Straight Talking Hag

Merle Haggard probably gives the best interviews of any music artist alive today. Always honest, always controversial, The Hag recently expounded on a variety of topics, including giving up marijuana and the first time he met Johnny Cash. He also offered some unsolicited advice to Lindsay Lohan on how to act while in prison.

Photo: John Davisson
Stagecoach Festival, Indio, Calif.

Vanity Fair is the place for Haggard’s latest Q&A, where the 73-year-old country music legend talked about hopping freight trains, doing prison time and why he doesn’t sign autographs. But most of all, his answers to VF’s Eri Spitznagel’s questions remind us why he’s Merle Haggard.

Some choice answers:

Haggard describes meeting up with Johnny Cash for the very first time, painting a picture of two guys standing next to each other in a Chicago television station restroom.

“I was aware there was somebody standing beside me at the urinals. But you don’t look at the other guy. And then I heard him say, ‘Haggerty, you ever do anything like this?’ And I looked and it was Johnny Cash and he had a pill in his hand.”

As you can guess, Haggard wasn’t the type back in the day to just say no.

“It was a Dexedrine pill to help you stay awake. Back in those days, everybody took ‘em. The preachers took ‘em. It wasn’t a big deal. I stuck the pill in my mouth, and then Johnny pulled a flask from under his vest, which was loaded with wine. And he said, ‘Here, you can wash it down with this.’”

Photo: Rob Grabowski /
Rosemont Theatre, Rosemont, Ill.

These days Haggard probably wouldn’t be as apt to say yes to a pill, even it was offered by someone as well-known as Cash. He recently quite smoking marijuana, saying he “never got over it.”

“Anybody who says it’s not habit-forming is a damn liar. I’ve had friends tell me, I can quit marijuana anytime I want. Bullshit! (Laughs.) I called a friend of mine, a big music producer whose name you’d probably recognize, and I said to him, ‘I heard you quit pot,’ and he’s like, ‘Yeah, I did.’ I asked him, ‘Well shit, how long do these goddamn withdrawals last?’ And he said, ‘It lasted 45 days for me. And then I just started smoking again.’”

You can’t talk about Haggard without mentioning prison. After numerous run-ins with the law while still a juvenile, Haggard hit crime’s big time in the late ‘50s when he was sentenced to three years in San Quentin for attempting to rob a tavern. So he knows what prison life is like, and he has some advice for actress Lindsay Lohan, saying she needs to be honest and can’t act as if she’s better than her fellow inmates.

“I really do feel sorry for her. She’s going to have to straighten out her life, otherwise she’ll be dead by the time she’s 30. That’s the bottom line.”

Photo: Rob Grabowski /
Rosemont Theatre, Rosemont, Ill.

Click here to read the complete interview at