Merle and I were buddies from way back. I first met him at a poker game at my house in Nashville in the early Sixties, before he went back to Bakersfield and I went back to Texas. We always had a lot in common. We both hopped trains as kids. We both got our starts playing bass in other bands before stepping out on our own. We’d both been married for the last 20 years. We both had our sons playing guitar with us. Over the years, we played a lot of dates, a lot of poker. He was a great audience for my jokes. I told him recently, “You know what you call a guitar player without a girlfriend? Homeless,”
In the early Eighties, he came to stay with me in Texas to record. We were living pretty hard back then, but we’d also try to be a little healthy. We used to go jogging a lot. We’d burn one down and run two miles in cowboy boots. In Texas, we went on a 10-day cayenne-pepper juice cleanse. It was horrible. One day after we’d been up all night, Merle went to the condo to get some rest. Around 4 a.m., we woke him up to sing his part on “Pancho and Lefty.” He sang it half in his sleep, but Hag sings pretty good in his sleep.
I always had a lot of admiration for him.”
– Willie Nelson