I have quite a few guilty music pleasures. But really, when it comes to Merle Haggard, I really shouldn't feel too guilty. I've already professed my love of one of Merle's classic's, "Pancho & Lefty", written by the late, great, Townes Van Zandt.
This afternoon as I waited for my Ribeye at the Texas Roadhouse my second favorite Merle tune came over the speakers at the restaurant. I remember the first time I heard "Big City." It was at a Merle Haggard concert in the late 1980's concert in Phoenix. I remember going to the show expecting to be bored to tears for the next two hours. It turned out to be one of the best concerts I ever attended. The Desert Rose band opened for Merle and it was an enjoyable 45 minutes of country/rock.
Then Merle came out and blew me away. His band complete with horns locked down a tight groove. Then I began to realize just how many Merle tune's I had grown up with as a kid in small town Kansas. In the mid-60's I used to sneak away from my step-father at his work in Detroit, Kansas. I would walk across the blacktop that was U.S. 40 into the Midway Cafe. Jenny Gray ran the beer joint along with her husband Lloyd. Jenny would keep me entertained with burgers, pinball, and the juke box. It was loaded with country music and the occasional Beatles tune. That's where I got familiar with Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and of course Merle Haggard.
My mom didn't like me going over to the Midway because of the fact that they served beer. Farmers would gather there after a hard day in the fields and drink their fill. Of course there were regulars who would enjoy themselves a little too much. It was the antithesis of "Cheers."
One night I was there with my step-father who could knock them back with the best of them and witnessed quite a fight. Weapons included cue sticks and pool balls. When I excitedly recounted what I had witness to my mother my days of play at the Midway came to an abrupt end. It wasn't another 25 years before I set foot in this piece of burger and brew heaven. And by the way, I had an O'Doul's.