The band came out first, dressed in dark suits. They warmed up the crowd with a couple songs before Merle Haggard came on stage. He also wore a suit. Underneath his jacket, instead of white shirt and tie, he sported a red hoodie sweatshirt, white drawstrings hanging down. The hood flopped in the back; a cowboy hat was pulled down over his gray mane.
The Sunset Center in Carmel-by-the Sea is a long way from Bakersfield by most any measure. This show attracted more cowboy boots than had ever been inside the venue. Haggard prefaced the song “Workin’ Man Blues” by saying people in Carmel might not understand it, but then “You probably did all your working before you got to Carmel.”
He closed the show with the provocative “Okie From Muskogee.” Haggard’s parents came from Oklahoma to Oildale, California, where Merle was born. He introduced the song by saying he had written it for his father. He instructed the audience to sing the first line, “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee.” He said that wasn’t loud enough and to do it again. We did, with more enthusiasm. Haggard finished the song by stating he doesn’t smoke marijuana much any more.
Click here for a later version of “Okie” with Marty Stuart and Willie Nelson.
The Washington Redskins controversy still simmers. The team’s owners are adamant that the name is not derogatory to Native Americans. A majority of NFL fans argue that the name is benign. Most people with “reddish” skin find it offensive.
Of course, I have no idea what the cool kids are wearing. (I admit to feeling bad for so many young women who can’t afford to buy new jeans and are forced to go around wearing pants with rips all over the legs.) I do see a lot of high-schoolers with “Hollister” featured prominently on their clothes. It makes me wonder if the people buying the Hollister brand would be so eager to display it if they had ever been to Hollister, California.
I’ve visited Memphis several times in the past few years. Beale Street has lately been spiffed up to be more attractive to tourists, Disneyfied, if you will. Sun Studios and Graceland draw crowds. W.C. Handy’s home on Beale, though not as grand as Elvis’s, is still open to visitors.
On Mulberry Street, less than a mile from Mr. Handy’s home and the $350-a-night Beale Street Westin Hotel, is the National Civil Rights Museum, formerly the Lorraine Motel. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered there on April 4, 1968.