By Kurt Wolff
During his 50-plus-year career, legendary country singer and songwriter Merle Haggard has already received many accolades, including membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame as well as the Kennedy Center Honors in 2010. This spring, the life and career of the 76-year-old artist is being recognized again — twice.
During the upcoming Academy of Country Music Awards ceremony on April 6, Haggard will receive the Crystal Milestone Award to commemorate his 50 very active years in country music. Haggard will receive the award during the televised portion of the ceremony.
Five days earlier, on April 1, a new album paying tribute to Haggard will hit stores. Titled Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute to Merle Haggard, the 20-track album (see the full track list on Radio.com) features an impressive range of contemporary artists covering some of Hag’s most classic songs.
Toby Keith performs “Carolyn”; Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley take on “Pancho & Lefty” (a song written by Townes Van Zandt but turned into a No. 1 by Haggard and Willie Nelson); Jason Aldean turns out the ballad “Going Where the Lonely Go”; Randy Houser offers up “Misery and Gin” and “Ramblin’ Fever”; Jake Owen performs “Make Up and Faded Blue Jeans”; and Merle’s song Ben Haggard sings “Mama Tried” and “Sing Me Back Home.”
And on a special edition of the album available only at Walmart, Garth Brooks delivers “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down.”
This isn’t Haggard’s first go-round on the ACM Awards stage by any means. Decades ago he became the ACM’s first-ever Entertainer of the Year when the award was presented in 1970.