Merle Haggard is gone, but he won’t be forgotten in the town he helped put on the map with one of his signature songs. Muskogee, Oklahoma is looking to erect not one statue of the country music legend, but two of them in the aftermath of his passing on April 6th.
The first statue has been long-planned by the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, and is set to be placed in the lawn of the Muskogee Civic Center where Haggard recorded his #1 platinum-selling live album Okie from Muskogee in February of 1969. The bronze statue would feature Merle sitting on a bench with a guitar case and hat, facing a portion of Boston Street set to be renamed Merle Haggard Avenue. The statue is estimated to cost $150,000, with the Oklahoma Hall of Fame planning to raise the funds through private donations. The memorial has been in the planning stages for five years, but Merle’s recent death helped move the process forward to erect the statue.
Separately, there is another Merle Haggard statue in the works that could also be headed to Muskogee, and possibly will be part of the Civic Center memorial. Before Merle’s death, he personally commissioned a local Oklahoma artist named Dan Jones to design a statue to display at his ranch in California. But now Haggard’s estate has expressed interest in possibly incorporating it into the Muskogee Civic Center piece.
“They want to see that placed in Muskogee,” says Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame executive director Jim Blair. “The bench will be great, but what a story to tell to have a memorial standing next to it that was designed by Merle himself.”
There are no dates when the statue or statues might be unveiled. But Muskogee’s “G Fest” happening on June 16th – 18th, which includes headliners Turnpike Troubadours, The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Marty Stuart, is planning to pay tribute to The Hag in its own way. Merle was also scheduled to be a headliner of the event, and has been replaced by last minute addition Kacey Musgraves.
“Artists like Merle Haggard are important because they became legends and set trends not by worrying about money and fame but just by being themselves,” Kacey says. “So it just inspires me even more to uphold what’s important to me as a person and songwriter first and not worry about the rest.”
G Fest is organized by the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, and the City of Muskogee.