Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, and Glen Campbell – it doesn’t get any better than these country music legends.
Merle Haggard was an American country singer, songwriter, guitarist, and fiddler. After suffering a troubled youth, he managed to turn his life around by launching a successful country music career. As the nation began to recognize his talent, he gained popularity with his songs about the working class in America. In fact, many tributes after his death refer to him as “the poet of the common man.”
While that identifier is certainly fitting, Haggard also had other great qualities. One of those qualities was the honor he had for artists who influenced him through his childhood and early music career.
In fact, Haggard’s admiration for other great artists became obvious in the case of a few different country musicians he could impersonate with mind-blowing accuracy.
Rolling Stone reported a comment by Dwight Yoakam about Haggard. “He was great at doing impressions. His Buck Owens impersonation is hilarious. It’s eerily, spot-on Buck. Merle brought me on in Vegas that night and he did one of those for me. He moved his leg and danced a little bit like I’m known to do. And that’s something that I’ll remember forever.”
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
In January 1972, Haggard appeared as a musical guest on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour during an episode of the CBS variety series.
During his appearance, Haggard took the opportunity to pay homage to the artists he so greatly admired.
He begins singing snippets of classic hits from Marty Robbins (“Devil Woman”) and Hank Snow (“I’m Movin’ On”). Next, he starts in on his flawlessly executed impersonations of Buck Owens and Johnny Cash with both men watching nearby.
Not only does Haggard perfectly imitate Owens’ singing voice, he also nails his signature shoulder bouncing and eyes half-closed performance moves. Owens himself then sneaks up behind and puts his hands over Merle’s eyes while joining in the musical number as Campbell smiles and plays guitar in the background.
Afterwards, Owens requested Haggard do an impression of Johnny Cash. He obliges and begins mimicking Cash with his hit song, “Jackson.” Finally, the Man in Black himself interrupts and the two men sing along together.
With the striking resemblance of both Haggard and Cash singing the same line of the song, it’s a little tough to determine which voice is which. Yet, it’s quite obvious how much respect these artists have for one another. Though they are often imitated by others, they will never be matched.