Vince Gill: ‘Merle Haggard Was My No. 1 Inspiration’
The world is still mourning the death of Merle Haggard, and Tuesday evening's All For the Hall benefit concert paid tribute to the country legend, with many artists covering Haggard's songs. Vince Gill was one of those artists, and in an interview with Nashville's News Channel 5, he discussed the impact Haggard had on his life.
"Merle Haggard was my No. 1 inspiration in my life," Gill says. "The way he led a band, the way he played, the way he sang, the way he wrote songs was the pinnacle in every level to me. Nobody equals Merle in my eyes. That was tough."
Gill says he was already planning on performing one of Haggard's songs at the event, but after the news of his passing, many of the artists on he bill decided to change their song selection to one of Haggard's.
"I don't know anybody that doesn't feel the way I do about Merle Haggard. He was like Arnold Palmer," Gill adds, comparing Haggard to the respected golf pro. "He was the most beloved guy that our music has ever seemed to be put out there. At times like that, everybody stands back and goes, 'Let's refocus and remember what really matters.'"
Gill recalls meeting Haggard 35 years ago while performing with Emmylou Harris for the first time. He adds that recording his Bakersfield album with Paul Franklin was an important career highlight in letting Haggard know how much he inspired him.
"It was really important and it furthered a friendship that we already had," he explains.
Haggard was working on an album at the time of his death. Gill says he sang on four songs on the record and that getting to sing with him was "meant to be."
"He called me really late one night, I had already gone to bed. It was one in the morning," Gill recalls. "I woke up the next morning, I saw a voicemail from Merle Haggard so I listened to it and I've saved it. I play it at shows from time to time. It's a sweet message saying, 'I want to thank you for singing on my record. I love you for it.'"
No word on if a posthumous album from Haggard will be released.
Country Stars Remember Merle Haggard
Merle Haggard Dead at 79