I did not expect Dolly Parton to call me Mr. Boff.
She couldn’t fill the venues I had for her without the help of a strong opening act.
She took this in stride. I suggested Merle Haggard, and she dispatched me to get him with her approval.
Getting hold of Merle wasn’t straightforward. He didn’t seem to have a manager or agent. I had to go through his drummer.
Haggard was a convicted felon. He had spent a good deal of time in the San Quentin prison. His band, “The Strangers,” was irregularly populated by musicians who happened to be on parole when his tours began.
Asked once what his biggest mistake in life had been, he blurted slyly, “Pulling my jobs in small towns.”
Merle did his own deals. The money I was offering him had his attention.
Not often a fool, I know that thieves attend pleasantly to people who have cash. I did not expect the negotiation to be hard, so I was annoyed at meeting him first.
I headed down to one of his shows in the South. It was a small show where he was headlining.
After he finished, he sent a guy who put me on his bus.
The drummer introduced me, and there it was again, “Mr. Boff.”
We sat in his living room. A hairless animal cuddled next to him. I assumed it was a dog. It growled and snarled non stop at me.
He wanted to make me feel he saw through me. It was the same look he projected from the stage. He had removed his black hat, so it did not work.
Everything about him was wrinkled and mean. I liked him instantly.
We both knew I was paying him too much money, so it could not have been called an authentic negotiation.
What he said to me caught me off guard, “I’m sorry, Mr. Boff, I would like to do it, but I can’t.”
I needed him, and I pressed for why. He said,” I don’t believe the Good Lord means for a man to open a show for a woman.”
I went home.
I called Dolly and told her what happened. She said she would call me back.
She got back to me quickly to say Merle would do the dates. I asked what he said?
She said, “Not much, he just agreed after I told his guy to tell him that the “Good Lord” Dolly Parton was on the phone.”