Legendary country singer Merle Haggard died today at 79. Here are four profiles of the master, by four master writers, that follow him through the years.
Aaron Gilbreath | Longreads | June 2015 | 18 minutes (4,437 words)
I came here looking for something
I couldn’t find anywhere else.
Hey, I’m not tryin’ to be nobody
I just want a chance to be myself.
─Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens, “Streets of Bakersfield”
On North Chester Avenue in Oildale, California, an 83-year-old honky-tonk named Trout’s stands down the block from a saloon with an aged western facade, and across the street from a liquor store that sells booze and Mexican candy.
Trout’s opened in 1931 to give hard-working locals a place to dance and drink and unwind to live music. During the 1950s and ’60s, local country music legends Buck Owens and Merle Haggard played Trout’s, in their own bands and others, and kept people dancing while helping popularize the raw, propulsive style known as the Bakersfield Sound. Read more…