The legendary Merle Haggard, creator of country music’s famous Bakersfield sound and one of the original members of the country outlaw movement performed to a sold-out crowd at Shippensburg University’s Luhrs Performing Arts Center on April 17.
Haggard, 75, played all his famous hits during his long set. The crowd was lively and on its feet at many different times in the night reaching ridiculously high decibel levels for several of his songs.
“It was so crazy seeing this man live,” said SU student Wes Heavener. “ It was like seeing a legend from another era. That show was awesome.”. “He looked good. After all the things he has been through in life, it’s pretty cool that our paths crossed for just a second,”he said.
The Grammy Award Winning musician had a rough upbringing, culminating in a three – year jail stint that ended in 1960 for attempted robbery at San Quentin State Prison. Upon release, the hag, as he is affectionately referred to by his fans, began to earn a following of listeners who enjoyed his rough honky tonk style and delivery culminating in his 1965 award from the Academy of Country Music for being that year’s top new male artist.
By 1970, Haggard had several No. 1hits and was one of the most lauded artists in country music. In 1972, then California Gov. Ronald Reagan issued Haggard a full pardon for his past crimes. The musician’s career continued to soar.
Haggard has 38 No.1 hits on the country charts. He has won 13 Academy of Country Music Awards, five Country Music Association Awards and three Grammy Awards.
At times during his performance in Shippensburg, the limitations of age seemed to finally be catching up to the icon. Then Haggard stormed back into the next song with so much contagious vigor and passion that the crowd could not help but go crazy.
Haggard finished his show with a fantastic and chilling cover of Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues. The crowd rose again to give the legend his last standing ovation of the night. After Haggard had walked off the stage, fans cheered the performance for at least five minutes.
“I’ve been to a lot of shows,” said Richard Dunne, 53, a fan in attendance. “I’ve been to music festivals and huge arenas, but that was something I will never forget.” “That was a legend up there. It doesn’t matter if he is 70 years old or 100, his shows are timeless,”he said.