Lefty Frizzell, Bob Wills and Ernest Tubb, those people playing dance halls when America was still really alive, that lasts.

“Willie and I both started playing music and got our first jobs trying to be guitar players, not singers, not songwriters, not stars. So people like Django and Roy Nichols were important to us both. We chased the same heroes and it shows. It’s why it’s the perfect title song for the album.”

In the end, the music still matters to them—mixing it up with good players, taking their songs out on the road. Nelson acknowledges the power and the draw of what both men are known for.

“I think it keeps you young! Something that makes you sing along, clap your hands and jump up and down? Nothing else does that, and when you’re doing that, you’re feeling alive.”

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, “Django and Jimmie”

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard's new album, Django And Jimmie, comes out June 2

Merle Haggard: “They might not give us a grammy.”

Willie Nelson: “They’ll give us a crumby. They’ll throw us a crumb.”

Get this great cd, if you haven’t yet: