(Left) AP via The New Yorker/(Right) Paradise Center for the Arts
Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard are often named as two of the best country artists of all time. Beyond that, the two share a deeper connection that few people realize.
If it hadn’t been for Cash, the world may have never known Haggard.
As a young man, Haggard made some bad choices that resulted in him being sent to prison. That’s where Haggard and Cash’s paths first crossed. While Haggard was serving time at San Quentin, Cash stopped by to perform a concert. From that moment on, Haggard’s life was forever changed.
Cash frequently travelled to prisons to sing for inmates, something they always got a kick out of. He showed up to perform at San Quentin on New Year’s Day in 1958, not knowing until years later that Haggard was in the audience.
After he got out of prison, Haggard decided to follow in Cash’s footsteps. He chased his own career in country music, and after a few short years he was one of its leading stars. The rest is history.
As everyone knows, one of Haggard’s signature songs is “Mama Tried.”
The song has been covered more times than anyone could count, but one cover stands out…Cash’s.
It’s funny, considering the fact that “Mama Tried” is loosely based on Haggard’s own life and his time in prison. To hear Cash sing it really brings their whole friendship full circle.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear that “Mama Tried” was one of Cash’s own songs. It sounds just like the type of stuff he recorded himself, which is why he was able to cover it so effortlessly.
We’re sure Haggard was tremendously honored to hear his song done such justice by his good friend and inspiration. You can hear an audio recording of Cash singing “Mama Tried” below.
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