Merle Haggard – Okie From Muskogee

I will say it again today, unfortunately….our power has been out since Friday. Right now I’m using the last charge on my laptop with my phone as a hotspot. I called the county department and our electric company… over 200 trees were blown over on power lines. Some have electricity and some don’t…our road has a tree over the power lines. We are pretty much stuck here in the dark…Our electric company has called in help from other states…but right now all we can do is wait. This is a pic of my road. So I won’t be commenting much if any until there is once again power. Funny how we take some things for granted. 

Now I have to go to my car to charge my dying phone again.

Tree on lines

I almost didn’t post this song at all. Everyone knows that I’m non-political to the core. Even for a song that is over 50 years old… this one has drawn its admirers and haters. Was it a parody or was he serious? It goes both ways.

I always wondered if Merle Haggard was serious in this song. I really didn’t think he was totally and as it turns out he wasn’t on most of it. The song started as a joke but more and more people took it on face value and the song became huge. Merle said:  “‘Okie’ made me appear to be a person who was a lot more narrow-minded, possibly, than I really am.”

As Haggard and his band were going to Muskogg Oklahoma he and drummer Eddie Burris started to write this song as a parody. Haggard spotted a sign that read, Muskogee, 19 miles, and he joked to Burris that they probably didn’t smoke marijuana in the small town. The rest of the band joined in and threw out other activities that probably wouldn’t be happening in Muskogee, and because of the times they were in, talked about the Vietnam War.

There are things Haggard didn’t like though… he didn’t like the protesters giving soldiers a hard time when Vietnam was going on when they didn’t have a choice but to go. When Johnny Cash visited the White House, Nixon wanted him to play this song. Cash refused and later said the song was a lightning rod for the anti-hippie movement.

I remember it as a kid very well. Country radio would play it to death back then. I would just sing along because it’s super catchy. There are a few country artists I really like. Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Roy Clark, Buck Owens, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Loretta Lynn, Tanya Tucker, and the king of them all…Hank Williams Sr. I don’t care too much about what a fellow blogger…Jeff calls “Bro Country” which is on the airwaves now.

The song peaked at #1 in the Billboard Country music charts and #3 in the Canadian Country music charts in 1969-70.

I did find an interesting cover version by The Grateful Dead AND The Beach Boys together at the Fillmore in 1971. Mike Love is singing lead and you can hear Jerry Garcia’s guitar. The Dead also covered Mama Tried.

Merle Haggard: “We wrote it to be satirical originally. But then people latched onto it, and it really turned into this song that looked into the mindset of people so opposite of who and where we were. My dad’s people. He’s from Muskogee.”

Merle Haggard: “When I was in prison, I knew what it was like to have freedom taken away. During Vietnam, there were all kinds of protests. Here were these [servicemen] going over there and dying for a cause we don’t even know what it was really all about. And here are these young kids, that were free, bitching about it. There’s something wrong with that and with [disparaging] those poor guys. We were in a wonderful time in America and music was in a wonderful place. America was at its peak and what the hell did these kids have to complain about? These soldiers were giving up their freedom and lives to make sure others could stay free. I wrote the song to support those soldiers.”

Oki From Muskogee

We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee
We don’t take our trips on LSD
We don’t burn our draft cards down on Main Street
‘Cause we like livin’ right, and bein’ free

We don’t make a party out of lovin’
But we like holdin’ hands and pitchin’ woo
We don’t let our hair grow long and shaggy
Like the hippies out in San Francisco do

And I’m proud to be an Okie from Muskogee
A place where even squares can have a ball
We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse
And white lightnin’s still the biggest thrill of all

Leather boots are still in style for manly footwear
Beads and Roman sandals won’t be seen
And football’s still the roughest thing on campus
And the kids here still respect the college dean

And I’m proud to be an Okie from Muskogee
A place where even squares can have a ball
We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse
And white lightnin’s still the biggest thrill of all

And white lightnin’s still the biggest thrill of all
In Muskogee, Oklahoma, USA


Author: Badfinger (Max)

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

36 thoughts on “Merle Haggard – Okie From Muskogee”

  1. I saw Willie Nelson perform this just a few days after Merle died. The tour was originally supposed to be Wille and Merle but Merle got sick and had to drop off, and sadly didn’t make it through. I kind of always figured the song wasn’t entirely serious, I noticed a lot of people who probably should have been put off by it were into it, and Merle himself never seemed a lot like what he portrayed in the song.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. An even stronger statement (and less intentionally funny) was Merle’s “The Fightin’ Side of Me”. But he was more complex than portrayed – during this period he also wrote “Irma Jackson”, about a white man’s love for a Black woman and the relationship ending because they were not accepted as a couple. I saw him in the 80s in Gilroy CA, and he did not embrace the caricature of himself from the “Okie” days. The Youngbloods released a great parody in 1971, “Hippie from Olema #5.” The Grateful Dead also covered Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home”, about a man walking to his execution and making one last song request.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I was going to post the youngbloods version also… but I couldn’t do it because of my situation.
      I envy you… I do wish I would have seen him at least once.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So often songs are misconstrued and take on life of their own. I”m not sure how many songs he wrote but it’s a lot, and most are great. All of his songs aren’t literal or autobiographical. Some are I know. We can compare this in some ways to “Born in the USA “. Sometimes the message gets lost.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I know the name but never really listened to the lyrics . Nothing too wrong with them ,and it does seem like he wrote them a little tongue in cheek.
    Again, hoping you get power back soon – they do have their hands full in Ten. and Ken. with all the power lines down. Does make me think I should look for a better generator device than little hand-cranked radio/light we now have

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well we found our small electric battery backup basically… we hooked it to the aquarium for the turtles… it’s like a mini generator. They were freezing to death… now they are moving about.

      They cleared the tree Dave but no electricity

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Max, you’re a real trooper. I’m sure I speak on behalf of all fellow bloggers when I say perhaps you should stop posting altogether until you power has been restored. We’d all understand!

    That said, nice pick! And, nope, please don’t feel compelled to respond to comment, at least not until your power is back.

    Stay safe, man!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I already had these scheduled Christian or I wouldn’t have posted. I did the ones today weeks ago. Believe me… I can do anything new lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re really great at building inventory. I think the most posts I’ve ever been able to pre-write and schedule is four or five. Assuming my family vacation to Europe in the second half of March will happen as scheduled, I’ll definitely have to put the blog on hiatus for at least two weeks!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yea I have a post tomorrow morning… if I don’t get electricity by tomorrow I’ll probably pull the others and not post: tomorrow at work will be my first time on a computer since Friday…

        Liked by 1 person

  6. A case of people hanging their interpretations on things. You have been hitting on some of my favorite folks lately. Merle is second to none in my pile. His vocals are in my top 3 or 4. Talent and hard knocks to spare. I love the guy. Kinda to bad this tune (paid some bills) is the only one most folks know. He has so many and more on top. Fortunate to see him and the Strangers. Memorable night. Keep them coming big guy.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. It would have been a good chance to cover Wichita Lineman.

    I think I remember reading that Haggard was conservative enough that he didn’t want to work with Gram Parsons. It was probably about their nudie suits with marijuana artwork.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That would have been perfect!

      Yes that is odd because Merle smoked pot and did drugs… but that was later on in the 70s


  8. I hope your power is back on by now. How awful. I have friends in Lexington, KY who were also without power all weekend. Theirs just came on last night. I assume you have to throw away a lot of food like they did. 😥 The unusual thing is that it didn’t make our news. Here in KS, we always hear about the big storms, no matter where they happened, and our lineman crews are always sent to help. But not a word about this one.

    About the song, it sure is iconic. It was indeed played a lot, and every country music fan knew the words. I heard later in his career he refused to perform the song. (You may have written that and I missed it.) That would take courage to say no, we aren’t doing our biggest hit. It would be like Bruce telling his ticket buyers he wasn’t doing Born to Run.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I went out and bought 5 bags of ice to put in our freezer…don’t know if it will work or not…but I bet it doesn’t.
      I sure hope it comes on really soon. It’s getting really old! They finally got the tree out of the way but no electricity. I’m at work now and it’s awesome to flick on a light switch!

      You told me something I didn’t know about Haggard refusing to do it. I can see that happening.
      I have an off the wall question to ask you (I’m convinced I have adult adhd). In Kansas…do you have Prairie Dogs? We are looking to get two as pets but they are so hard to get here. We want two from captivity of course…but they seem very intelligent. One of the few animals that have a longer life expectancy in captivity.


      1. I have never been asked about prairie dogs. 😀 There is a well known prairie dog colony in Hutchinson, KS, less than an hour from Wichita. It is a patch of grass by the highway in literally the busiest commercial part of town. So they can live among people and activity. But I don’t know anything about their habits or habitat requirements. I’ll stay tuned about your plans.

        Well I hope your power is finally on. Your freezer food may be fine, if there are still frozen bits in the food. I was told in school that if there are still frozen shards in the middle of the package of food, it is okay to refreeze.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for that advice about the freezer… ice was still on the side. I also put alot of ice in there also.

        No it’s not back on yet. I called the electric company… I told them the only thing that is upsetting is the lack of communication:.. they still would not give an estimated time.

        I’ve read about that place! I would love to see that. We are looking everywhere here to buy. That show that I covered has a few… The Urban Ranch Rescue… he has a few of them. They are extremely smart… and yea cute as can be.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: