My Me & Merle Memoir
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.
FOR THOSE THAT PRE PURCHASE THE eBook and Printed Copies to be released
before the end of the year, I will immediately send you a link to
The Me & Merle Memoir venture includes the book, the eBook with pictures. If you order
any of these 4 Pre-Orders I will send you a link to a eBook with pictures that I have created
just to give as a perk for you. Soon as you make the purchase below I will send you link to
Picture eBook link.
PAYPAL ACCEPTS CREDIT CARDS
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. I had worked with a number of big stars and I know how the dance goes.
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 letting me know he wanted me to film him.
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."
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 and the history of the Bakersfield Sound
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. In my book I will tell of our times together the last year of his life...
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.
MERLE HAGGARD THE LIVING LEGEND
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."