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FLASHBACK: DEC 28th, 1963

'Sad' Song Hits Happy Note

In the 1960s, young Merle Haggard was part of the hottest country scene on the West Coast - the clubs of Bakersfield, Calif. Merle cracked the Bakersfield circle after being paroled from San Quentin prison for breaking and entering, and soon became a well-respected musician in Johnny Barnett's band.

That led to a spot playing bass for local legend Wynn Stewart. One of Wynn's regular gigs was a stint in Las Vegas, as the house act for the Nashville Nevada Club. During a club rehearsal, Merle - who had aspirations of a singing career - heard Wynn practicing a new tune he had written called "Sing A Sad Song."

"I asked Wynn if I could record that someday," recalls Merle, "and he said it would be all right. It was just a great song." Merle did indeed record the tune, and on Dec. 28, 1963, it became his debut single. Merle also included "Sing A Sad Song" on his first album, Strangers.

"Sing A Sad Song" made an impressive debut, hitting the Top 20. More important, it launched one of the legendary careers in country history.