Hillbillies in a Haunted House (which would be one word in German) seems dumber than a rock, but Ferlin Husky just picked up a guitar and sang a beautiful ballad so I’ll keep watching. Sonny James just sang another. It was shot in 1967 without a hippie in sight and set in a haunted house on the road to Nashville. John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr and Basil Rathbone (in one of his very last roles) provide the spooky parts, but they’re not really ghosts but Russian spies, back when being a Russian spy was a bad thing. Imagine that. If you would betray your country you would betray us, Basil says to a treasonous FBI agent in a rare plot complication, and shoots him.
Anyway, waiting here for Merle Haggard and figure Ferlin’s got more sanging to do. Joi Lansing is in a shirt a size too small except when she moves and it’s three sizes too small. They really knew how to fasten buttons on in those days. She’s supposed to be a country singer. But this tacky torch tune she’s singing is about as country as chicken fried steak in Santa Monica.
Oops, Merle’s on, cooler than fuck. Someone told his story, he’s singing, in a song.
This Merle Haggard Christmas album begins with a cheery If We Make It Through December and stumbles along in boozy haze till everyone’s miserable. His rotten kid is demanding a puppy and tell me that’s not the most self pitying Silent Night ever. And that’s just one side. Think I’ll flip it over and see if he gets insulted by a drunken Santa. It ends with Daddy Won’t Be Home Again For Christmas, which hopefully is about prison. I’ll probably be playing this every Christmas.
This clip blew my mind.
Lots of time when people ask me about writing prose, I’ll simply tell them to listen to “Kern River”. Merle Haggard was a huge influence on me. Still is.
Listen to how spare it is, how bare boned. He has pared this thing down to the point that editing out one word might bring the whole ediface crashing down. Listen to how many stories he tells. How much information he imparts, the scenes he describes and how vividly you picture them as you listen. He does it all so simply, with so few words, a whole short story in a handful of lines.
It is some of the finest use of the English language, and of language itself, I have ever heard. I’ve listened to this song a couple hundred times over the years, and it nails me every time still.
Here he plays it on TV and the damn thing hadn’t even come out yet. It’s so brand new the words seem to glisten.