Just minutes before the Academy of Country Music officially announced Miranda Lambert as the recipient of the new Merle Haggard Spirit Award this morning, singer-songwriter Sturgill Simpson unleashed an epic online tirade against the organization and those who, he feels, are exploiting the late Country Music Hall of Fame member's name.
Writing on Facebook, Simpson took the ACM to task, singling out their annual April awards show. The ACM Honors, an offshoot of the ACM Awards, which recognize off-camera winners and special-achievement recipients – including the new Haggard award – will be taped in Nashville Tuesday night.
"I'm writing this because I want to go on record and say I find it utterly disgusting the way everybody on Music Row is coming up with any reason they can to hitch their wagon to [Haggard's] name while knowing full and damn well what he thought about them," Simpson wrote. "If the ACM wants to actually celebrate the legacy and music of Merle Haggard, they should drop all the formulaic cannon fodder bullshit they've been pumping down rural America's throat for the last 30 years along with all the high school pageantry, meat parade award show bullshit and start dedicating their programs to more actual Country Music."
Simpson opened his post by explaining Haggard's attitude toward Music City.
"Many years back, much like Willie and Waylon had years before, Merle Haggard said, 'Fuck this town. I'm moving.' And he left Nashville," he wrote. "According to my sources, it was right after a record executive told him that 'Kern River' was a bad song. In the last chapter of his career and his life, Nashville wouldn't call, play, or touch him. He felt forgotten and tossed aside. I always got a sense that he wanted one last hit..one last proper victory lap of his own, and we all know deserved it. Yet it never came. And now he's gone."
Simpson also recalled a photo shoot he did for the cover of a Southern-lifestyle magazine that he says went awry. Read his full post here.
For his part, Haggard wasn't shy about expressing his distaste for some of contemporary country music. In an interview with The Forum of Fargo-Moorehead in 2015, he said he was confused by the genre's direction: "They're talking about screwing on a pickup tailgate and things of that nature. I don't find no substance. I don't find anything you can whistle, and nobody even attempts to write a melody. It's more of that kids stuff. It's hot right now, but I'll tell you what – it's cooling off."
Haggard died April 6th, 2016, at age 79. Simpson is currently on the road in support of his most recent album, A Sailor's Guide to Earth.
A rep for Simpson declined to comment further on the musician's statements. The ACM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.