Merle Haggard is a man’s man—provided that man is a man who can respect another man who’s seen it all, done it all and gone to prison for some of it.
Merle was born in a boxcar in 1937, spent his early years committing robberies and breaking out of jail and, somehow was convinced to sing a duet with Clint Eastwood (seriously, listen to it: it’s terrifying.) In 1972, he was pardoned by Ronald Reagan for all of his crimes, with the exception of his his duet with Eastwood.
One of the clinks Merle got locked up in before straighten himself out was San Quentin, where he happened to be in the audience while Johnny Cash recorded Live from San Quentin. Later in life, Johnny and Merle became friends. Johnny told Merle that he was legitimately what everyone erroneously believed him to be. Merle responded to his pal that the only difference between the two of them was that he'd served hard-time and Cash hadn't.
When a fella with a life and memories like that has any advice to pass along, it’s likely worth taking under advisement. So, you might want to take a read of Sean Woods’ brief interview with Merle. It can be found in the September issue of Men’s Journal or via the magazine’s website.