Country fans are well-aware of the fact that Merle Haggard was one of the best singers and songwriters in the business. But Haggard’s talents as a musician seem to be talked about less often.
Haggard was a highly-skilled musician, and was able to play both the guitar and fiddle. He was 12 years old when he received his first guitar, which was given to him by his brother, Lowell. Haggard was self-taught on the guitar, and learned to play by following along with the records he had at home.
As for his fiddle playing, Haggard put those skills on full display in his 1970 studio album, A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World. The album was a tribute to Bob Wills, who was a Western swing musician and bandleader. Haggard had admired Wills since he was a child, and his records were some of the ones he listened to when he was learning to play guitar.
To honor his idol, Haggard dedicated A Tribute to him. The album claimed the second spot on the country albums chart, and led to a resurgence in popularity for the Western swing genre.
Decades ago, Haggard teamed up with some of Western swing’s leading artists for a live television performance that still has people talking. Two of the musicians that joined Haggard were part of Wills’ band, The Texas Playboys. Their names were Tiny Moore and Johnny Gimble, who were both considered to be some of the greatest fiddlers in Western swing history.
Haggard was also joined by Tigar Bell, a member of his own band, The Strangers. Bell was invited to join The Strangers as a fiddle player when he was only eight years old, proving just how talented he was and how much faith Haggard had in him.
Together, these four talented instrumentalists ended up delivering one mean medley of Western swing. The medley featured a perfect blend of music, with some fast-paced songs and one stunning slow piece in the middle.
Each member of the ensamble got a chance to show off their skills with a solo, but Haggard was the clear star of the show. Once you watch him play in the video below, it will be easy to see why.
This is one of the many reasons why Haggard will forever be regarded as one of the greatest artists to ever grace country music. His talent was undeniable!