Dear Ben Haggard, Please Record an Original Album
Dear Ben Haggard,
First off, on behalf of all country music fans, I want to offer my sincere gratitude and appreciation for all the efforts you have undertaken in both preserving and paying forward the legacy of your famous father over the last few years. The pain we all felt at his passing was powerful, but those of us who only knew him through his music can only imagine how that pain must have been magnified as a family member and son. Hopefully sharing that grief with so many millions of music fans made it easier, just like the music your father left behind made it easier for all of us to cope, and gave us something to reflect back upon fondly.
Beginning with your work playing guitar in The Strangers beside your father while he was still around, and then later leading the band yourself and making appearances with your brother Noel, it has helped us all to prepare and then transition to a world with no Merle. Not every son would have the selflessness or the sense of duty to help carry on a father’s legacy with such sincerity, putting their name in second place. But most exceptionally, very few have the talent or skill to do so, at least so adeptly.
I’ll be damned if sometimes you don’t sound more like Merle than Merle, and you may have him licked in the guitar playing department. I can remember interviews your dad gave back in the day when they were still calling you Binion, and Merle was already warning us about you. At that point it was hard to know if it was just the words of a doting father, or if you were going to develop into something worth paying attention to beyond the famous last name. Now anyone can just watch you perform, or pull up some videos on YouTube and witness it themselves.
It can’t be easy being the son or daughter of a famous country singer. There’s all those expectations and comparisons, some will never give you credit and say you’re simply riding off a famous name, and it’s hard to know how to balance preserving a legacy while forging your own. Pedigree is given such credit in country music because it’s paid off so well in the past. But the 2nd and 3rd generation performers who’ve risen beyond the adversity and expectations are the one’s who’ve struck the perfect balance of carrying on a legacy and being themselves. That crucial balance seems to be developing in you as well.
I don’t want to be presumptuous, but you did sign a songwriting contract with BMI a few years back, you most certainly have the name recognition and social media presence to put something serious together (402K ‘likes’ on Facebook, and 151K Instagram followers without releasing a record or single?), and true country music can always use fresh young voices in the cause, especially ones who’ve proven they can resonate with audiences far and wide, young and old. Where could this thing go if it wasn’t just confined to live appearances and a few tribute songs? Fans also see you as a likable guy. People are lined up to root for Ben Haggard.
What I’m getting at here is that I don’t think I just speak for myself when I say I wouldn’t be opposed to hearing you take a stab at releasing an original album of some sort. I’m talking about something beyond what you’ve already been doing on the stage. Get Dave Cobb involved as a producer, or perhaps your buddy Sturgill Simpson. My guess is the line forms to the left for the people who would be willing and wanting to work with you if an album came to fruition. If you’re waiting for the right batch of songs, you don’t have to write them all yourself, there’s some great songwriters out there these days. You don’t have to be the next Merle Haggard, you just have to be Ben Haggard, which has already proven to work brilliantly, and much better than what a lot of the bastards in pop country and even Americana are doing right now.
I know you probably have it pretty cush at the moment, with a cute little kid at home, and it’s fair to question whether it’s even worth the rigmarole to have a full-blown solo career in country music these days. Let’s face it, it’s only a select few getting rich off of music in this era, and that’s mostly through touring. This request is completely selfish on my part, and the part of other country music fans. But dammit, we want to hold a Ben Haggard record in our hands, hear you do your thing with some original songs, or even mix in some of your father’s material. And we want it on vinyl too if you don’t mind, kind sir.
No pressure though. You just do what you want to do. For all I know, you’re in the studio right now, or have a record in the can and are just waiting for the right moment to release it. I’m just glad there’s somebody out there making it hard to forget about the music of Merle Haggard, being the face of the estate, someone who is willing to crisscross the country to appear and perform at functions where Merle Haggard’s legacy is being remembered.
Not everyone has the gift to resonate with a wide audience, not even many of the sons and daughters country Music Hall of Famers. But you do. There will never been another Merle, but there can be another Haggard.
I’ll shut up now.
July 16, 2019 @ 8:57 am
This kid is a star in the making. It’s not just about his name or his lineage. I’m actually stunned the industry hasn’t figured this out by now and snatched him up … though maybe that’s what he’s trying to avoid in the first place.
Great piece, Trig.
Charles. C. Romero
July 22, 2019 @ 10:01 am
I have all of your dad’s records an would like to have some of ben haggards also. Let’s go been.
July 16, 2019 @ 8:58 am
July 16, 2019 @ 9:15 am
I have been saying this for years. I can’t wait for some original Ben haggard music! He is a stunningly talented vocalist and guitar player.
Real Country Fan
July 16, 2019 @ 9:19 am
For several years now my money has been sitting on the counter to buy that Ben Haggard CD, all he has to do is take it. 🙂 For now I’ll just have to settle for seeing him singing online. He’s pretty awesome.
July 16, 2019 @ 9:20 am
I’ve been waiting on Ben Haggard to release something for a while. Great voice and guitar player. Something I have wondered about is what his sound would be. Do you take the Merle route and do a lot of songs that sound like his, or do you pull a Hank Jr and completely forge your own way with something different that still honors and pays tribute to what your dad did? Either way I’m sure it will be great.
July 16, 2019 @ 9:29 am
Oh my gosh yes! I was watching this https://youtu.be/QV7EsL3H8Bw just yesterday, and was struck how he comes across, so poised, and talented.. I hope he seriously considers writing, and recording solid country music. Great piece..
July 16, 2019 @ 9:35 am
Couldn’t’ agree more! BTW – there’s a great interview w/ Ben (link below) from Jan 2018 for anyone who has yet to read it https://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/news/2018/01/13/q-a-ben-haggard-talks-country-music-new-album.html
July 16, 2019 @ 10:08 am
If I want to listen to Merle’s songs, I have CDs and Spotify.
Ben, make your own mark. We are ready!
July 16, 2019 @ 10:13 am
Saw him opening for Cody Jinks last year, and he just about stole the whole show. I love me some Cody but I would have been just fine if he had cancelled and just let Ben play all night.
July 16, 2019 @ 10:40 am
I am also on board for this! Whenever Ben is ready, he has my money for the taking. He has a huge fanbase already.
July 16, 2019 @ 10:42 am
Glad there was a way to write Dave Cobb & Sturgill Simpson into the article. I need my (almost) daily fix of Dave & Sugar…oops…Sturgill.
There will never been another Mel, but there is another Tillis.
There will never been another Rex, but there is another Dallas.
There will never been another George, but there is another Morgan.
There will never been another Ray, but there are Lee & Tania Kernaghan.
There will never been another Slim or Joy, but there is another (Dusty or McKean) Kirkpatrick.
July 16, 2019 @ 11:49 am
Here here!!! Man blue collar guys such as myself need another workingmans’ poet out there! Im sure Merle has a vault just full of unreleased gems as well, who better to snatch them up and record them than Ben.
July 17, 2019 @ 7:22 am
I hope you realize that Ben Haggard probably never worked a day in his life, at least in this context. He grew up the son of a famous musician and played in his band from an early age…doubt he was out there working construction in between.
July 17, 2019 @ 7:42 am
Oh yeah id say hes had a breezy life no doubt. Just referencing his dads nick name and carrying on that legacy.
July 19, 2019 @ 7:38 pm
Oh my God Ben you are just amazing you are such a talented singer and that guitar playing is so so great. You play it so well. You take after your father. Oh how great he was you are very fortunate to have such a beautiful talent I can listen to you for hours and hours and I do. Because you are the best,,and yes I would be glad to hear songs of your own it would be awesome,,just keep playing your music or your Dads it’s all good nothing but the best. I just loved your Dad so much,,know most of his songs,keep on playing that guitar. You are so talented ,,I love to listen to you. You are the best👍👍👏👏👏❤️❤️
July 16, 2019 @ 12:28 pm
Ben plays actual country music. Not Americana, not string band stuff or pseudo hipster country, real actual country music. That’s a winner in my book.
July 16, 2019 @ 12:38 pm
well this really nails it ,kevin . this is what it comes down to .
man if ben could score with a ” hit ” I can only imagine how the genre might wake up . josh turner , joe nichols , mo pitney , easton corbin ….so many others who have been robbed of an opportunity to contribute to and celebrate the eroding traditions of the genre might receive some of the attention given to the talent-less pseudos, the wannabes , the posers , the ‘rock stars’ and the label puppets .
as always ,though …….thank God for the many,many outlets that aren’t commercial radio . the genre stands a fighting chance as long as they exist .
July 16, 2019 @ 12:38 pm
Yes please Ben!!! I love listening to whatever songs I can find from you!!
Seth of Lampasas
July 16, 2019 @ 1:40 pm
When Trig posted about the new versions of some of Merle’s songs being released on a Bakersfield compilation album from a European music company my only response was:
“But when, oh when, will we hear young Ben?”
He has such a smooth and pitch perfect Haggard voice, and he plays that guitar like it’s an extension of his brain. I think anyone who is aware he exists has been craving to hear him sing us back home with a song we used to hear. I feel like there’s a lot of copy that could be posted about what it’s been like for him to find his way to finally debuting. And speaking as a new father, I don’t blame him at all for not wanting to miss a moment, if that’s what’s preventing him from a full blown music career. Dave could be the producer he needs, because he tends to guide the artist to finding their own voice, but idk about Sturgill. I love Sturgill, but I don’t think the level of experimentation he’s been fond of lately is what we’re looking for out of Ben. I feel like Ben has a sound in him already that wouldn’t be well served by that. But Merle made Sturgill promise to help Ben produce a record, so maybe I’m dead wrong.
July 16, 2019 @ 2:02 pm
Please don’t shut up because I really look forward to your posts every morning. Trigger has written about artists that are never played on my radio of choice, Sirius XM, and believe me, I surf around a lot depending on the current mood. An album from Ben would be wonderful, but with the current state of affairs I can understand his hesitency to share his music with others who look only for something to hate.
July 16, 2019 @ 3:24 pm
Thanks for reading Debbie.
July 16, 2019 @ 2:21 pm
Marty, Noel and Dana got a piece of the music gene but Ben got the whole damn thing! He can sing, write and play, plays guitar better than the old man (merle will always be the best though). I think Ben is unsure of himself…..I think he’s scared to fail. Just my opinion, he’ll take a swing but he needs to realize time is of the essence.
July 16, 2019 @ 5:10 pm
Whatever is in your heart and soul let come out organically on your terms in your time but trigger is right we are all looking forward to the day you do so and share it with us!
July 16, 2019 @ 6:37 pm
Neal Casal should produce the record.
July 16, 2019 @ 7:08 pm
Correction, Aaron Nevezie. Or Ry Cooder.
July 16, 2019 @ 7:51 pm
Please no Dave Cobb. Let him be remembered as another Chet Atkins who was extremely talented but made everything so similar we needed Bakersfield to break the mould.
July 16, 2019 @ 9:09 pm
I must say I love both Noel and Ben’s voices they are amazing
July 17, 2019 @ 4:17 am
Bad place for it, cause I do agree with this article, but Trig do you have any insight into this Direct Shot mess?
July 17, 2019 @ 7:52 am
I saw something in passing about it yesterday, and am looking deeper into it. Still determining if I have any insight to offer, or not.
July 20, 2019 @ 9:38 am
Freakin’ Hoosiers. Can’t even get a package in the mail.
No, but this topic came up locally. I tell you, if Franklin, IN is having the same kind of staffing issues that other cities in the area are, then that could be a big problem. I’d hate to have to scale up a medium to large business by 1/3 or more around here these days. It’d be a struggle.
But I’m not even sure if they are blaming this for the problems Direct Shot seems to be having. And I’m not offering to help, lol.
July 17, 2019 @ 4:50 am
Marty and Noel Haggard both tried solo careers–with little success.
Ben seems to have more talent. I don’t know what’s stopping him.
Everybody from Marty Robbins Jr. to John Carter Cash to Dean Miller to Shooter Jennings to the Lynns has tried to launch a next-generation country music career.
Makes one respect Hank Jr. And also Rosanne Cash. And Pam Tillis. While their fathers’ names opened some doors for them, it only gets you so far.
July 17, 2019 @ 6:52 am
Don’t forget Thomas Rhett. What a gem.
July 17, 2019 @ 7:28 am
More in the roots realm than country, but Justin Townes Earle, Lilly Hiatt and Teddy Thompson have made their own mark in the roots music world.
July 17, 2019 @ 8:22 am
You can probably find a bunch more in the roots and alt world–Rufus Wainwright?–but I think we’re talking here about offspring of bona fide country–or even other genre–stars replicating that on their own. Nancy Sinatra was a big pop success for a brief time in the ’60s; Frank Sinatra Jr.–who was a Frank Sr. immitater–never made it. I think Justin Tubb had some success, but he never became a real country star. Liza Minnelli is a huge star, probably matching Judy Garland as a singer and concert performer, though not as a movie star. Natalie Cole has had a pretty good career.
The only common thread that I can see–in country or otherwise–is that those who become stars bring something new, of their own, to the table.
July 17, 2019 @ 9:21 am
”Ben seems to have more talent. I don’t know what’s stopping him.”
good one L.O.S……your logic is inarguable , of course . reality is a whole ‘nuther issue . ….if talent had anything to do with popularity and success in the ‘country ‘ market do you think we’d be listening to the mainstream stuff we are …?
Kate smith- Evans
July 17, 2019 @ 6:03 am
Love his singing and would love some cds
jessie with the long hair
July 17, 2019 @ 1:10 pm
It’s a lot to presume that he can write great songs. Just because someone can play guitar and sing great doesn’t mean the have that depth. But, it sure would be great if he did. I also think getting Sturgil or Dave Cobb to produce his is the most unoriginial and boring idea I’ve heard in a while.
Billy E Bowles
July 18, 2019 @ 1:01 am
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July 20, 2019 @ 12:08 am
quand allons vous revoir dans de somptueuses videos ou vous etes sur scene comme on a pu vous voir certaines annees friendley
July 20, 2019 @ 2:50 am
I had the privilege of hearing Ben & Noel at the Pennsylvania Warren county fair last year.
Ben was amazing!
i have been a guitar picker for over 55 years & feel as though I can recognize great talent when I see it.
Ben is SO talented as a singer & guitar player!
I would buy his original music in a heart beat!
July 20, 2019 @ 9:55 pm
I made a comment a couple of years ago “If the Haggards, Jennings and Nelson want to be just like their fathers then they have to do their music their own way” because that is exactly what their fathers did. No one else had the same sound (voice or band).
July 21, 2019 @ 10:54 am
How about some people write FOR Ben Haggard? Specifically for him.
July 21, 2019 @ 11:54 am
Saw him last night at a county fair in Iowa. He needs to release an album. Sounded great.
July 21, 2019 @ 8:43 pm
Ben, your voice is smooth as butter. I listen to the same songs over and over from YouTube. I still get chills. Same songs I heard since my parents listened to Merle in the 70’s, but somehow you make them even better. PLEASE make an album of Ben songs.
C.Scott Bridges Sr.
August 15, 2019 @ 1:53 pm
Ben Haggard is Smoother Than the Woman and Wine That fueled Master Merle’s Silver Wings to Such a Legendary Status., The Oh so talented Ben, Eat, Sleeps, And Lives Music,. Along w/ his Solid Guitar Picking, String Bending, Finger Numbing Haggard Playing Family Tradition’s., He’s Got A One Of a Kind, Marvel Of a Voice., Control, And Rhythm beyond measure., Don’t Push On Em’ Nor Pull On Em’! He’s The Best Damn Thing Going In Country Music Today., Make No Mistake, After There Was a Merle., ByGod There’s a Grown Man Mr. Ben Haggard! No Matter The Route He Chooses, It Will Always Be True and Carry Him All Of His Days., He’s a Haggard No Need to Compromise His Country Music 🎼 Values & His Style., He’s All in, Always Ben my Friend, It’s What You Choose To Recall.,
Carry On.. 🇺🇸 Molena, Ga. Is w/ Ya All The Way. See Ya @ The Amp @ Adamson Square Aug 31st in Carrollton, Ga.. 🍀
JImmy Crack Corn
April 5, 2020 @ 5:54 pm
You know… with all the great comments about this man (I’ve not listened to him)
And what with all the comparisons that seem to weigh him down
Why, then, doesn’t he just change his stage name, and go simply on the merits of himself, rather than carry the weight and angles attached otherwise?
It ain’t in the name, you do know that.
Truth doesn’t have to shout, nor requires a title.
October 10, 2021 @ 7:36 am
He may be perfectly happy playing his dad’s songs. He doesn’t *need* to record. And that’s fine. He’s good at what he does. Maybe songwriting isn’t his thing.
May 13, 2023 @ 7:56 am
I have thought that since first time i heard you sing you should give it a try with your own songs. Great voice. I am sure your Father would be dam proud of what you do in any case.