April 10, 1982 was a big day for Merle Haggard, but it was even bigger for Dean Holloway, Merle’s friend since grammar school and his tour bus driver since 1966.
Merle’s song “Big City” was sitting on top of the charts that day. but the coolest part of that song is the story behind it getting written.
At the end of a recording session in Los Angeles, Merle went to check on his friend who was watching the bus. When Hag asked how he was, Dean replied, “I hate this place. I’m tired of this dirty old city.” When Hag asked where he would rather be he retorted, “If it were up to me, it’d be somewhere in the middle of damn Montana.”
The bus drivers answers inspired Hag so much that he began writing right then and there. In just 10 minutes, the song flowed out and Merle hurried back into the studio. The band was packing up, but Hag asked them to unpack so they could record one more song, and they cut “Big City” in one take.
The cool part? Haggard credited Holloway as a co-writer on the song, entitling him to half the song’s royalties, which amounted to half a million dollars.