In 1969, Merle Haggard’s hit song “Okie From Muskogee” helped make the small Oklahoma town internationally known. Now, the town is repaying the late country legend by erecting a special memorial in their town square.
According to the Muskogee Phoenix, the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame is moving forward with plans to install a bronze sculpture of Merle Haggard sitting on a bench with a guitar case by his side. It will be placed in front of the Muskogee Civic Center, which he recorded a live version of the track decades earlier.
The project has been in the works for five years, but repeatedly found opposition from local leaders. Hall of Fame Executive Director Jim Blair says he now has plans to expand the memorial to include a special statue previously designed by the Hag himself, which was originally to be installed near his ranch in Bakersfield, Calif.
“They want to see that placed in Muskogee,” Blair explained. “The bench will be great, but what a story to tell — to have a memorial standing next to it that was designed by Merle himself.”
The cost of this added memorial is currently unknown, but the cost of the bronze statue is currently estimated at around $150,000. Planners say they hope to raise those funds through private donations.
Hall of Fame board member Derek Gibson also voiced his support for the project, citing the city’s debt to the singer for making them internationally known.
“Merle Haggard helped put Muskogee on the map,” Gibson said. “We want to put a bronze bench with Merle on it — he will be sitting there with a guitar case and hat, it will be a good photo op for the next hundred years.”