The late Merle Haggard made his final Grand Ole Opry appearance on October 17, 2015. It was a surprise performance, with friend and frequent duet partner Connie Smith welcoming the 78-year-old legend to the stage. Calm and confident in a dark blazer and sunglasses, Haggard played four classics that night, including “Big City,” “Silver Wings” and “The Fightin’ Side of Me.”
In the video above, the Hag closes out the night with “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink,” his Number One hit from 1980. The entire band is in top form, with blasts of brass and bursts of saloon-style piano driving the tune forward. Even so, Haggard takes the final guitar solo himself, leading the group through 50 seconds of Telecaster twang and loose boogie-woogie. That may be a rare move for an elder statesmen of country music, but once an outlaw, always an outlaw.
Merle Haggard passed away yesterday on his 79th birthday, leaving behind one of the largest legacies in contemporary music.