Friday, June 10th - Sing Me Back Home: A Tribute to Merle Haggard

On Friday, June 10th we're honored to celebrate the life and music of the late great Merle Haggard here at The Kraken.  Come out early, since the music begins at 7pm, and then stay late to witness over forty amazing local musicians take to the stage to highlight Merle's 38 number one Country Music chart-toppers and more.  The local music community comes together tonight like no other night.


There is no doubt that our humble roadhouse bar and music venue was pre-destined to pay tribute to one of the greatest American songwriters, and Country musicians of all time.  Please join us for this spectacular gathering of talent and spirit where we will dance and cry and raise our bottles to toast life and death and great music.


Please note that this will be an extremely busy evening, so please carpool with a designated driver!  Parking will extend north along Dodson's crossroads.  Fortunately, we've had a few dry days, but nonetheless take care with how far off the road you park.  If you're coming from Chapel Hill or Carrboro, we suggest calling GoodFellas Taxi or Townie Transportation.  Townie is providing a discounted rate into Chapel Hill proper: $15, one dollar for each year Merle Haggard was sentenced to San Quentin.  Another less expensive option would be to meet and carpool or cab it from Carrboro Plaza.  Please be safe and responsible!


We have to hand it to Stan Lewis, Jonathan Lee, Jeff Hart and especially Lance White for jumping in and communicating and organizing all of the beautiful people you'll see perform.  We hope to list all the band associations, but since time is of the essence we'll simply start with the list of participating musicians (that we know of) in alphabetical order:


Michelle Belanger - Lynn Blakey - Richard Boyd - Adam Brill - Clay Buckner - David Burney - Herb Campbell - LaNelle Davis - Michael Dupree - Larry Duckworth - Steve Eisenstadt - Danny Gotham - Robert Graham - Berkeley Grimball - Doug Guild - Jeff Hart - Gordon Hartin - Ashley Hayes - Taz Halloween - Ryan Johnson - Glenn Jones - Jody Kidney - Derrick Kirkman - Leslie Land - Stan Lewis - Tom Collins-Meltzer - Rick Nathey - Rebecca Newton - Pete Pawsey - Eric Peterson - Lindsay Rosebrock - Mitch Renkow - Penne Sandbeck - John Saylor - Spencer Scholes - Tim Shearer - Suzie Schopler - David Shore - Tim Smith - FJ Ventre - Bob Wall - Jeff Wall - Dixie White - Lance White


In light of the epic story of Merle Haggard, we will be contributing half of the proceeds to charity this evening. The musicians suggested this fine idea, since they're here for the passion and joy, and we wholeheartedly agreed. We examined a number of fine charities that contributed to prisoners, and others that supported healthcare for musicians, but decided to support the Music Maker Relief Foundation, based in North Carolina and serving great musicians from the South.  Additionally, some of our mutual good friends / local musicians have played and personally supported Music Maker artists such as Ironing Board Sam.


"The Music Maker Relief Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit, was founded to preserve the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting the musicians who make it, ensuring their voices will not be silenced by poverty and time.  Music Maker will give future generations access to their heritage through documentation and performance programs that build knowledge and appreciation of America’s musical traditions.


Since our founding in 1994, we have assisted and partnered with over 300 artists, issued over 150 CDs and reached over a million people with live performance in over 40 states and 17 countries around the globe."


Having mentioned the epic story of Merle Haggard, we would be remiss to not at least provide some details about his origins...


Merle Ronald Haggard was born on April 6th, 1937, and passed away this past April 6th on his 79th birthday.  Along with Buck Owens, he and his band The Strangers created the Bakersfield Sound, and he is also known for his great role in Outlaw Country and Country Music in general.  As you can easily discover via a quick online search these days, his history is dramatic and representative of all humanity's weaknesses and strengths and struggles, if not the heart of Country Music.


Merle Haggard is the patron saint of the "incorrigible youth".  He spent his early years learning music on his own to reconcile the pain of his father's early death, hitchhiking and catching box cars and lashing out, getting placed in juvenile detentions centers and regularly escaping.  He worked a diverse collection of jobs throughout this whole time, and he always teamed up with his best friend Bob Teague.  His first performance was with Teague in a Modesto bar named "Fun Center", being paid $5, with free beer.


After more troublesome times, he and Bob went to see a Lefty Frizzell concert and after the opportunity to sing backstage, Lefty refused to go on if Merle was not granted the opportunity to sing first.  It must have been life-changing with respect to his music, if not his incorrigible nature.


He married and inevitably suffered financial issues and tried to rob a Bakersfield Roadhouse, which landed him in San Quentin after another attempt to escape the Bakersfield jail.  Naturally, he discovered in prison that his wife was expecting a child from another man.  He barely avoided further trouble in schemes to escape San Quentin, where he witnessed Johnny Cash perform his most famous prison concert in 1958.


Merle Haggard turned it all around about this time, and likely thanks to Cash, joined the San Quentin Country Music Band, and received his high school equivalency diploma and was released on parole in 1960 whereupon he worked with his brother's electrical company and started his career as a performer.


That's just the start of one of the most amazing music careers...



"Sing Me Back Home" by Merle Haggard, 1968


The warden led a prisoner down the hallway to his doom

And I stood up to say good-bye like all the rest

And I heard him tell the warden just before he reached my cell

"Let my guitar-playing friend do my request"


Let him sing me back home with a song I used to hear

Make my old memories come alive

Take me away and turn back the years

Sing me back home before I die


I recall last Sunday morning a choir from 'cross the street

Came in to sing a few old gospel songs

And I heard him tell the singers "there's a song my mama sang

Could I hear once before you move along?"


Won't you sing me back home, with the song I used to hear

Make my old memories come alive

Take me away and turn back the years

Sing me back home before I die





$Please donate generously to charity and tip our fine bartenders!




Also, big thanks to Robert Graham for creating a spectacular poster.  We'll provide a copy to the musicians, and accept contributions for extra copies that are ready to be framed.