My Music And The Hag

Mar. 24, 2021

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If you’ve been following along, or know me well, you know I deeply love connection. There are many reasons connection is important, but I believe the strongest reason is the inspiration it has the potential to provide, and imagination that can be brought forth. That being said; here’s a great story of inspiration through connection.

On February 11th, 2016, I got a call from my dear friend Renato Caranto (a saxophone wizard) while I was in Los Angeles. He was out on the road with country legend Merle Haggard and invited me to the show at the Saban Theater. The show was Merle Haggard and the Strangers with another country legend, Kris Kristofferson. And it was more than spectacular. The way Merle commanded the stage from the first second he walked on was incredible, and proves what I truly amazing band leader he was. That’s what I believe I saw, regardless of whether Merle had a music director or not.

The best piece of this all was this was my first country show EVER. And although it would be my only Merle Haggard show, it was easily one of the best shows I’ve been too (I’m sure I’ll talk about some others). There are a few reasons this show left lasting inspiration within me:

Not having been a country show, I decided shortly thereafter to dig into more country music; Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and many others. That led me back to Elvis Presley, who I loved listening to growing up, and annoyed friend singing “Hound Dog”. This really brought to life my love of writing music even more than ever, and now I’ve found myself writing all sorts of music. And at the time of writing this I’m in the process of recording the 60 or so songs I’ve written.

Renato’s friendship is another great reminder of the show because Renato’s always been there for me, making sure I was always doing well when coming to hang and listen to him play. You don’t forget people who do things like that for you. At the show he introduced me to a bunch of amazing people including Norm Hamlett, who was Merle’s steel pedal guitar player for over 40 years, and Merle’s son, Noel, who I’ve befriended.

Since that night in 2016, Noel and I have had many wonderful conversations, including great stories of country music. Noel has become quite a remarkable friend, and has since introduced to more incredible people. One of which, Joe Reed, has also become a remarkable friend of mine now as well.

This is why I believe so much in connection giving way to inspiration that will last. Those friendships have meaning in my life, and not because of Noel being Merle’s son, or because Renato was playing that show. Rather because meaningful connection, especially when the connection is with kind hearted souls as the three mentioned are, always serve as great reminder of where it started and how much that night inspired me.

“Silver Wings” took me to the “Big City” where the music gave way to “Help Me Make It Through The Night”. From the opening lick on Haggard’s “I’m A Lonesome Fugitive”, to Kristofferson singing “Me And Bobby McGee,” all the way to the end with “Okie From Muskogee.”

One magical night; an inspiring journey of music; one night where a country music show inspired great change in my life, not just musically.






Read About The Author - Lavi Hendin

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