Merle Haggard - A Tribute To The Best Damn Fiddle Player In The World
In this week's episode, we're featuring a landmark album in what would later become known as the western swing revivalist movement: Merle Haggard's sensational "My Tribute To The Best Damn Fiddle Player In The World (or, My Salute To Bob Wills)" (1970). Along with Jimmie Rodgers and Lefty Frizzell, Bob Wills was one of The Hag's primarily influences. A young Haggard even snuck out of his home at age 12 to go see Wills play at the famous Beardsley Ballroom, such was the influence from a very formative age. Armed with a fiddle he only took a few months to learn - a fiddle which once belonged to Bob Wills himself - Haggard, in discussion with Roy Nichols and Norm Hamlet of his band The Strangers, decided a tribute to "The Old Man" could only be done properly with the help of those who were there to make the sound in the first place. Johnny Gimble, Joe Holley, Eldon Shamblin, Tiny Moore and others graciously and eagerly agreed to be a part of this project and "The Best Damn Fiddle Player" is generally accepted as the first mainstream album to kickstart the western swing revival, still very much alive today. The enjoyment had on this collection of Wills standards (with a few choice obscurities) is evident, and legend has it that at the end of the three-day recording session, such was the emotion in the room that when the final note was played, you could see a tear in the eye of most all the pickers there. That's the soul of country music and western swing right there.