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Merle Haggard and George Jones Belt Out a Duet “Footlights”

Merle Haggard and George Jones, two country music icons, had a special influence on the genre with their distinguishing vocals and emotional stories.

While they frequently followed their separate artistic paths, their few duets were greeted with great enthusiasm by fans.

One such collaboration, although not a typical duet, pays tribute to the declining power of country music legends by covering each other’s songs on the 2006 album “Kickin’ Out the Footlights…Again.”

The following article will look into this effort, specifically how they recreated the famous Haggard song “Footlights.”

So, let’s get started.

Haggard’s “Footlights” and its Legacy (1980)

“Footlights,” released in 1980 on the album “Serving 190 Proof,” was a sorrowful perspective on the life of an ageing country performer.

Haggard’s distinctive voice told the story of a musician whose many years on the road took a toll on him.

The lyrics depict a guy pining for a happier era, packed with the pleasure of crowded houses and shouting cheers, as opposed to the calmer truth of shrinking crowds and the battle to remain relevant.

“Footlights” struck an intimate connection with country music veterans, who identified themselves in the lyrics.

The song expressed the poignant truth of a diminishing career, a challenging ache of nostalgia combined with a drive to continue singing.

It became a slogan for individuals who committed their lives to the genre, a memorial to their continuing love for music in the face of turbulent times.

A Collaboration Steeped in History

Merle Haggard and George Jones, regardless of their distinctive singing styles, had great regard and affection for each other’s music.

Their paths met many times throughout their careers, from formal award events to unplanned jam sessions.

This friendship provided the framework for their 1982 joint album, “A Taste of Yesterday’s Wine,” in which they recreated each other’s songs.

“A Taste of Yesterday’s Wine” was a cultural and financial victory, proving the power of their conjoined talent.

By 2006, Haggard and Jones were experienced professionals in their late sixties and early seventies.

Realising the similarities in their careers and their respective experiences of maturing in the field of music, they acknowledged to revive the idea of a collaboration album “Kickin’ Out the Footlights…”

Haggard’s “Footlights” Gets a Jonesian Twist:

Haggard’s first version of ‘Footlights’ is a swirling, gloomy ballad propelled by his distinctive vocals and a twangy guitar melody.

Jones’ efficiency, on the other hand, contains some of his signature honky-tonk attitude.

The beat is a bit faster, and the steel guitar plays a greater part in providing a sense of excitement to the song.

Merle Haggard
Merle Haggard.

Jones’s voice, acknowledged for its heartfelt anguish and honest fragility, lends the words a greater feeling of loss and regret.

This version retains the original’s affective core while providing a new viewpoint on topics of ageing and the lasting appeal of music.

The greatness of their “Footlights” duet rests in how it defies one’s views. By singing each other’s songs, Haggard and Jones celebrate a common legacy: the glory days of country music.

The song evolves into a discussion between two veterans, ruminating on the joys and challenges of living on the road.

The listener gains an uncommon look into the world of these legendary performers, their friendship, and their strong admiration for the genre that formed their professional lives.

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A Critical and Commercial Success of “Kickin’ Out the Footlights…Again”

“Kickin’ Out the Footlights…Again” gained fantastic critical acclaim when it was released in 2006.

Critics commended the album’s idea, stressing the uncommon chance of witnessing Haggard and Jones perform each other’s trademark tunes.

AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine says the following about the songs

Merle haggard and George jones
Source: AllMusic

People praised the task for its “sincere” and “invigorating” versions, which proved the timeless qualities of both artists’ lyrics.

The track achieved financial prosperity, hitting No. 25 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, illustrating the enduring appeal of these country music icons.

Beyond critical praise and commercial success, “Kickin’ Out the Footlights…Again” represented a watershed point in country music history.

The album praised older musicians, informing audiences of their valuable contributions to the genre.

Haggard and Jones, with their unique skills, embodied a certain age in country music: one of narrative, expressive honesty, and an emphasis on the middle-class experience.

Their partnership not only proved the enduring strength of their music but also incited thought about the growth of country music itself.

The album discreetly addressed the industry’s rising promotion of pop-influenced instrumentation while highlighting the ongoing popularity of standard country music’s essential qualities.

Check out this video to listen to their duet.

Haggard and Jones Reimagine “Footlights” with Distinct Legacies

The charm of Haggard and Jones’ “Footlights” duet came from more than just their outstanding vocals and longtime friendship.

It arose from a deeper foundation of two distinctive legacies that combined to form a strong monument to the continuing ethos of country music.

Merle Haggard, known as the “Poet of the Common Man,” blazed a way in country music with a rough voice and a songwriter’s soul.

Haggard’s music was profoundly affected by Buck Owens’ Bakersfield style, and it connected with the labouring class.

Songs like “Okie from Muskogee” and “Working Man Blues” emphasised ordinary individual struggles and achievements, as well as their dreams and disappointments

Haggard was not hesitant to address social concerns and governmental remarks, infusing his music with an aspect that appealed to blue-collar Americans.

His lasting impact lies in his capacity to create realistic stories, and his trademark tone delivers them with outstanding honesty.

George Jones known as “The Possum” for his lively stage style, was a true honky-tonk icon.

Jones’ music was filled with a heartfelt aching and honest instability, drawing inspiration from performers such as Lefty Frizzell.

He sang with deep feelings about love lost, heartache, and obstacles in life, which touched audiences.

George Jones
Source: American Songwriter

Songs like “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and “The Grand Tour” displayed his unrivalled ability to convey pain and longing.

Jones’s reputation lay in his unparalleled vocal delivery. His voice was an excellent tool that could squeeze every ounce of passion from a song.


  1. Merle Haggard and George Jones’ duet “Footlights” was more than a song; it represented an opera of knowledge and creativity.
  2. Haggard’s Bakersfield tone and Jones’ honky-tonk pain merged to create a sonic artwork that touched a deep chord.
  3. The song developed from a reflection on aging artists to a sad thinking of fading fame and the indestructible fire that still burns within an artist’s soul.
  4. “Footlights” goes beyond genre boundaries. It prompted fans to ponder on the growth of country music, reaffirming them the genre’s essential principles: truthful narrative, a link to the working class, and a concentration on actual life circumstances.
  5. “Footlights” appealed to performers of all genres, not just country music. It became a song for everyone dealing with the flow of time while maintaining their intellectual fire.

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