On October 10th, 1969, Merle Haggard and his famous backing band The Strangers rolled into Muskogee, Oklahoma to play the Muskogee Civic Center for a packed house. Just two weeks previous, on September 25th, Haggard had officially released the song “Okie From Muskogee” as a single. Little did anyone know at the time what a massive hit the song would become, and how it would grow into Merle’s signature tune.
The show at the Muskogee Civic Center was supposed to be one of five shows Merle Haggard was going to record as part of a live album tentatively planned to be called Six Nights on the Road. But technical difficulties resulted in just the Muskogee stop making it on tape. As the song “Okie From Muskogee” shot up the charts, the 20 tracks of the live album album Okie From Muskogee were rushed to press to take advantage of the surge in interest, and the album was in stores by December. Okie From Muskogee would go on to become the #1 album in country, and win both the ACM and CMA Album of the Year.
“We didn’t even have speakers to know if we were going onto the tape,” Haggard recalled in a later interview for a re-release of Okie From Muskogee years later. “Fuzzy [Owens] told me that night in Muskogee, he said ‘If you’ve got this on tape, I’m not sure whether we did or not, Hag, but if you did, it’s a million seller.’”
To commemorate that historic night on October 10th, the Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism is throwing a 50th Anniversary celebration at the Muskogee Civic Center where the album was first recorded. Headlining the event will be Merle’s sons Ben and Noel Haggard, and the surviving members of The Strangers. Tickets will only be $3.00, $3.50, and $4.00 respectively, just like they were in 1969 (with some VIP packages too). Oklahoma-based country band Ricochet has also been announced for the event, with further talent and details for the commemoration coming.
“This album is known as one of the greatest albums of all time featuring one of the greatest songs of all time,” says current Tourism Director for Muskogee, Justin O’Neal. “There have been many times we meet tourists from overseas who don’t speak much English, but they can say ‘Okie From Muskogee’ which lets us know just how wide the impact of this goes. What we are looking to accomplish with this event is to celebrate a legacy and continue to draw on the attention the song has provided to our town.”
Tickets go on sale August 8th at 10 a.m. Muskogee time at www.visitmuskogee.com .