Monday, April 2, 2007

Tangled Up In Cowboys

Three singing cowboys discussing hats and boots between songs. One from California, one from Minnesota, and one born in Texas and raised in Arizona. Merle Haggard (center) and Buck Owens (right) were both married to singer Bonnie Campbell. (She got to know Haggard when they teamed up for a duet.) Besides being husbands-in-law, the two were good friends. I find it interesting that Merle Haggard was step-father to Buck Owens' kids, but even more interesting that when Merle remarried after his divorce from Bonnie Owens, Bonnie was a bridesmaid for the new couple. It is all so tangled up, it would take a good country song to really explain it. Bonnie and Buck were friends to the end. Buck Owens died a year ago last month from a heart attack, and Bonnie Owens died a few weeks after Buck, at the age of 76.

(The third 'cowboy' in the photo is Bob -- a Merle Haggard and Buck Owens fan.) Buck and Merle shared an enthusiasm for Bob's songs as well. "We've been fans of each other all these years," Haggard says. "I'm just as big a fan as anybody else. He's Bob Dylan."

The Buck Owens version of "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" can be found on a CD called "Dylan Country." ( other artists performing on the CD include: Nancy Griffith, Willie Nelson, Jennifer Warnes, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Kitty Wells, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams Jr., Earl Scruggs, The Country Gentlemen, Jerry Jeff Walker, Emmylou Harris, Glen Campbell, and more).

Merle Haggard toured with Dylan in 2005, and the show got rave reviews. Merle did not want to be an opening act, but after thinking about it, he said "Fuck! I guess I'll have to go with him!" and was glad he did. "It sold out in hours just about everyplace," Haggard said. "It's a prestigious thing for me. I'm thrilled." Bob never treats opening acts like they're opening acts anyway. He sings duets with them, sings their songs, and jokes around with them, totally sharing the spotlight.

Merle Haggard turns 70 on April 6th.

(A sample of one of his duets with Bonnie Owens is linked at top, right.)