FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- Country music fans across the country were taken by surprise when they learned singer Merle Haggard died Wednesday (April 6), on his 79th birthday.
D.C., a morning radio personality at KTCS, said when he heard the news, the first thing he thought of was Haggard’s song “Silver Wings.”
“That was the one thing that I had thought of, because that’s the song that he always talks about that would most represent his passing,” D.C. said.
He first met Haggard when he was just a child.
“I met Merle for the first time whenever I was seven years old, fan fair in Nashville, Tennessee," he said. "[I was a] huge fan growing up.”
Haggard was one of only a few artists he listened to at the time.
“I had three albums. I had an Elvis album, a Willie album, and a Merle album that I was allowed to play as many times as I wanted,” he said.
In D.C.’s early '20s, he introduced the country singer on stage, and grew to know him after interviewing him several times over the years, seeing him for the last time in 2002.
“He said, ‘D.C., nice to see you,’ and it was amazing that out of all of the millions of people he had met, he would remember me."
The radio personality said Haggard's reach goes beyond country music fans.
“Merle’s influence has gone above genres; I think it goes from all the spectrums. Those that haven't been influenced by Merle, probably just don't know that they've been influenced by him,” D.C. said. “Because so many artists, you can either hear it in their music or if you start listening to the stories that they tell, you'll hear it."
And D.C. wants to highlight those stories on his Thursday morning segment.
“There are a lot of people, a lot of musicians around this area that have had an opportunity to either play on stage with merle or have had an opportunity,” he said. “So I think that's probably what we're going to do is open up the phones and let people tell their stories about Merle.”
Several other radio hosts at KTCS said they had the chance to interview or meet Haggard over the years.
The country singer was scheduled to go on tour and perform in Jonesboro on May 10.