Before I rock ‘n’ roll saved my soul – in the form of punk and metal – the only music I knew was old country. (Well, country and church hymns, but that’s another story for another time.) My parents listened to a lot of good old country music: Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, George Jones – lots of good stuff.
In my early teens, I rejected this music, but slowly returned to it as I overcame my knee-jerk, anti-“my parents’ music” mentality. It helped that some of my punk rock idols were clearly influenced by country music, from early honky tonk to later outlaw tunes. Later on, as my taste in music progressed beyond “louder, faster, more” I couldn’t get these old songs out of my head.
Anyway, I found this video on the YouTube tonight: Johnny Paycheck playing “The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised” at Chillicothe Prison in Ohio in 1993, post prison time and “Johnny Bankrupt.” He’s introduced by none other than Merle Haggard. Paycheck and the band are really cookin’ – it’s magical.