Family, friends, fans share best Haggard stories

Posted at 5:40 PM, May 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-10 21:32:07-04

Family, friends and fans of Merle Haggard gathered at Valley Baptist church in northwest Bakersfield Tuesday for a memorial. 

Hundreds were in attendance including many family members of Merle Haggard and his closest friends as well as many well known faces from Kern County, such as Sheriff Donny Youngblood. 

After leaving the memorial and heading to the reception, many were eager to share their favorite Merle Haggard memories. 

Sheriff Youngblood said he met Haggard on a whim, deciding --with the encouragement of a friend to call up Haggard and invite him to his inauguration. Sheriff Youngblood joking Tuesday, saying, now, it's almost comical.

"I told him who i was and he said 'Well I don't like cops much, you know that. But let me call Lillian (Haggard's sister who knew Youngblood)," said Youngblood. "Two minutes later he called back and said 'Lillian said I'll be there.' And that's how I met him."

Sheriff Youngblood said he and Merle were good friends for many years and added that Haggard called him one last time before he died. 

"Well when he left Palm Springs he called me on the phone and I was sitting in my chair and home and he just called and said, 'You're a good friend and I want to stop by and see you.' and I said 'OK that'd be great.' I knew he wasn't going to." said Sheriff Youngblood as he fought back tears. 

There were dozens of stories to be told at the reception. One woman, Linda Jost, said one of her favorite memories of Merle Haggard was when she was at a birthday party for Lillian Haggard and Merle sang "Happy Birthday."

And Keith Clark who was a former disc jockey said he always loved the sound of Merle's voice. 

"It was around Christmas time and "If We Make It Through December" was a hit at that time and I still play that every year," said Clark. 

A former member of the band, "Big House," Chuck Seaton, said he toured with Merle in the 90s and described him as a kind and private man. 

"You couldn't just get on his bus, he was pretty particular about who he let on there," said Seaton. 

The were countless stories and friends and fans shared all of them with one another before heading home. 

Many saying although Merle Haggard is no longer around, his music and his memory will live on.