Though they didn’t perform many songs together, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash inspired a generation of musicians with their music. Off-stage, the two singers became good friends. Cash was even the one that inspired Haggard to pursue a career in music.
In this rare video, Haggard performs his hit song “Sing Me Back Home” with Cash on Cash’s “The Johnny Cash Show.” Haggard appeared on the show in 1969. The song is a poignant reflection on Haggard’s past at San Quentin prison. Before he became a country music star, Haggard had the beginnings of a career criminal.
Haggard actually wrote the song while he was still imprisoned there. One of Haggard’s cellmates decided to try to escape. Meanwhile, Haggard, who had escaped jail 17 times prior, decided not to. Later, the inmate was executed with the escape attempt went bad, inspiring the subject of the song.
Johnny Cash Inspired Merle Haggard
Haggard can thank the Man in Black and one of his famous prison tours for the change in his fortune. When Haggard heard him play at San Quentin, he decided to pursue music himself. A few years later, the duo met as musicians and became life-long friends. Through his career, Cash became one of Haggard’s biggest supporters and seemed in awe of the man.
They stayed in contact through the years. And Cash and his wife June Carter would call Haggard to check in with him every now and then.
It was Cash who convinced Haggard to share his past with audiences. While on Cash’s show, Haggard revealed that he used to be an ex-con that turned his life around.
While the announcement caused some controversy, it also won Haggard a lot of fans. Listeners realized that most of Haggard’s songs were autobiographical. Ahe became an inspiration to a generation of everyday people, including a young Reba McEntire, hoping to make their dreams come true.