Some Static for Deejays


Merle Haggard sounded slyly pleased at the turn his career has taken since country radio stopped playing his records several years ago, along with those of most country singers over 40.

“I’ve noticed a great increase in my popularity, and my integrity has gone up quite a bit since radio quit playing me,” he said between shows Monday at the Crazy Horse Steak House in Santa Ana.

The Bard of Bakersfield has been honored with two all-star tribute albums in recent years, and Tuesday night the Nashville Network premiered its own two-hour salute, “Workin’ Man--A Tribute to Merle Haggard,” which repeats April 6.


“Now the rock ‘n’ roll deejays play Merle Haggard more than country deejays do,” he said. “I think it sounds better on rock stations than what they’re playing on country stations.”

Haggard has left an indelible mark in country music, both as the model for a generation of singers who have followed him, from John Anderson to George Strait to Clint Black, and as the writer of nearly 400 songs, many of them now country standards.

He sees songwriting as the great failing of today’s country music.

“What we need is a good song. It seems like country music used to be able to produce more of those with fewer artists a lot more often. . . .

“A lot of country stations [at first] wouldn’t play that LeAnn Rimes song ‘Blue’ because it didn’t fit with their formula of what a song should sound like,” Haggard said, forming the outline of a box with his fingers, “yet it was the biggest song in the world at the time.

“But the longer they don’t play my stuff on the radio, the more people want to come to the shows to hear it,” he said. “It’s like a fix. They need it.”