When you have a career as long and splendid as that of Merle Haggard, it is difficult to pick favorites. Almost alone among country artists, Haggard’s albums were universally full of strong material. Some of his finest endeavors were album tracks that never received airplay

My favorites (in order)

01 I Can’t Be Myself
02 Mama Tried
03 Strangers
04 Sing Me Back Home
05 Working Man Blues
06 Emptiest Arms In The World
07 Sidewalks of Chicago
08 Footlights
09 It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad)
10 Today I Started Loving You Again
11 Cherokee Maiden
12 The Bottle Let Me Down
13 The Fugitive
14 I Threw Away The Rose
15 The Fighting Side of Me
16 I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink
17 Just Between The Two of Us (with Bonnie Owens)
18 Grandma Harp
19 Kentucky Gambler
20 I Take A Lot of Pride In What I Am
21 The Legend of Bonnie & Clyde
22 In My Next Life
23 Shelly’s Winter Love
24 Daddy Frank
25 Let’s Chase Each Other ‘Round The Room Tonight (with Leona Williams)
26 If We Make It Through December
27 Runaway Mama
28 California Blues
29 Everybody’s Had The Blues
30 Swinging Doors
31 The Way It Was In ‘51
32. In My Next Life
33. Turnin’ Off A Memory
34. Live This Long
35. Sick, Sober & Sorry (with George Jones)
36. Too Many Bridges To Cross Over
37. I Could Have Gone Right
38. Jimmie Brown The Newsboy (with Mac Wiseman
38. Two Old Christian Soldiers (with Mac Wiseman)
39. Okie From Muskogee
40. They’re Tearing The Labor Camps Down


I received an email from a reader recently asking me to tell a little about myself. About that time I received an email from a friend posing the following questions about various favorites. I thought I’d share my answers to her survey with you:

Colors: Green, light blue

Movies: Casablanca, Harvey

TV Shows: Taxi, WKRP, NCIS , CSI New Orleans , Gunsmoke, Major League Baseball

Actors: John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Glenn Ford, James Garner, Henry Fonda, Bruce Campbell, Bruce McGill, Charlton Heston

Actresses: Lee Remick, Jane Seymour, Bette Davis

Female Vocalists: Patsy Cline, Leona Williams, Jean Shepard, Connie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn

Male Vocalists: Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Val Doonican, Statler Brothers, Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves, Red Foley, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Dean Martin, Lefty Frizzell, Ricky Skaggs, Hank Williams Sr., Jimmie Rodgers , Charlie Pride

Musicians: Jimmy Capps, Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins, Floyd Cramer, Weldon Myrick, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden, Speedy West

Animals: cats (all breeds)

Cars: indifferent although I’d like to own a 1955 Plymouth or a 1939 Packard

Historical Figure: Jesus Christ

Past Times: spending time with friends and family and cats , watching football and baseball

Hobbies: music

Holiday: Christmas, Easter

Radio Personality: Eddie Stubbs, Ralph Emery, Dallas Wayne, Ranger Doug

Sports Teams: Navy , Boston Red Sox , New England Patriots, Miami Marlins, UCF, Stetson

Expressions: – I left this one blank

Cologne: none

Breakfasts: black coffee, fried eggs over medium, crispy bacon, hash browns or home fries

Lunches: bacon, lettuce & tomato sandwiches, Chick Fil-A, chili, Jersey Mile’s subs, pizza

Dinners: fried chicken, fried catfish, black eyed peas, cornbread, collard or turnip greens, baked potatoes, pork chops, BBQ pork, rolladen

Desserts: pineapple upside down cake, cherry, peach or pecan pies and cobblers (I rarely eat desserts)

Snacks: original Cheese-Its, original Fritos, almonds

Restaurants: German , Italian and BBQ

Shopping: Target, Amazon


By Paul W. Dennis

During the mid-1960s RCA attempted to catch the dying embers of the ‘Hootenanny’ movement of the early 1960s by positioning their artists to appeal to both country and folk audiences. Obviously this wasn’t a strategy that could be employed for every RCA country artist, but there were some artists such as George Hamilton IV, Bobby Bare and Waylon Jennings who (sort of) straddled the line between folk and country.

Folk-Country was Waylon’s debut album for RCA, released in March 1966, preceded by 1965 chart singles “That’s The Chance I’ll Have To Take”, “Stop The World And Let Me Off” and “Anita You’re Dreaming”. The first two singles would show up on Waylon’s debut album.

Around the time Folk-Country was released, RCA had signed Don Bowman to the label. Bowman and Jennings had been friends for a number of years and Bowman, an extraordinary comic (with a very offbeat sense of humor) and a pretty good songwriter, supplied Waylon with three songs on the debut album.

The album opens up with the Harlan Howard tune “Another Bridge To Burn” which most will remember as a Ray Price classic. Waylon isn’t in Ray’s league as a pure vocalist, but the song definitely works

“Stop The World and Let Me Off” a Carl Belew classic, was Waylon’s first top twenty single, reaching #16. I think Waylon’s version is the definitive version of the song.

Waylon had a hand in writing several songs on this album. “Cindy of New Orleans” was a solo endeavor by Jennings

“Look Into My Teardrops” was one of Conway Twitty’s early efforts to have a country hit. Written by Don Bowman and Harlan Howard, it has always been one of my favorite Conway Twitty recordings. Waylon does a fine job on the song, although the song fits Conway’s voice better.

“Down Came the World” is a Bozo Darnell-Waylon Jennings collaboration

Not everything from the pen of Harlan Howard was a classic, as witness “I Don’t Mind”. It is not a bad song, it’s just nothing special

“Just for You” was a Waylon Jennings, Don Bowman and Jerry “Swamp Dog” Williams collaboration

Don Bowman was the sole writer of “Now Everybody Knows”

The first single off the album was Waylon’s solo composition “That’s the Chance I’ll Have to Take”, which nudged onto the charts at #49. It is an excellent song that might have been a substantial hit had it been released later in Waylon’s career. Quite a few artists covered the song as an album track, most notably Charlie Pride, whose version rivals Waylon’ as the definitive version of the song.

“What Makes a Man Wander” is a Harlan Howard composition that I first heard performed by Harlan’s then-wife Jan Howard. I think the song works a little better sung from the distaff side, but Waylon acquits himself well on the song

The first version of “Man of Constant Sorrow” that I recall hearing was Waylon’s version of the song. WCMS disc jockey “Carolina Charlie” Wiggs liked Waylon’s version of the song and played it occasionally. To this day, I still like Waylon’s understated version of the song better than any of the more bombastic versions.

The album closes with the Harlan Howard composition “What’s Left of Me”

There was a tendency for RCA recording artists to have musical accompaniments that sounded very similar. This was due to the use of RCA’s studio musicians. While RCA had some truly excellent musicians in its stable, the use of these musicians (along with string and choral arrangements) resulted in recordings whose sound the artists could not replicate in live performance. Waylon (along with Willie Nelson and some others) would address this problem in the future, but at this stage of the game, none of them had sufficient leverage (or a sufficient track record) to exert that kind of influence. Truly distinctive voices such as Waylon Jennings and Charley Pride could cut through the background clutter, but most of the smooth voiced vocalists (Eddy Arnold, Stu Phillips, Jim Ed Brown) tended to make recordings that any other similar such artist could have recorded. Even such unique vocalists as Don Gibson and Hank Locklin tended to get lost in the accompaniment.

That said, Waylon’s vocals make any of his albums stand out from the usual RCA fare. I would not regard Folk-Country as one of Waylon’s best albums, but it is a very good one, one that bears repeated play. I’d give it a B+ and I am grading a downward curve. There are many successful performers who never make an album as good as Folk-Country