I am at the half way point in the writing of my book and have a New York literary agent. 

I have finished the proposal and have a trailer and treatment for the movie based on the

book and actually to be filmed during the writing of the book.  (Trailer upon request)


I've a couple of months work to prepare the proposal, do some interviews for the book,

and to have more chapters partially done before we shop the book to publishers.  With

the 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.


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




I am looking to raise $12,000.00, as a contribution/loan.  This 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 years.  However, we can set the payback for Jan. 2019 if that works better for

you bookkeeping.


I will also include your name in the Special Thanks section of the book, and on the movie

credits and website at and mail you a T-shirt, a picture of Merle and myself together, and a autographed copy of the book when printed.



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 Benford Standley


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