The old-fashioned values and counter-culture opposition espoused in Merle Haggard's "Okie From Muskogee" weren't necessarily shared as compliments to the singer's home state. Per many interpretations, Haggard and his drummer Eddie Burris accidentally wrote a conservative rallying cry while poking fun at how the average Oklahoman might react to backing band The Strangers' marijuana use.
Regardless of its initial intent, the song remains a point of pride in Muskogee, Oklahoma. This fall, the city celebrates the 50th anniversary of Haggard's album Okie From Muskogee-- Live From Muskogee, Oklahoma, recorded Oct. 10, 1969 at the Muskogee Civic Center.
This time around, the Hag's songs and his home state will be celebrated by his youngest son, Ben Haggard, at a special event featuring 1969 ticket prices. Per a press release, a new generation can witness a Haggard family tradition for just $3, $3.50 or $4.
The October 1969 concert was one of six recorded for a proposed live album titled Six Nights on The Road. Technical difficulties and dealings with possible scam artists masquerading as recording equipment salesmen kept the five other shows from being recorded. In fact, it's a minor miracle that the ACM award-winning live album from the Muskogee show made it onto tape.
"We didn't even have speakers to know if we were going onto the tape," Haggard said in an interview cited by the Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism. "Fuzzy [Owens] told me that night in Muskogee, he said 'If you've got this on tape, I'm not sure whether we did or not, Hag, but if you did, it's a million seller.'"
Fifty years later, the song still points thousands annually to the town Haggard selected to represent his headstrong narrator. "There have been many times we meet tourists from overseas who don't speak much English, but they can say 'Okie From Muskogee,' which lets us know just how wide the impact of this goes," says Justin O'Neal, Interim Tourism Director for the Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism. "What we are looking to accomplish with this event is to celebrate a legacy and continue to draw on the attention the song has provided for our town."
For more information, check out www.visitmuskogee.com.