Merle Haggard's My House of Memories : For the Record

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9780060193089: Merle Haggard's My House of Memories : For the Record

Country music's award-winning and best-selling recording artist, Merle Haggard, brings us his long-awaited new autobiography, Merle Haggard's My House of Memories--a riveting account of Haggard's extremely turbulent and successful life. Picking up where his 1982 autobiography, Sing Me Back Home, left off, Haggard recounts his earliest childhood memories, revealing previously untold stories about his birth and troubled upbringing in a converted railroad boxcar. He recalls the innocence of the 1950s, when a boy could safely ride the rails with hobos and share their transient camps. He talks about his father's death when Merle was nine and how his childish disobedience soon erupted into full-blown delinquency.

In a thrilling narrative, he takes us on several high speed getaways from the California law and straight inside the state's homes for the criminally delinquent. On his nineteenth birthday, we follow him inside San Quentin and read a chilling account about a cellmate who begs Merle to join him in an escape that ultimately ends with the man's death. Haggard also recalls his befriending of Caryl Chessman, the notorious 1950s serial rapist, and the time they shared before Chessman's execution.

Having lived a life marked by violence, gambling, and drugs, Merle shares the lessons he learned and how he continues to pay for decades of reckless living. He discloses that after earning more than a hundred million dollars, he's virtually broke. Merle reflects on how he felt at that bittersweet hour seven years ago, as he stood at his wife's bedside during the delivery of their son--and was served bankruptcy papers. And he recalls his family's move into a house so decayed that cattle literally roamed inside. He still lives there, amid improvements, today.

Haggard relives the painful memory of the death of his mother, who a year earlier, unbeknownst to him, had written her life story in longhand. He reveals his astonishment at learning of her 1906 covered-wagon journey at age four, from Arkansas to Oklahoma, and of how she had to live underground in an earthen dugout. Merle had never known of his mother's life in the Southwest and the fears and hardships she faced.

As one of the industry's most respected artists, Merle Haggard still makes music for music's sake and does it with the enthusiasm of an apprentice. He plays several hours a day, every day, on and off the stage and speaks of the emotional salvation the eight notes of the music scale afford him.

My House of Memories captures the triumph of the human spirit through the power of persistence, through the power of love he finally discovered during his fifth marriage, and through the unsurpassed the joy of reentering fatherhood at age fifty-four. It is an exciting and moving account of the tumultuous life of a songwriter, singer, guitarist, and arranger whose words have earned him international renown as the poet of the common man.

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Review:

Somewhere in the middle of this blunt autobiography, Merle Haggard talks about the "art called country music" and describes it astutely as "emotion set to rhythm." "A song was an excuse," he writes, "to sing some of the sentimental things." Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that when Haggard attempts the unsung word he's oddly terse, dry, and emotionless--despite his roaring successes and multiple misfortunes. Haggard is nothing if not frank, although his candid storytelling often becomes sensationalistic. For example, his five-year coke orgy during the late '70s and early '80s warrants the opening chapter of an otherwise chronological tale. The death of his father when Haggard was 9 is clearly the defining moment of his life, yet we have to get past his wet T-shirt phase before we hear about it.

Haggard spends well more than half the book recounting his early-life travails--revolving-door stays in institutions, halls, reform schools, jails, and prisons of every sort. His misspent-youth stories are enthralling in a certain way, but he seems to tell them from the perspective of either a child who doesn't understand what's happening or an elder who has the benefit of experience--never from the perspective of a man going through these horrors at the time. He even writes on a number of occasions that he looks at his younger self as a completely different person, which may explain why his accounts often lack emotional depth. He recalls (often crudely) his numerous fights, drunken escapades, sexual conquests (stories about wanting to "get into her pants"), and many other sordid details (must we hear the story about his steel player farting during a show?) to the point that what gets short shrift, unfortunately, is his brilliant music. In a way, though, a memoir like this makes perfect sense because Haggard has never pulled any punches. And while the book doesn't offer many of his own insights, it certainly presents a clear picture of his remarkable life, which allows readers to draw their own conclusions about his personality and his music. Perhaps we should be thankful Haggard saves his emotions for his songs--they always make for thrilling listening. --Marc Greilsamer

About the Author:

Merle Haggard is the author of Sing Me Back Home. He has recorded forty-one number one hits.

Tom Carter is a Nashville journalist who has collaborated on autobiographies of major country superstars, including Glen Campbell, Ralph Emery, Reba McEntire, and George Jones.



Merle Haggard is the author of Sing Me Back Home. He has recorded forty-one number one hits.

Tom Carter is a Nashville journalist who has collaborated on autobiographies of major country superstars, including Glen Campbell, Ralph Emery, Reba McEntire, and George Jones.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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