Merle Haggard's first taste of acting, aside from appearing as himself in 1967's Hillbillies in a Haunted House, came in the 1968 crime drama Killers Three. Haggard and his wife at the time, fellow Bakersfield recording artist Bonnie Owens, co-star in the film. It features Dick Clark as a producer and actor.
Haggard and Clark danced around promoting the film during a 1968 episode of the teen-targeting rock and pop showcase American Bandstand.
"I've got to tell you an ironic story," Clark says. "Merle has written the title tune of a motion picture that both he and I were in. I produced the picture, so we can't mention the name of the picture, we can't mention the name of the song and he can't perform it because there would be a conflict of interest."
Haggard sang the film's title track, which explains how a country music picnic took a dark turn after an attempted robbery of a bootlegger's safe. It didn't climb the country charts as Clark predicted, yet it's a quality deep cut from a soundtrack album spotlighting the songs of Dick Curless, Kay Adams and others. The film also features one of Haggard's all-time greatest singles, "Mama Tried."
Additional stars of the American International Pictures production include Robert Walker Jr., Diane Varsi, Norman Alden and Maureen Arthur. It was directed by former Formula 1 race car driver Bruce Kessler.
The American Bandstand interview came after Haggard performed "The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde," an original song inspired by a much more famous and successful film.
Haggard also told Clark that he'd love to pursue full-time acting. IMDB shows that the Hag did land scattered roles over the years on TV shows (The Waltons, Doc Elliot) and in films (The Legend of the Lone Ranger, Wag the Dog).
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