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