Monday, April 8, 2019

A small tribute to country music legend Merle Haggard by Kaye Spencer #classiccountry #countrymusic #westernfictioneers

April 6, 1937 and April 6, 2016 are significant dates for those of us whose country music roots are in what I call 'classic country'...

Merle Haggard was born on this day, and he died on the same day 82 years later.

Merle Haggard - 1971
Country Music Association, Merle Haggard in 1971,
marked as public domain, more details on
Wikimedia Commons

I'm not going to talk about Merle's life in this article, as it is easy enough to do an Internet search and read more in depth biographies of his life than I need to synthesize and summarize here.

Merle Haggard - 2010
U.S. federal government, Merle Haggard 2010, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

What I am going to share is a comparison of his song Mama Tried to Johnny Paycheck's song of similar theme, The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised.

Both songs are iconic of each artist and each song tells the lamentable story of grown men (or women) looking back on the bad choices they made in their younger lives despite the best guiding efforts of their mothers to raise them right and keep them on the 'straight and narrow'.
Both narrators have gotten sideways of the law and, while it seems what they are sorriest about is getting caught, there is a hint of guilt that they cause their mothers sadness and grief. But the dirty deeds they've done in their lives can't be undone so Que Sera Sera.

Mama Tried was released in July 1968 as the first single and title track from Merle Haggard's album, Mama Tried, and it became one of the cornerstone songs of his career.* The song entered the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Two weeks before Merle died in 2016, the song was preserved in the National Recording Registry due to it's 'cultural, historic, and/or artistic significance"*.

While this song is not autobiographical, Merle did serve time in San Quentin and he did lament the pain it caused his mother. Merle was among the "Outlaw Movement" artists of the 1970s. The song was his fifth Number 1 hit on the Billboard magazine Hot Country Single chart in August 1968.

The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised by Johnny Paycheck, who was also considered one of the members of the "Outlaw Movement" artists**. He received an Academy of County Music Career Achievement award in 1977**. The song was on is on the album, Slide off of Your Satin Sheets and, as a single, it reached Number 8 on the U.S. Country charts in 1977****.

For your viewing and listening entertainment...

Until next time,

 Kaye Spencer

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Resources Disclaimer – Reader discretion advised:
Some information in this article relies primarily upon that model of excellence in accuracy itself, Wikipedia.
**Wikipedia: and


  1. It's always interesting to see how artists deal with similar subject matter. These two are both pretty amazing. Thanks for the chance to hear them both. Doris

    1. It is interesting to compare songs that have similar themes. Over a several week period about this time last year, I wrote song comparisons and posted them on my blog. Maybe I'll start that up again... Thanks for stopping by to comment. ;-)

  2. I grew up on classic country as well. It was the only thing that my parents listened to. The “outlaws” of country were the best of the best. I didn’t realize that Merle died on his birthday. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    1. Michael,
      I often take these trips down memory lane. As the comedian Steven Wright says, "Whenever I think of the past, it brings back so many memories." ;-) I grew up in a family of classic country listeners. Marty Robbins, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Ray Price, Slim Whitman, Jim Reeves... so many great ones. Thanks for commenting.