OKLAHOMA – An Oklahoma country music star takes the stage when an ‘Okie from Muskogee’ needed him most.
Born in California in 1937, Merle Haggard is as ingrained in Oklahoma lore as any.
His musical stylings are still heard in songs today.
In fact, Toby Keith has been singing his tunes all his life.
“So, it was either Bob Wills or Merle Haggard, little bit of Marty Robbins and Willie,” Keith said. “That’s really all we had to listen to growing up.”
The legend from Moore still remembers the first time he played with Haggard.
The two belted out one of Haggard’s biggest hits, ‘Mama Tried,’ years before.
“We did it unrehearsed that night, and you oughta’ hear the recording,” Keith said. “We killed it.”
The two remained thick as thieves through the years, with Haggard, in many ways, serving as mentor to Keith.
But, in February of this year, with Haggard’s health failing, it was Keith’s time to step up as the legend took the stage.
“He looked really frail, and I walked him on the stage and said ‘I’ll be over here. You call me up whenever you need me,'” Keith said. “He made it about eight songs, and he called me up and said, ‘Let’s do something.'”
Short on breath but filled with pride, the show went on, with Haggard and Keith side by side.
This would be one of the country legend’s final performances.
When Haggard passed away Wednesday, on his 79th birthday, many believe a part of Oklahoma went with him.
But, they’d be wrong.
His legacy lives on through his music, through Muskogee and through those he touched along the way.