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Posted: Friday, October 13, 2006 10:00 pm


Legendary country music comes to the Bob Hope Theatre today as Merle Haggard takes the stage. Haggard began to pursue his music career at the age of 14. His sound has combined all forms of traditional American music including country, jazz, blues and folk - creating a distinctive style all his own.

Haggard began his career in the early 1950s in Modesto, playing at a bar called the Fun Center, and then performed at clubs in Bakersfield, which led him to a spot on a local television show. From 1962-63, he played in a band landing him his first recording in 1963, "Sing a Sad Song." The record became a national hit and climbed to number 19 on the country charts in 1964. The following year, his version of Liz Anderson's, "My Friends Are Gonna Be Strangers" broke him into the top 10 and established him as a budding star.

In the fall of 1965, he released his first single with Capitol Records, "I'm Gonna Break Every Heart I Can." The single wasn't a success but his next single, "Swinging Doors" reached number five in the spring of 1966. That single helped him gain success in the country music industry along with two other hits, "The Bottle Let Me Down," and "The Fugitive." That year he was voted the Top Male Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music Awards. From 1969 to 1981 he released a number of hits including, "Sing Me Back Home," "Hungry Eyes," "Okie From Muskogee," "The Fightin' Side of Me," "Ramblin' Fever," "They Way I Am," and "Misery and Gin."

In 1981, he published his autobiography, "Sing Me Back Home." His latest releases include a gentle acoustic album, "If Only I Could Fly" in 2000, "Roots Col. 1," in 2001, and "Like Never Before," in 2003.


When: Today at 8 p.m.

Where: Bob Hope Theatre

Tickets: $47 and $37

Information: 337-HOPE


Groovin' in the Grove summer concert series finishes up the season today with music from Cold Blood, Highway 61, Little Sister and Bad Intentions, Mic Gillette and Jon Smith.

Highway 61, a band featuring Mississippi swamp blues to Chicago style jump blues, plays tunes from artists such as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Etta James and Tommy Castro as well as their original work.

Members of the band include guitarist Greg Barker, who has been lauded as the finest guitarist in the county; vocalist De Anna Del Rio, who has performed with many musicians in the Bay Area; harmonica player Mike Lothrop; bassist Joe Graham; drummers Randy Coss and Earl S. Evens; bari saxophonist Paul Walker, who was first chair at the Stanislaus County Honor Band; trumpeter Matt Martinez, who started the band Fat City; trumpeter Wayne Rinehart; keyboardist Rich Graham; saxophonist Neil Williford, who has played at many evangelistic events in the area; and alto saxophonist Ron Isbill, who is the newest member of the band. Together, the band has over 150 years of collective musical experience.

Jon Smith, a saxophonist with over 40 years of experience, has been sought after by many of the biggest names in the industry including Edgar Winter's White Trash Band and Toto. He has recently paired up with legendary brass man, Mic Gillette, forming the Mc Gillette Jon Smith Project. Gillette has appeared and toured with the Rolling Stones, Elton John, The Doobie Brothers and Santana. Gillette's inaugural solo CD, "Ear Candy," was released in August of 2005, and Smith is currently working on his first solo album.


When: Today from 6 to 9 p.m.

Where: Jessie's Grove Winery, 1973 W. Turner Road, Lodi

Tickets: $15

Information: 368-0880

- Compiled by Pam Bauserman



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