Among Merle Haggard’s greatest accomplishments was his induction into the vaunted Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994. Emmylou Harris, a country legend in her own right, introduced Haggard, who died Wednesday at 79 years old, when he received the honor and — even 22 years later — the statistics she rattles off about his prolific success as a songwriter and recording artist are staggering.
But Haggard’s hilarious acceptance speech is the real highlight. “I’ve had 30 days notice — I’m not used to getting notices for such things,” he begins. “Had a guy call me up one time and tell me on a Monday he was going to whip me on a Friday.”
The musician then says he has a lot of people to thank — and unfurls a massive scroll of names that drops to the floor. “That’s the devil, he’s been messing with me all 30 days,” Haggard quips, before thanking his plumber, his “bugman,” and his “chicken guard and frogman.”
He ended the speech by saying, “I’m so proud to be a part of the Country Music Hall of Fame.”
After his death, dozens of country stars and celebrities mourned the musical icon. “He was my brother, my friend. I will miss him,” Willie Nelson said in a statement to EW.
The Country Music Hall of Fame also responded to Haggard’s death. In a statement to EW Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum said, “Merle Haggard’s contribution to American popular music is inestimable, and his death seems somehow unfathomable. He carried the sounds and spirit of his heroes Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams, and Woody Guthrie into the present day, and he wrote the songs that told, and will continue to tell, our stories. He sought to make, in his words, ‘music that contributes to the well-being of the spirit… music that cradles people’s lives and makes things a little easier.’ That music remains with us, to soften the enormous blow of this hard and sad time.”
Revisit Haggard Country Music Hall of Fame induction below.