Earlier this week when it was announced that a new Merle Haggard museum and restaurant would be opening up in Nashville next summer, some Merle Haggard fans wondered why Nashville was chosen, and not a location in Northern California such as Redding or Shasta Lake where Merle Haggard lived out much of his later life and was eventually laid to rest. But fans who feel The Hag needed to be honored closer to home got their wish, and much sooner than they probably anticipated. It just went dramatically under-reported in the national media compared to the big museum unveiling.
On October 26th, the legacy of Merle Haggard was honored in Redding at the christening of the “Merle Haggard Memorial Overpass” at the intersection of Interstate 5 and California State Highway 44 in Redding. Haggard lived and was buried on a ranch in Palo Cedro, which is just east of Redding, and is bisected by Highway 44. Merle Haggard’s widow, Teresa, and his daughter, Janessa, as well as a gathering of Merle Haggard fans were in attendance for the unveiling.
“It’s gotten a little easier, it’s still hard to kind of to listen to music, to go through pictures and stuff like that and it will continue to be hard but I’m truly honored,” said Merle’s daughter Janessa at the unveiling. “I’m happy they were able to do something in our county to recognize and remember him.”
Though the overpass is nothing more than a sign at the moment, hopefully it is just the start of the effort to memorialize Merle Haggard’s legacy near his home and resting place that can eventually become a destination for Haggard fans to show their respects. Similar efforts are underway in Folsom, CA, which is honoring Johnny Cash’s legacy with its own memorial bridge at Folsom Lake Crossing Road, and connects with the “Johnny Cash Trail”—a hiking path that goes near the famed prison, and eventually looks to feature numerous pieces of public art commemorating Cash’s legacy.
Merle Haggard’s hometown of Bakersfield already has a primary road and local post office named after Merle, and have enshrined the boxcar that was his boyhood home in the county museum. Hopefully as time goes on, Merle’s legacy is honored even more in his home state of California for locals and fans to remember the mark he left with his music.