published Monday, February 11th, 2013

Get Off the Couch: Haggard, Irish high steppers coming

LISA DENTON: Barry, if I said, "Let's chase each other around the room tonight," would your first thought be about Merle Haggard?

BARRY COURTER: Laws a mercy, you're trying to get me on my wife's fighting side.

You know I love some Haggard. The really good performers -- and he is one of them -- sing their songs in a way that you never doubt they are speaking from experience. Sinatra did it. George Jones and Johnny Cash did it. When I hear Haggard, I picture him sitting on a barstool, in prison or walking a lonely road, depending on the song.

He's at the Tivoli on Wednesday, which is why you bring it up ... I hope.

LISA: Yes, of course, that's why I bring it up. I'm just singing through his hits. I heard "Leonard" on the radio the other day, and I've had Merle on the brain ever since. Just happened to get around to that other opening line when it came time to write the column.

I saw Haggard when he was here a few years back, and it was a great show. And not just the music. I especially loved it when he called out some of the rowdies in the crowd who were hooting and hollering for him to sing, rather than sitting through a couple of numbers by backup vocalist Bonnie Owens, his ex-wife. He told them, "That's just ill-mannered." He said it so politely, but you knew he was promising a beat-down to anyone who didn't hush up.

BARRY: I love that

story and I have no problem believing he would leave the stage and commence to throwing fists around at the slight.

As for favorite songs, I could listen to "Mama Tried" every day and twice a day. "Despite all my Sunday learnin', towards the bad I kept on turnin'."

It's just perfect.

LISA: Pure poetry. One of my favorite lyrics of all time.

BARRY: Don't forget also that "Lord of the Dance" returns to Memorial Auditorium on Tuesday night. I've tried doing that dance, but people who see it always call for a doctor, so I quit.

LISA: I can't vouch for how you looked, but generally it's not a compliment to be entertaining only from the waist down.

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about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

about Lisa Denton...

Lisa Denton is deputy features editor and content editor of Current. She previously was a lifestyle, entertainment and region reporter/pod leader for The Chattanooga Times, which she joined in 1983. Lisa is from Sale Creek and holds an associate’s degree in journalism from Chattanooga State Community College. Contact Lisa at 423-757-6281 or

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