Merle Haggard, George Jones and Lorrie Morgan discuss country music in the 90s: “You can’t record songs from the heart anymore”


george jones, Haggard Merle, Tracer Adkins and Lorrie Morgan all in one piece looks pretty darn amazing.

And it happened in the late 90s, when George had his own television series, The George Jones Show.

He often invited other artists to perform and talk, from newcomers to fellow legends, and while the music was great, the conversations they had between the two were absolutely amazing.

In episode seven of the show, the four of them got into a discussion about how the industry has changed so much since the prime time of Merle and George touring the country in the 70s and 80s.

George spoke of the fun they had on the road together, and Merle chimed in, saying “we had so much fun in the 70s that 90s people are paying for it”.

And I guess that was pretty much true, because Lorrie says it was almost impossible to meet other artists and make a real connection with them, like Merle and George had done with artists like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson over the years.

George noted that authenticity is a big part of why their music has reached so many people and they have all become such good friends:

“We were crazy, you know, back then, you know. It’s something you can’t hide and there’s no point in lying about it. We did things our way and no one else’s.

And Lorrie added that she felt like she had almost no control over her career and how things turned out (sound familiar?):

“Well, that’s too bad, because I don’t think we can do things our way. Even when it comes to the songs that we record, everything is really dictated to us right now.

Merle noted that he didn’t even think legends like Ernest Tubb and Hank Williams would ever have made it in the industry environment at the time this episode was taped because of this exact thing:

“This country couldn’t produce a Huckleberry Finn, and it couldn’t produce an Ernest Tubb or a Hank Williams because, first of all, they wouldn’t allow them to be themselves.

Isn’t that the truth…

Lorrie went on to say that if an artist didn’t fit the label mold or make songs that would get airplay on the radio, they basically wouldn’t have a record deal… and I’m not so sure about that could not be recorded verbatim in 2022:

“You have to fit the mold and you can’t record songs from the heart anymore. They have to be what’s going to be on the radio, and they don’t want to hear ballads, and you can’t sing every song to the beat because you’re losing your heart.

I mean, you have to cry in ballads, and you have to touch people, and it’s kind of sad because you can’t get them to play.

George said country music was built on these emotional ballads, and he’s not lying:

Country music, I think, was really ballad-based to begin with. Even though we all add fun to it with fast things, you know, because we have fun and I like to do fast things.

Merle summed it up nicely with his little parallel comment, saying:

“They don’t want anything that shows emotion.”

It’s crazy to think that over 20 years ago these problems still existed within the industry and they have only gotten worse.

We say it all the time here, but authenticity is the most important thing when it comes to an artist’s ultimate success or failure, and these legends were absolutely right on their point. view on the matter…and I think they know a bit of what they’re talking about, so maybe we should heed that advice a bit.

You can check out their entire conversation here, well worth a watch:


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