|Merle Haggard: Kick out the footlights.|
He derived his sound from a guy named Lefty Frizzell, a journeyman country singer in the 1950s and 1960s and an uncle of David Frizzell, a journaaen country singer in the 1970s and '80s, who had a big hit with Shelly West, daughter of Dottie West ("You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma"). I don't know where Lefty got his country/rockabilly sound, but there was a lot of Hank Williams in it and Hank got his sound from ... And so it goes.
There aren't many originals in country music because it is a music whose development has been gradual and contains few deviations from the norm. "Modern country" probably developed from old time music in the 1940s, when Western Swing mated with the fiddle and steel guitar. It was pretty static until the outlaw movement of the 1970s, which spawned Haggard, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash (who had been a rocker), David Alan Coe (who once sang "the perfect country song"), and the like. It has been a slow climb to nowhere from there, mostly getting away from the roots, but remaining strongly derivative in every way.
Haggard sang about trains, mama, getting drunk, cheating, being a country singer and conservative politics. He did it well and I had a number of his albums at one time. I think I outgrew him, but he was a staple for a few years.
Haggard, who looked like his name, lived a good life and entertained a lot of people. Rest in peace, old boy.