From Fort Bragg NCO club to Kennedy Center

“[In 1969] Merle Haggard…. introduced the newly penned composition to a live audience at the noncommissioned officers club in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. ‘It was a small club and the audience had been exceptionally dead,’ Haggard later told a reporter. ‘But then we sang “Okie,” and the whole place went berserk’….

“Besieged, Haggard stiffened…. Within a few seconds he relaxed, realizing the soldiers were merely rushing forward to shower him with handshakes and bear hugs. The next night at a show for the base’s enlisted men, an even more spirited uproar ensued, as eager soldiers hurrahed the song’s apparent excoriation of critics of the Vietnam War….

“[Later] audiences found contradictory and overlapping meanings… Haggard himself has [said ‘Okie from Muscogee’] offers… ‘about 18 different messages.'”

— From “Proud to be an Okie: Cultural Politics, Country Music and Migration to Southern California” by Peter La Chapelle (2007)

Merle Haggard is among recipients of this year’s Kennedy Center Honors (tonight at 9, CBS).

2 thoughts on “From Fort Bragg NCO club to Kennedy Center”

  1. After being spit on by peacenik commies on my return from overseas, it’s no wonder we G.I.’s loved the song…….at least the RA’s!

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