Country Throwback: Merle Haggard Stuns Crowd with ‘Branded Man’ Performance in 1968

by Joe Rutland

If your picture of country music legend Merle Haggard is from his “Outlaw” days, then this younger-looking guy will surprise you.

No, your eyes are not deceiving you one bit. It is a young, clean-shaven Haggard singing his hit song “Branded Man.” He is appearing on “The Country Music Holiday Show” from 1968 in Nashville.

In the clip, Merle Haggard is sitting down and playing his guitar. He is surrounded by members of his own band, The Strangers.

Merle Haggard Releases ‘Branded Man’ Single In 1967

“Branded Man” is the second song off of a 1967 album released by Merle Haggard. It would be the first of four straight No. 1 songs for him on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart.

The song is about an ex-convict afraid of how people will accept him after getting paroled.

That’s a lot of art imitating life for Haggard, who spent time for crimes committed in San Quentin Prison in California.

Let’s step into the wayback machine and see Merle Haggard perform one of his classic numbers.

Haggard Makes TV Appearance On ‘The Waltons’ In 1976

Now Haggard is definitely not one of those country music artists who were afraid of appearing on TV. He made lots of appearances on Nashville-based TV shows throughout his career.

Yet when it comes to playing a role on a popular TV drama, well that might be a little bit of stretch for him.

Merle Haggard, though, plays a musician in an episode from 1976 of CBS’ popular family-friendly drama “The Waltons.”

He plays country singer Red Turner in “The Comeback,” which premiered on October 7, 1976. Merle Haggard had his character, though, first appear during a second-season episode titled “The Gift” and was originally played by Ken Swofford. 

In Haggard’s episode, Turner is grieving his son’s death which takes place in “The Gift.”

Haggard, Jon Walmsley Forge Friendship Through Music

The show website offers this description of the episode: “Jason needs to find $300 to cover his tuition at the Kleinberg Conservatory of Music. He gets a job playing piano at the Dew Drop Inn. He also convinces Red Turner to pick up the guitar and perform again after the death of his son Seth.”

Jon Walmsley portrays Jason Walton.

“I was thrilled to have Haggard come on the show as a guest star,” Walmsley said in 2017, “and even more so that the main plot of the show was the relationship between our two characters.

“What a nice guy Merle was,” Walmsley said. “We all know how talented he was, but he was really a sweet, genuine, and down-to-earth man.”