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A recently unearthed interview reveals Merle Haggard’s true feelings about Johnny Cash Photo by Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP
Merle Haggard performs on stage during the 2015 Stagecoach Festival at the EmpireClub on Friday, April 24, 2015, in Indio, Calif. (Photo by Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP)

Country music fans face 2017 without two of their most influential legends – Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. Yet, luckily for all of us, both their music and their words live on. Thank God.

And in a recently unearthed 2007 interview with Merle about his friend Johnny, country music fans can see both the friendship between the two and how similar they really were.

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“We were always humorous with each other,” Merle says in the interview. “I criticized him one time for something he did, and he answered me, ‘Haggard, you have the ugliest face in country music.’ We had that kind of sense of humor back then. But later I missed a couple of dates out in Oregon when I was 49 years old, and he and June called me and said, ‘What’s the matter, Haggard, did you get ahold of some bad dope? I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘What’s the matter?’ I said, ‘I’m 49 years old, Cash. I’m fixin’ to turn 50.’ He said, ‘Oh, my God. I wound up in rehab when I turned 50. I totally understand.’ … He helped me every time he had a chance to help me, and I would have done the same for him.”

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It was a friendship that began when the two faced each other back in 1958 during the famous San Quentin concert.

“He lost his voice that day,” Merle said. “It was just a whisper. But his charismatic manners sold him to the convicts. They really liked him, and I did, too, and I was prepared not to like him for some reason. When he didn’t have a voice and he was able to bring the people around, I understood the power of Johnny Cash. It was overwhelming.”

Tricia Despres is a senior correspondent for Rare Country, based out of Chicago. Join the conversation on Twitter at @RareCountry. We would love to see y’all there.
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