Mama Tried

Album: Mama Tried (1968)

Songfacts®:

  • Haggard wrote this song while serving time in San Quentin prison for robbery. The song is based on his life, and how his mother tried to help him but couldn't.
  • The song is largely autobiographical; Haggard's father died when he was nine years old, and his mother, a devout member of the Church of Christ, tried to keep him on the straight and narrow with a strict upbringing based on her conservative values. This didn't sit well with Haggard, who said he was an "incorrigible" child and constantly rebelling against her ("Despite all my Sunday learning, towards the bad I kept on turning").

    He was always hopping on freight trains ("The first thing I remember knowing was a lonesome whistle blowing"), an early indicator of his itinerant outlaw personality. He got into trouble for offenses like shoplifting and writing bad checks. Stints in reform school didn't help, and in 1957 he landed in prison for burglary, where he spent his 21st birthday.

    In this song, Haggard takes full responsibility for his choices and takes pity on his mother, who did the best she could ("No one could steer me right but Mama tried").
  • This song has been covered by a wide range of artists, including the Everly Brothers and the Grateful Dead.

Comments: 4

  • Thomas from Somerville, AlMerle Haggard never killed anybody. The fact is, he was drunk and trying to break into a bar at the back door. The bar owner opened the back door and caught him, the bar was open, not closed and called the cops. He DID turn 21 in the county jail for B&E. That is the facts as the facts are. I suggest you commentators watch a few more documentaries and listen to a little less B.S.
  • Henry O. Godwinn from Wheeling, WvActually John it's Honky Tonk bedonkadonk but about the song yeah it's a classic and might be a little inaccuret in that Hag didn't serve life because he was pardoned.
  • John from Mansfield, TxDamn,But I Love ol'Merle!!
    Too bad That all Nashvegas Wants Is Pretty Boys
    who sing"Chicken fried Hallmark cards"!!!
    God,I Wish Hank williams would come down from"Hillbilly Heaven"and"Kabong"Tim McGraw;Toby Keith and Trace Adkins*(*To Name A Few)With his Guitar!!
    "Honky Tonk,A Donk A Donk!!"??As Kristen Wig's SNL Character"Aunt Linda"sez:"PUHLEASE!!".
  • Chet from Buffalo, NyMerle was granted a full pardon by then-Governor Ronald Reagan in 1972. This was one of his biggest successes, topping the Billboard Country chart for 4 weeks.
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