Country Throwback: Merle Haggard Performs ‘The Farmer’s Daughter’ for 1978 Special

by Atlanta Northcutt
(Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Merle Haggard gives a performance of the “Farmer’s Daughter” in 1978 for a taping of a then-little-known PBS concert program Austin City Limits in Austin, TX in early 1978.

The concert series is now a famous long-running program and music festival. Musicians currently see performing on the stage as an honor.

Merle Haggard Performs at the 1978 Austin City Limits

According to KBEC, the show was one Haggard had never heard of at the time. He was persuaded to take the gig by a friend and superfan Darrell K Royal, coach of the University of Texas football team.

Merle Haggard’s performance at Austin City Limits includes songs, such as “Working Man Can’t Get Nowhere Today,” “Silver Wings,” and “Ramblin’ Fever.” Of course, his performance also included the “Farmer’s Daughter.”

Haggard was beginning to come to the end of the most successful period of his career. He would soon leave Capitol Records following the performance in Austin, TX.

The Performance of a Lifetime for Country Swing

Through his bittersweet, gruff voice and talented guitar skills, the audience was watching a legendary performance. It wasn’t exactly the end of his career. However, his Austin City Limits’ show was the beginning of Merle Haggard slowing down.

The casual performance was one fans enjoyed with peaceful and bright spirits.

Haggard takes advantage of playing in the Lone Star State by covering several Bob Willis classics. He shows off a bit of his fiddle-playing skills.

A ten-piece band played behind the iconic performer providing a bit more fiddle and horn instrument skills. However, the greatest of those was the pedal steel performer Norman Hamleton and the electric guitar player Roy Nichols. The two added an electric, yet country swing sound.

His Austin City Limits’ appearance was in 1978, Merle Haggard was at the top of his game. Although, it had been over a decade since his first national hit, “Sing A Sad Song.”

His recording of “Okie From Muskogee” took place shortly after. Both songs firmly plant his music into the public’s consciousness.

Enjoying the Best of Haggard

Haggard had been declared “Entertainer of the Year” by both the Country Music Awards and Academy of Country Music in 1970. The previous release of A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (Or MY Salute to Bob Willis), helped spark a revival of interest in western swing. 

The performance is one of Merle’s fan-favorites. Live from Austin, TX 1978 was released as a two-disc set featuring an audio CD and video DVD.