Merle Haggard's My House of Memories
For the RecordBook - 1999
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.