“I’ve probably got 300 to 400 songs that I haven’t released that I collected over the years. We call it ‘The Archive.'”
– – – – – – – – – –
On Saturday (4-9), country music legend Merle Haggard was laid to rest in a private ceremony in Palo Cedro, CA in Northern California, near where his permanent residence has been for many years just east of Redding. Merle had preplanned his service before his death, and requested Marty Stuart and his wife Connie Smith to be part of it. “He requested that Connie sing ‘Precious Memories,’ that me and Connie sing his song ‘Silver Wings,'” Marty Stuart told The Tennessean, “and that I officiate the service. We’re honored to do it.”
Though no major public tribute similar to the ones organized after the recent passing of George Jones or “Little” Jimmy Dickens has reached beyond the planning stages, other tributes will be happening throughout the weekend both in local watering holes and on local radio stations throughout the country, and through national media. SiriusXM’s “Willie’s Roadhouse” channel has temporarily changed over to “Merle’s Roadhouse” until Sunday evening, and will be playing songs, Merle-centric programs, and tributes to The Hag all weekend.
RFD-TV is also paying tribute to Merle Haggard all weekend by airing archived episodes from The Marty Stuart Show, Hee Haw, and The Porter Wagoner Show where Merle appeared numerous times (see schedule). CMT will also be re-airing its Merle Haggard tribute on Saturday and Sunday evening at 9 p.m./8 p.m. Central.
And on Monday, Eddie Stubbs of WSM will be airing a five-hour tribute to Merle Haggard beginning at 8 p.m./7 p.m. Central that can be streamed online. Eddie Stubbs and Marty Stuart also talked on WSM about Haggard in the aftermath of the legend’s death.
– – – – – – – – – –
Though Merle Haggard is no longer around to record and release new music, that doesn’t mean there isn’t unheard, unreleased recordings waiting to be unearthed for the public in the future. As is often the case with music artists who pass away, unreleased Merle Haggard music remains vaulted away, either as leftovers and outtakes from previous recording sessions, or in Merle’s case, purposely stashed away in the event of his passing, or to be released when he had reached the point where he couldn’t sing any more. As first reported in May of 2015, in an interview with Broadway of Country 92.5 in Connecticut, Merle has a massive cache of songs that have yet to be released.
“I’ve probably got 300 to 400 songs that I haven’t released that I collected over the years. We call it ‘The Archive.’ And we haven’t released anything from that. When I get unable to record or sing anymore, or get killed or something, well they’ll probably put it out,” said Merle.
Though Merle released a record with Willie Nelson last year called Django & Jimmie, his last proper solo release was October 2011’s Working in Tennessee. A post in Rolling Stone from 2014 says that Merle was working on four separate albums at that time, but that releasing the music was a tricky proposition. This might be the reason all of the recordings were archived in instead of released.
“We’ve got a brand-new studio and we’ve been recording right along all the way, although the lack of radio play for the new stuff makes it difficult.” Merle said. “If they put on a new song of mine, they’ve gotta take off ‘Mama Tried.’ So I’m kind of fighting myself on new releases.”
Meanwhile in the aftermath of Merle Haggard’s death, sales of his music have skyrocketed. However as Billboard reports, the most popular album on iTunes is not one of Merle Haggard’s original recordings, but a 40 Greatest Hits compilation of new recordings of his old hits. 40 songs for $11.99 apparently has enticed spendthrift music fans to purchase the album, most unbeknownst they’re not the original recordings. The silver lining is Merle likely put out the album to reap greater financial rewards from the songs compared to the original recording where his previous record labels get the lion’s share of the proceeds. This money will now be passed on to Merle’s estate.
The same can’t be said for numerous T-shirt bootleggers who’ve popped up to take financial advantage of Merle Haggard’s death. On the day Merle Haggard died, numerous Merle Haggard Facebook “groups” began selling unauthorized T-shirts in short-run batches. As Saving Country Music illustrated when exposing We Hate Pop Country’s unauthorized T-shirt sales featuring the likeness of legends, the estates and original photographers receive nothing from the sales. Bootleg sellers often use short-run sales to skirt intellectual property laws and make money before authorities or the estates can be notified or take action.
Chances are, if you see a T-shirt that is being sold in “remembrance” of Merle Haggard, it is circumventing copyright laws, the Merle Haggard estate is receiving nothing, and they are attempting to exploit Merle Haggard’s death for financial profit.