Merle Haggard, Cliffie Stone and Joan Carol Stone backstage at the Academy of Country Music Award show in the early 1990s. In Cliffie’s own words - excerpts from his songwriting book: “I’m very partial to one of Bakersfield’s Cradle of Country Music’s legendary singer/songwriters, Merle Haggard. He’s been called the ‘Poet of the Common Man’ and he truly is! I’m proud to say that I spent a lot of time with Merle during his formative, successful years at Capitol and it was my pleasure to attend many of his recording sessions. To this day, he still teases me about being his ‘good luck charm,’ for it seemed as though whenever I was at any of his record dates – the song would become a hit! Merle always wrote and sang from his heart and his style of singing has influenced many of today’s top artists. Once when we were discussing what made up a hit song, he said the following words of wisdom to me: ‘You’ve got to get them in the heart, in the head, or in the feet.’ His award-winning songs include: ‘Fightin’ Side of Me,’ ‘Hungry Eyes,’ ‘Workin’ Man Blues,’ ‘Mama Tried,’ ‘Today, I Started Loving You Again’ (with Bonnie Owens), ‘Okie From Muskogee’ (with Roy Burris), and ‘Are the Good Times Really Over.’“ One of Cliffie’s favorite bar room songs was ‘Misery and Gin’ which Merle Haggard recorded in 1980 for Clint Eastwood’s movie, ‘Broncho Billy.” He loved everything about the song: the lyrics (written by Snuff Garrett and John Durrill) and it’s simple musical production, especially the piano intro riff (played by John Hobbs) before Merle started singing; Cliffie often compared it to the memorable piano intro riff (played by Floyd Cramer) before Patsy Cline started singing her signature song, ‘Crazy.’ Here’s Merle Haggard’s testimony for Cliffie’s songwriting book: “Cliffie’s book will be of much assistance to any new writer because of its valuable content. There really is a diagram and a method to constructing a well-written song, and Cliffie knows these guidelines as well as anyone. He’s a professor and a publisher and this book is long overdue.” I visited Merle’s website and was very moved when I read his ‘Let Me Testify,’ because I, too, can testify to a similar experience in my own life. I highly recommend that you visit www.merlehaggard.com and peruse his biography, massive discography, his countless songs (he had 38 number one Billboard hit songs) and the numerous awards that he’s received. The following prestigious awards encapsulate his historic musical career: Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame – 1977; Country Music Association’s ‘Hall of Fame,’ 1994; Academy of Country Music ‘Pioneer Award,’ 1995; and the Kennedy Center Honors, 2010.