Merle Haggard Recalls Heated Exchange About Hit Song
Merle Haggard received the prestigious Career Achievement Award from the Country Radio Broadcasters this week, honoring his long and epic career. Recovering from a bout with lung cancer, Haggard was grateful to be able to attend.
"I was supposed to sing tonight," Haggard said, according to CMT. "I didn't know if I'd be able to do it or not because I'm fighting pneumonia. I think I'm winning."
After conveying his appreciation, Haggard also admitted he still harbored some resentment against his former label, Epic Records. Following a performance of his hit, 'Kern River' by Emmylou Harris, who recalled that the first time she heard the song she "almost drove off the road because it's just so good," Haggard reminded the audience of how that song almost missed the light of day.
"I want to say that there was this other guy -- I can't remember his name -- he was head of CBS, and he made fun of my song. He said, 'Who in the hell knows where Kern River is at?'" Reminded by someone in the audience that it was former president of CBS Records, Rick Blackburn, Haggard recalled the exchange of words the two had more than 20 years ago.
"I'd like to tell you one more time. I don't like 'Kern River.'" Haggard continued, "And I said, 'That's about the third time you've told me that.' He said, 'It's more like five times.' And I said, 'Well, I'm about five times short of telling you to go to hell.'"
Also on hand to congratulate Haggard was Jack Ingram, who covered Haggard's tune, 'Are the Good Times Really Over (I Wish a Buck Was Still Silver).'