53 Years Ago: Merle Haggard’s ‘Okie From Muskogee’ Album Hits No. 1
Fifty-three years ago today, on May 22, 1970, Merle Haggard landed at the top of the charts. It was on that date that Okie From Muskogee, the live album that Haggard released in December of 1969, hit No. 1.
Okie From Muskogee features 20 tracks, including a number of Haggard's most famous songs -- "Mama Tried," "Silver Wings" and "Workin' Man Blues" among them -- but it draws its title from what is perhaps Haggard's signature song, "Okie From Muskogee." Written with Roy Edward Burris, the lyrics of "Okie From Muskogee" -- "I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee / A place where even squares can have a ball / We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse / And white lightnin''s still the biggest thrill of all" -- were inspired by reactions to the Vietnam War.
"During Vietnam, there were all kinds of protests," Haggard told The Boot. "Here were these [servicemen] going over there and dying for a cause — we don’t even know what it was really all about — and here are these young kids, that were free, b—hing about it. There’s something wrong with that and with [disparaging] those poor guys."
The well-known track was considered by many to be a statement against the political condition of the country at the time, even though that wasn’t Haggard’s original intent.
“We wrote it to be satirical originally,” Haggard explains. “But then people latched onto it, and it really turned into this song that looked into the mindset of people so opposite of who and where we were. My dad’s people. He’s from Muskogee.”
Okie From Muskogee won an ACM for Album of the Year, and "Okie From Muskogee" earned Single Record of the Year and Song of the Year. At the CMA Awards, the record and song won Album of the Year and Single of the Year, respectively.
Okie From Muskogee was re-released in 2014.