Working Man Blues

Album: A Portrait of Merle Haggard (1969)


  • "Working Man Blues" is about as obviously aimed as you can get, at the core audience of his fans, being blue-collar workers. Even at that, Haggard poses for the cover of the single in full business suit, tie, watch, and all. It's sort of a cool solidarity with the audience, and a sympathetic bit of self-deprecating humor - "Don't I look ridiculous like this?" The suit even seems to be tailored in a just-this-side-of-dandy fashion, just to make the point.
  • "Working Man Blues" is an excellent example of the country music sub-genre known as the "Bakersfield Sound." Bakersfield, California was the locus of a back-to-basics breed of Country music in the '60s and '70s, popularized by Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. It was kind of a "punking" of Country music, removing the slick studio production to focus on the bare essentials.

    You can't believe it thanks to the urban sprawl and metropolitan development today, but Bakersfield was once just as rural as the name suggests. As recently as 1970, it was just ranches and farms, from the freeway to the horizon, with a few "wide places in the road" for buildings. Today it's the same smoggy concrete jungle that the rest of California is.
  • Haggard had an amazing work ethic, firing off an average of three albums in the space of a year. Critics noted that the prolific pace didn't hurt the quality; music critic Mark Deming noted that a performer would be lucky to have the hits spanning a career that Haggard could pack into one album.


Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Jackie DeShannon - "Put a Little Love in Your Heart"

Jackie DeShannon - "Put a Little Love in Your Heart"They're Playing My Song

It wasn't her biggest hit as a songwriter (that would be "Bette Davis Eyes"), but "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" had a family connection for Jackie.

Dick Wagner (Alice Cooper/Lou Reed)

Dick Wagner (Alice Cooper/Lou Reed)Songwriter Interviews

The co-writer/guitarist on many Alice Cooper hits, Dick was also Lou Reed's axeman on the Rock n' Roll Animal album.

Jello Biafra

Jello BiafraSongwriter Interviews

The former Dead Kennedys frontman on the past, present and future of the band, what music makes us "pliant and stupid," and what he learned from Alice Cooper.

Rick Springfield

Rick SpringfieldSongwriter Interviews

Rick has a surprising dark side, a strong feminine side and, in a certain TV show, a naked backside. But he still hasn't found Jessie's Girl.

Steely Dan

Steely DanFact or Fiction

Did they really trade their guitarist to The Doobie Brothers? Are they named after something naughty? And what's up with the band name?

Mark Arm of Mudhoney

Mark Arm of MudhoneySongwriter Interviews

When he was asked to write a song for the Singles soundtrack, Mark thought the Seattle grunge scene was already overblown, so that's what he wrote about.