Merle Haggard – Workin’ Man Blues

Merle Haggard had 38 number one hits, 71 top ten hits, and 101 songs in the top 100 in the country charts. I don’t listen to many country artists but Merle I do… Haggard wrote the song as a tribute to his working-class fan base. When the guitar riff starts up…I am hooked. Workin’ Man Blues” was a track on Haggard’s 1969 album A Portrait of Merle Haggard.

Haggard took the lead guitar lines himself, augmented by the great session player James Burton, who had made his reputation playing on all Ricky Nelson‘s great early hits and also played for Elvis Presley.

Lewis Talley added a third guitar on the track, with bass by Chuck Berghofer;  the drummer was Jim Gordon, known for his work with Delaney & Bonnie and as a member of Derek and the Dominos.

The song peaked at #1 in the Hot 100 Country Charts and #1 in the  Canadian RPM Country Tracks in 1969.

From Songfacts

“Working Man Blues” is about as obviously aimed as you can get, at the core audience of his fans, being blue-collar workers. Even at that, Haggard poses for the cover of the single in full business suit, tie, watch, and all. It’s sort of a cool solidarity with the audience, and a sympathetic bit of self-deprecating humor – “Don’t I look ridiculous like this?” The suit even seems to be tailored in a just-this-side-of-dandy fashion, just to make the point.

“Working Man Blues” is an excellent example of the country music sub-genre known as the “Bakersfield Sound.” Bakersfield, California was the locus of a back-to-basics breed of Country music in the ’60s and ’70s, popularized by Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, and the Buckaroos. It was kind of a “punking” of Country music, removing the slick studio production to focus on the bare essentials.

You can’t believe it thanks to the urban sprawl and metropolitan development today, but Bakersfield was once just as rural as the name suggests. As recently as 1970, it was just ranches and farms, from the freeway to the horizon, with a few “wide places in the road” for buildings. Today it’s the same smoggy concrete jungle that the rest of California is.

Haggard had an amazing work ethic, firing off an average of three albums in the space of a year. Critics noted that the prolific pace didn’t hurt the quality; music critic Mark Deming noted that a performer would be lucky to have the hits spanning a career that Haggard could pack into one album.

Working Man Blues

It’s a big job just gettin’ by with nine kids and a wife
I been a workin’ man dang near all my life 
I’ll be working long as my two hands are fit to use 
I’ll drink my beer in a tavern, 
Sing a little bit of these working man blues

I keep my nose on the grindstone, I work hard every day
Might get a little tired on the weekend, after I draw my pay
But I’ll go back workin, come Monday morning I’m right back with the crew
I’ll drink a little beer that evening, 
Sing a little bit of these working man blues

Hey hey, the working man, the working man like me
I ain’t never been on welfare, that’s one place I won’t be
Cause I’ll be working long as my two hands are fit to use
I drink a little beer in a tavern
Sing a little bit of these working man blues

Sometimes I think about leaving, do a little bummin’ around
I wanna throw my bills out the window catch a train to another town
But I go back working I gotta buy my kids a brand new pair of shoes
Yeah drink a little beer in a tavern,
Cry a little bit of these working man blues

Hey hey, the working man, the working man like me
I ain’t never been on welfare, that’s one place I won’t be
Cause I’ll be working long as my two hands are fit to use
I drink a little beer in a tavern
Sing a little bit of these working man blues
Yeah drink a little beer in a tavern,
Cry a little bit of these working man blues

Author: badfinger20

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

16 thoughts on “Merle Haggard – Workin’ Man Blues”

      1. That made my day! I’ve never seen Merle so loose and happy as that. It surprised me when Cash came out…I was half expecting it but still…lot of talent on that stage…

        off topic of course… I’m posting Jailhouse Rock tomorrow. Billboard does not list it as number 1…but other sites do… I then found this…We talked about the chart positions before…Elvis fans are pissed off… they are discounting many of the 50s hits.
        https://www.elvis.com.au/presley/billboard-change-rules-and-cheats-elvis-of-ten-10-number-one-hits.shtml

        Like

      2. He was good…they are on…loved the Marty Robbins one.

        It only lists him as 7 number ones now… He should have 18… I thought 7 was really low. I will admit…if they took a Beatle number 1 away I would be pissed lol… really pissed.

        Like

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