When Mo Pitney was 12 years old he had a “boxer’s fracture,” a broken arm in a cast that went from his elbow to over the ring and pinky finger on his right hand. That didn’t stop him from learning to play guitar and eventually moving on to banjo. The Illinois native, who has wowed Grand Ole Opry audiences with his soul-deep devotion to traditional country music, took a bluegrass detour for a while, but his love for classic country has never wavered.
Earlier this year, Pitney released “Country,” a song he co-wrote with Bobby Tomberlin and legendary Hall of Famer Bill Anderson. The tune was just one indication that the young writer-performer has been paying strict attention since he first began studying the genre’s masters.
“I looked and tried to find all the great music and figure out what moved me and why it moved me,” Pitney tells Rolling Stone Country. “I looked to writers because I wanted to craft great songs. I’m an old soul and I always lean towards the older artists: Ray Price, Buck Owens, Roger Miller, Merle Haggard. Not only just saying I like Merle Haggard but studying his music.”
Pitney’s high regard for the Hag is on full display in this exuberant acoustic performance of “I Met Merle Haggard Today.” Taking a page from his personal journals, Pitney notes the date and exact time of day the profound title event took place and sets it to a Haggard-inspired melody.
The story and the song go like this: On February 4th, 2013, Pitney and a pal attend a taping of The Marty Stuart Show at NorthStar Studios just north of downtown Nashville. At 4:45 p.m., Pitney met his idol, but apparently no photographic evidence of the confab exists, as he sings, “What was I thinking? Shoulda took a picture with my phone, or at least record him sayin’, ‘Pleasure to meet you, Mo.”
Pitney’s recently released single “Come Do a Little Life” is now available on iTunes. On Saturday, July 25th, he’ll play the Lancaster Festival in Lancaster, Ohio.