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George Strait opens up about how he is coping with the sting of Merle Haggard’s death YouTube

The sting is still there.

Even though artists have had time to process the news of Merle Haggard’s death, artists are still reeling in shock.

George Strait spent time with The Hag, even performing together onstage. But going back to the beginning of it all, King George credits Merle for bringing him into country music in the first place.

RELATED: When Merle Haggard could no longer sing, Toby Keith came to the rescue

“Merle was huge in my career. When he did ‘Okie from Muskogee’ back in the ’70s, I think it was, you know, I kinda got hooked then on Merle and country music,” George recently said in a statement.

Even as George began making music, a Merle Haggard concert helped continue to shape who George Strait would become.

RELATED: Merle Haggard received the honor of a lifetime just days before his death

“When I was in the Army and stationed at Schofield barracks in Hawaii, you know Merle came there, and he played Conroy Bowl,” explained George. “And I remember I was playing an NCO club that night, and before my little gig, I got to run over there and I kinda snuck in and saw Merle, and it just blew me away. That’s what I wanted to be like, you know, I wanted to be like the Hag. And so, I can’t tell you how big of an influence he was on me, just huge.”

At the American Music Awards in 1991, George Strait, along with Garth Brooks and Travis Tritt, sang the following tribute to their dear friend, The Hag.

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Based in Chicago but often in Nashville, Ken Churilla is a contributor for Rare Country. Follow him @KenChurilla and join the conversation @RareCountry.
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