Okie From Muskogee

Album: Okie From Muskogee (1969)
Charted: 41
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  • Haggard and his band started writing this song when their tour bus passed through Muskogee, Oklahoma. It started out as a joke making fun of small town rural folks, but took on new meaning when people took it seriously; the song was a #1 Country hit for four weeks, and it quickly became clear that many listeners really did despise the liberal, elite hippies in San Francisco and heard the song not as a commentary on the folly of intolerance, but as a song about southern pride.

    Said Haggard: "We wrote it to be satirical originally. But then people latched onto it, and it really turned into this song that looked into the mindset of people so opposite of who and where we were. My dad's people. He's from Muskogee."
  • The Vietnam protests were an inspiration for this song - Haggard was protesting the protesters. Haggard was imprisoned several times in his younger days for various crimes, and during a 2010 interview with The Boot, he explained: "When I was in prison, I knew what it was like to have freedom taken away. Freedom is everything.

    During Vietnam, there were all kinds of protests. Here were these [servicemen] going over there and dying for a cause - we don't even know what it was really all about. And here are these young kids, that were free, bitching about it. There's something wrong with that and with [disparaging] those poor guys. We were in a wonderful time in America and music was in a wonderful place. America was at its peak and what the hell did these kids have to complain about? These soldiers were giving up their freedom and lives to make sure others could stay free. I wrote the song to support those soldiers."
  • Muskogee is a city in Oklahoma. In 1969, after this song was released and became a hit, Haggard went to Muskogee and recorded a live album called Okie From Muskogee.
  • Haggard wrote this song with Eddie Burris, who was the drummer in his band The Strangers. Burris and Haggard wrote the song on their tour bus; accounts vary as to how the song came together, with one story being that Haggard saw a sign on the highway for Muskogee and another that they were en route to a show there. Haggard and Burris thought about how drug use and other hippie behavior would be considered in this small town, and quickly crafted the song.

    Burris was born in Oklahoma (Tulsa), but was raised in Bakersfield, California. He toured with Haggard until 1970, then left to become a truck driver. Burris died in 2011 at age 79.
  • "Okie From Muskogee" was parodied by Chinga Chavin as "A--hole from El Paso," which was later covered by Kinky Friedman. Another parody of the song was "Hippie From Olema" by the Youngbloods.
  • This was named CMA Single of the Year in 1970. It topped the Country chart for four weeks. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Julian - Oakland, AR
  • When Johnny Cash visited the White House in 1970, Richard Nixon - or one of his staff members - requested that he play this song as well as "A Boy Named Sue" and a song by Guy Drake called "Welfare Cadillac." Cash said he couldn't play "Okie" and "Cadillac," but did play "Sue" as well as a few of his other songs. The incident was played out in the press as confrontational, but it was all very cordial, as the request for the songs was made before Cash showed up, and his performance was well-received. Cash later wrote that the songs he didn't play had become "lightning rods for antihippie and antiblack sentiment."
  • Haggard, joined on stage by Blake Shelton, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, performed this song at the Grammy Awards in 2014.
  • This song is discussed in the 1986 movie Platoon, which takes place during the Vietnam War. In the film, a group of soldiers are enjoying some contraband in a tent when the scene cuts to some non-imbiding soldiers who hear this song playing. "Listen to that... that's a bad jam," a white soldier says. "Redneck noise dude, that's all it is," a black soldier replies. "It makes about as much sense as you do."

    The song advances the storyline, but is historically inaccurate: the film is set in 1967-1968, but the song wasn't released until 1969.
  • Jimmy Buffett references this in his song "Captain America" with the line, "He wears a mask his clothes are weird and some folks call him hokie, but he is hip and just can't dig the Okie from Muskogee."
  • The Youngbloods released an answer song to this tune called "Hippie from Olema," referring to a liberal-minded city in California.

Comments: 13

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 26th 1969, "Okie from Muskogee" by Merle Haggard & the Strangers entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #91; and on December 28th, 1969 it peaked at #41 {for 1 week} and spent 13 weeks on the Top 100...
    And on November 9th, 1969 it reached #1 {for 4 weeks} on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart; it was the third of four consecutive #1 records, started with "Hungry Eyes, "Workin' Man Blues”, this one, and finally "The Fightin' Side of Me"...
    Between 1963 and 1999 he had eighty-one records make Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart; sixty-seven of them made the Top 10 with an amazing thirty-seven reaching #1...
    He just missed having forty-five #1s when he eight of his records peaked at #2...
    Merle Ronald Haggard will celebrate his 78th birthday come next April 6th {2015}.
  • Terry from Valliant, OkTo understand this song, you really had to have been there. The country was very polarized at that time, and most of it was due to Vietnam. Patriotism was still a big thing. The hippie movement flew in the face of "law abiding, patriotic citizens", especially the WASPs. At the time I was very anti-hippie. I totally disagreed with their war protests. Now I look back on it and agree, we had no business being in Vietnam. Too many American soldiers died for absolutely nothing. That was the fault of the politicians, not the soldiers. The only thing I still disagree with, is the hippie treatment of soldiers returning home from their tours. Spitting on soldiers and calling them baby killers was just as wrong as the war was. If you can read this comment thank a teacher. Because your reading it in English, thank a soldier!
  • Dean from Hoover, AlThis song always reminds me of my Dad. He LOVES this song! (And so do I!)
  • Rhonda from Wagoner, OkI was born in Muskogee, Ok. so yeah, I'm an Okie from Muskogee, I sowed my "wild oats" tore it up and rebuilt it again. There are always people who criticize, poke fun at, or just don't get it. That's ok, we live in a country that granted us the right to voice our opinions and the freedom fought very hard for every day by many military people (Men and Women) for that very right. So yeah, I agree with "the Hagg" about our right to livin' free. But it does cost, remember that. It's what he meant with this paticular song. Oh I would also remember we all do live in "Glass House's " no finger pointing.
  • Julian from Oakland, ArThe song is definitely tongue in cheek.
  • Henry O. Godwinn from Wheeling, WvI find this song interesting. Mostly because he mentions white lightning (moonshine) which is against the law. So it's kinda ironic in what Haggard says he doesn't do. I think the song is a classic and probably meant to be tongue in cheek
  • Mark from Byrdstown, TnHaggard didnt write this song to make fun of anybody.He says at his concerts he wrote it as a salute to his dad who was an Okie and moved the family to California .Haggard grew up around Bakersfield.Im not sure of where the chart rankings come from because this song stayed at the top of the charts for several weeks after it was released.It is considered one of the greatest country songs ever written.

    Ive seen Haggard in concert many times and I take him at his word when he says this song was wrote to honor his dad.Either believe Merle or myth,its up to you.
  • Bob from Roseville, CoActually the Youngblood's song is refering to Bolinis Ca,where to this day the town still has the 66 Haight feeling.The town folk's take the city sign down now and then to keep out strangers.

    But if you find it,they treat you with the feel of love and peace.
  • Bob from Canyon, CaA great reply song to this was "Hippie From Olema" by the Youngbloods... The final lines read: And I?m proud to be a hippie from Olema/
    Where we?re friendly to the squares and all the straights/We still take in strangers if they?re Haggard/In Olema, California, planet earth. Olema is a real town in rural Marin County, Northern California.
  • Mark from Lancaster, OhI heard an interview with Merle Haggard not long ago. He says that in the context of the passing years he has reconsidered the politics that went into this song and those which have come to be associated with it, and no longer agrees with them.
  • Kk Ryder from Little Farm In Ill. & Seattle, WaI always loved the original lyrics but I sure did find the humor in the lyrics...I'm proud to be an A__ H___ from El Paso! now that was cute!
    kk ryder, seattle Wa.
  • Frank from Westminster, ScI would smile when this song came on the radio, because I actually knew a guy (in his forties, and a disgraced local politician) in Muskogee at the time. He sold weed, porn, and most anything else you wanted. The general population of the area was very straight and patriotic. Regardless of Merle Haggard's intentions when writing this, it was taken at its face value by most people.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyWhen this song became a country hit, CBS News did a story about the town's reaction. Some local teenagers said the song was wrong, there actually WAS marijuana smoking in Muskogee.
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