Clint Eastwood celebrated his 91st birthday on May 31, 2021. While the well-known actor/director is a legend of both TV and film, Clint also is a country music legend. OK, “country music legend” may be a bit of a stretch, but Clint did scored a No. 1 hit on the country charts—with some help from Merle Haggard—in 1980 with “Bar Room Buddies.”
Country music has a strange history of unlikely duos. Lawrence Welk and Red Foley topped the charts with “Shame on You” in 1945. Leon Russell joined Willie Nelson in 1979 for a No. 1 remake of the Elvis Presley classic “Heartbreak Hotel.” Scottish rocker Sheena Easton and Kenny Rogers teamed up on the Bob Seger-penned “We’ve Got Tonight” in 1983.
However, no tandem was as unique as Merle Haggard and Clint Eastwood. In 1980, Merle and Clint released a duet called “Bar Room Buddies” for the Bronco Billy movie soundtrack. Of course, Eastwood starred in and directed the flick, playing an ex-shoe salesman from New Jersey who turned to running a Wild West show of quirky misfits.
The movie’s soundtrack featured a country-heavy contingent, including Merle Haggard, Ronnie Milsap, The Reinsmen, and more.
Clint & Merle Go to the Top
While the film was a modest box-office success, “Bar Room Buddies” was a knockout on the charts.
Penned by Milton Brown, Cliff Crofford, Steve Dorff, and Snuff Garrett, “Bar Room Buddies” was released in April 1980. The tune debuted on the country charts on May 17, while the film was released three weeks later on June 11. “Bar Room Buddies” reached the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart on July 26, 1980.
“I think you can say Merle Haggard had a hit and sort of dragged me along,” said Clint to Rolling Stone in 1985.
“I told him before we started, ‘I hope you’re a better singer than I am an actor,’ but I believe I’m a better actor than he is a singer,” quipped Merle Haggard, according to a Country Weekly article in 1998.
While “Bar Room Buddies” was Clint’s first and only No. 1 hit, it was Merle’s 25th of 38 No. 1 singles. In addition, Mere’s “Misery and Gin,” which was also featured on the film’s soundtrack, reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 1980.