by Regis Boff
What I did not expect most from Dolly Parton was being called Mr. Boff.
I explained that she could not fill the concerts I had for her without help. She took this in stride. I suggested Merle Haggard might be perfect as an opening act, and she dispatched me to get him with her approval.
Getting hold of him wasn’t that easy. He didn’t seem to have a manager or agent, so I had to go through his drummer.
Haggard was a convicted felon. He had spent a good deal of time in 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 big deals himself and I was a big deal for him. Not often a fool, I know that thieves attend pleasantly to people who have money. I did not expect this would be hard, so I was annoyed at having to meet him. I headed down to one of his shows in the South. It was a small show where he headlined.
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 partially hairless animal cuddled next to him. I suspected 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 stage. As eyes play on a face, his were the only participants that were not wrinkled and mean. I liked him instantly.
We both knew I was paying him too much money, so it could not have been called a real 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 says. “Not much, he just agreed after I told his guy that the “Good Lord” Dolly Parton was on the phone.”