Merle Haggard and the IRS Agent

Former L.A. Times music critic Robert Hilburn points to 1994 feature.

In memory of the legendary country singer, Robert Hilburn, who served as pop music critic and pop music editor at the L.A. Times from 1970 to 2005, tweeted that of all the articles he wrote about Merle Haggard, his favorite was a June 20, 1994 feature. And certainly, it’s hard to beat the first four paragraphs of “Hard Times, Truth and Inspiration:”

Redding, Calif. – Merle Haggard, the country music star who really did turn 21 in prison, just like it says in one of his songs, figures it cost the IRS nearly $100,000 the day an agent came to his ranch near here to try to figure out what goes into writing a hit.

Haggard’s tax return was apparently kicked out by the computer for too many business deductions and the agent wanted the songwriter to show him how the 200-acre spread in the mountains helped him do his work.

During a walk around the grounds, Haggard explained how a creek inspired one song, a flower bed led to another and a bulldog jump-started a third.

“Finally, this fellow looks at me and says, ‘Why, Mr. Haggard, everything you do is a write-off,’ and he started pointing out other things I should have declared,” the songwriter says, laughing so hard his whole body shakes.

Hilburn’s next book will be an authorized biography of Paul Simon. Haggard was honored by the Kennedy Center in 2010 and was set to resume touring next month. Read the rest of Hilburn’s extensive L.A. Times article here.

Previously on FishbowlNY:
Simon and Schuster Win Paul Simon Bidding War
The Definitive Johnny Cash Biography Arrives

Screen grab via: YouTube