Me & Merle Memoir




After three years of digging through my archives of data from a dozen years on the road

with my partner and friend Merle Haggard. With pen, computer, digital video and digital still

cameras collecting a train load of stories, terabytes of data, pictures, videos and boxes of

notes, journals, articles, research all showing me the hording pack rat I am, and proud of

it just reading the 900 pages I have written from 4 years of work like a man possessed with

a unspoken passion to create a memoir in honor of my saddle pal Merle Haggard. 


Months back I took a trip to quarantine from Covid-19, and the noise in the USA to write

in Columbia, South America where I spent a half of year writing in a town right out of a

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid meets Hunter S. Thompson as Pancho and Lefty

ride up on horseback like a lost gonzo high on a blend of coffee, chocolate, beautiful

women, and did I mention Hunter S. Thompson, where I wrote some 900 hundred pages

before boarding a plane from Columbia back to Central California cowboy wine country

where I am now in the rough edit and and presenting the project to some agents and a

couple of publishing entities, and I got one foot in the self publishing with Amazon door.





I WENT TO COLUMBIA SOUTH AMERICA to do some film work and spent the next half year in

the magic old Santa Fe de Antioquia some 39 miles north of Medellin were I spent several weeks

in the Andes Mountains rain forests at over 7,000 feet before settling in Santa Fe for 6 months

where I was discovering the Lost Gonzo in myself and out of the cell and social networking

in the metaverse and deafening chatter of hate and political noise.  I had to go far away to think

clear of the destinyI had met with knowing, bonding with, and then losing my friend saddlepal

and friend Merle Haggard, aka The Hag.





While writing the book I am also in the process of publishing an online eBook with mostly

pictures and short stories from my thousands of pictures, 12 years of journals and film

footage and the list that you will read below there is no doubt the story is here with me.

First 20 book orders gets a code to view the picture book FREE.  JUMP ON THE TRAIN



The Me & Merle Memoir venture includes a printed book, the eBook with pictures, the

movie/tv and streaming and digital media aspects including website and social

networking, and a book song.


Train Switchman for $25.00

1. Your name in the Thank You section of book

2. Thank You email from the Author

3. Picture of Merle and I in his studio.

4. A Waiting For A Train with Haggard bumper sticker.



Train Brakeman for $50.00

1. Your name in the Thank You section of book

2. Thank You email from the Author

3. Email heads up before book is published

4. Picture of Merle and I in his studio

5. Your name in Thank You area on website

6. Waiting For A Train with Haggard bumper sticker.



Train Conductor for $75.00

1. Your name in the Thank You section of book

2. Thank You email from the Author

3. Email heads up before book is published

4. Picture of Merle and I in his studio

5. Your name in Thank You area on website

6. Waiting For A Train with Haggard bumper sticker.

7. Thank you post on our Facebook with link to you

Train Engineer for $100

1. Your name in the Thank You section of book

2. Thank You email from the Author

3. Your name in Thank You area section on website

4. Picture of Merle and I in his studio

5. Waiting For A Train with Haggard bumper sticker.

6. Thank you post on our Facebook with link to you

7. Copy of first edition of book with autograph





At the same time I am preparing the book for I am finishing the Pre-development and the

Treatment for the movie that is to accompanying the Memoir.  After writing the book and

going over the book formation, I was also viewing all of the years of film/video I had shot

while I was experiencing what I was writing in the book out with Haggard for those years

and had a "wake up and smell the coffee moment" when realized I had filmed what I just

wrote as the book and thinking "I am almost famous."  And I have made a movie that I

am in the movie.


I am looking to raise $10,000.00, as a contributions/loans.  Can be broken down into

smaller amounts.    I plan to pay back the money in full, plus twenty percent  (20%) of

the money loaned.  For example a contribution/loan of  $1,000.00 will return your original

$1,000.00 plus $200, for a total of $1,200.00.  A $500.00 will return your loan plus $100, for

a total of $600.  Any amount will help.


I can not exactly predict right now when I will sell the rights and/or get a publishing deal

to get the advance but I would like to venture my payback time will be no later than the

end of the year.  However, we can set the payback for May 2024.


I'll also include your name in the Special Thanks section of the book, and on the website

at and mail you a T-shirt, a picture of Merle and myself together, and a

autographed copy of the book when printed, pass to the eBook and VIP passes to all

events upon release of projects related to the Me and Merle venture including audio

book, "the making of movie", blogs and more...





The information below gives an idea to what I have to work with, and some history on

my 12 year friendship with Merle Haggard.


I first met Merle in 2003, as part of my on-going research into the life of Jimmie Rodgers,

after Willie Nelson advised me, “If you want to know something about Jimmie Rodgers, you

need to talk to Merle Haggard.”  After that I went down a road for seven  years to get to The

Hag.  At one point reaching Frank Mull, who is a friend to this day, and who had been working

with Merle for near 40 years, wearing many hats including tour manager, friend, and more.


I spent about a year within Merle’s closely knit entourage, patiently explaining my interest in

Merle’s stories about Rodgers, but without actually meeting Merle. As many journalists and

researchers know, it sometimes takes a while for an important, and maybe eccentric, artist

to feel comfortable about a stranger; he seemed to know I was around, but he was letting his

folks do the vetting.



Once we finally got together, Merle did indeed have a lot to say about Jimmie, which I re-

corded in notes, audio, and video recordings. Soon though, as Merle and I grew closer, I

found that I was recording more and more about Merle’s life, for he could not talk about

Rodgers without talking about his music saga, with stories about Lefty Frizzell and Bob

Wills.  I also began filming his performances and the actual touring scene of his band and

crew and over the years, Merle the living legend.


Over the course of two years, I grew into my new role as a confidant to Merle, traveling with

him on the road and visiting his ranch in Redding, California; I was always welcome on the

tour bus, his inner sanctum, for many interviews and just plain old conversations. I think he

came to trust me because of my passion to tell the Jimmie Rodgers story and connect the

dots between Jimmie and between him and is hero Lefty Frizzell.  Plus, me being an Okie

that had worked on the Santa Fe Railroad, plus he said in an interview "When I see ole

Benford walk up I know we are going to be talking about something interesting...he is a

history buff and I am too."



However, from Merle's side of the fence, he told me that because of my National work to

help runaway and missing children was why he and I met.  Over the years we started

working together on the Jimmie documentary, and I was filming some of his shows, and

as we were developing a friendship, and after the six week tour with Bob Dylan, and I

was showing him some of the film footage he asked me if I wanted to help him with his

archives, and to help develop a treatment and a trailer for a movie that he wanted to get

to the producer Ron Howard, or he would say maybe Clint Eastwood or Robert Duvall.

I said, "Hell Yes, I'd love to."


He and I began to work on his movie venture, and he was helping me on the Jimmie

Rodgers project.  Down the road we started working together on The Merle Haggard

Complex that was to be in Oklahoma, and working with some of the Native American

Casinos.  We are working on a Haggard wine and had the label done and on the way to

finding a vineyard, a Lefty Frizzell movie and I was helping him with his archives.


And so it came to pass, kind of creeping up on me, that I was in this privileged position as

the chief historian, or archivist, of Merle’s recollected life, in his own words and helping him

with his legacy. And all along taking thousands and thousands of pictures and filming 

him performing and numerous interviews.  Merle would introduce me to the likes of George

Strait or Toby Keith as his "video guy."  I was the only still and video camera allowed on

the Bob Dylan/Merle Haggard tour.  This went on for 12 years.



My life on the road, onstage, on board his Silver Chief bus with Merle, with his band and

crew is a story that I know he wanted me to tell.  A few months after his death it came to

me that he had passed on some of his legacy to me, an unspoken passing to the future,

not unlike Woody Guthrie might have done with my ole pal Ramblin' Jack Elliott.


Merle's life was country music history itself, and he knew it was.  He wanted to tell some-

one that would not only listen, but help him document and archive his tale.  While we were

talking about Jimmie Rodgers, Lefty Frizzell, Johnny Cash, Bob Wills, Willie and others

who were his heroes and saddle pals, he told me his story for it was entwined in their story.


I knew very well the scene around Merle, and I know that from managers to security and his

bus drivers, photographers were kept away from Merle.  He did not want them back stage

and he sure didn't want them on his bus, or out on his ranch.  Because of this I know I

have a very special story to tell about my time with this living legend.  After his bout with

lung cancer the stories picked up, I think he knew, like Jimmie Rodgers that his time was

not long.


Being as close as I was to Merle, I knew that he was a very private man, and had a small

circle of people that helped him keep him on the road, and I saw him run off more writers

than set with any and talk.  I say this because I know I have a unique story to tell about

Merle, which was during a period of time that he was not only touring as a great living

legend, but was on a rise to a new level of his fame.




It has been said a number of times that there may never be another legend like Haggard,

his boots may never be filled.  He received many many awards over 4 decades including

The Kennedy Center Honor, over 20 awards from the Academy of Country Music, including

the Pioneer Award, Triple Crown, Poet's Award and the Crystal Milestone Award.  The

BMI Icon Award, six Country Music Association Awards, inducted into the Country Music

Hall of Fame, four Grammy Awards including the Lifetime Achievement and Hall of Fame

Award, Inducted into the Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame, Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame,

and in 2014, CMT honored him with the Artist of a Lifetime Award.  In 2016 The ACM

created a new Award give in honor of the iconic singer, The ACM Merle Haggard Sprit

Award, which was presented to Miranda Lambert.


Merle earned the status of a "living legend" and influenced thousands including the likes

of George Strait, Toby Keith, Allan Jackson, Blake Shelton, and on and on...He was a

band leader, a songwriter, a singer, a guitar player, and known to have created the

"Bakersfield Sound" along with his friend Buck Owens.  His music was a sound track

for the displaced Okies during the dust bowl, he was the working man's poet.  Bob Dylan

told Rolling Stone, "Totally himself.  Herculean.  Even too big for Mount Rushmore.  No

superficiality about him whatsoever.  He definitely transcends the country genre.  If Merle

had been around Sun Studio in Memphis in the Fifties, Sam Phillips would have turned

him into a rock & roll star."





Please visit link to my website and bio below and you will see I have been a promoter

and producer for 40 years, and I plan to use that experience to promote this book and

the Legacy of Merle Haggard, I owe it to him, for he with unspoken trust passed on

his legacy to me, for he trust that I would do something to take it further down the road

to being told






























































































Merle Haggard, Austin Court (great grandson of Jimmie Rodgers) and

Producer Benford Standley (taken by Ben Haggard) one of the very

if not the last picture taken of Merle in public...ever!


To see a mock-up of more information on the book

written and directed to literary agents and publishers


My bio can be seen at:

Benford Standley, Producer/Director/Writer





Photo by Chris Felver