Performing Dad’s hits is one thing. Performing them in Bakersfield for the first time since Merle Haggard’s death should be an emotional experience for Ben and Noel Haggard, not to mention hometown fans of their legendary father.
The two will join Haggard’s longtime band the Strangers at a concert at the Fox Theater on Oct. 6 — six months to the day of their dad’s death. Headlining that evening will be Bakersfield favorite and Haggard friend Marty Stuart.
“We’ve only been working on getting this show for six months,” said Fox Theater operator Bob Bender, with a playfully impatient emphasis on only.
“Originally we tried to get Marty Stuart, and after Merle passed away, we said, ‘Listen, what are the Strangers going to be doing because we thought what a really cool tribute if we could get the Strangers to play, too.’ When we found out that Ben is now touring with the Strangers, we said, ‘We have to make this happen.’”
Just a few weeks after their dad’s death, Ben and his older brother Noel stepped up to honor their late father’s previously scheduled concert dates, performing shows with Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.
Noel Haggard had pursued a solo singing career years ago, often opening shows for his father, and in recent years, Ben Haggard has played guitar with the Strangers, becoming increasingly comfortable as a vocalist. Several videos of Haggard’s youngest performing hits, like “Silver Wings” and “If I Could Only Fly,” are available on YouTube.
However, Bender did not have details on the Haggards’ show as of Wednesday. He said arrangements are still coming together and he will have ticket information and other specifics next week.
“Our whole idea was really to give the Merle Haggard fans another opportunity to see what we think is going to be a great tribute to Merle. I would hope that Ben would walk on stage and feel the love of all the fans, and I think that only creates a better performance.”
Stuart last performed in Bakersfield in October 2014. Bender was the promoter of that show.
“This is how small a world things are,” Bender said. “When I lived in Hendersonville, Tenn., Marty Stuart, his wife and his bass player and I went to the same church.”
Bender said he has a surprise up his sleeve for the Oct. 6 concert but was not at liberty to divulge it Wednesday.
Meanwhile, beating his brothers to Bakersfield by a few weeks will be singer Marty Haggard. The country legend’s oldest son will perform at the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame in a fundraiser for mayoral candidate Kyle Carter, who owns the venue. Tickets are $150; $170 will get you dinner.
In other Fox bookings, Bender announced that Food Network celebrity chef/science geek Alton Brown will appear on March 14.
“He’s doing a weird, cool cooking science show on stage,” Bender said. “The twist is he has a rock ’n’ roll band behind him. It’s called Eat Your Science Show.”
Bender also announced a festive December. Brian Setzer will return with his orchestra Dec. 20 for what has become an annual Christmas tradition in Bakersfield; the Moscow Ballet returns with “The Nutcracker” on Dec. 14; “White Christmas,” starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, will screen Dec. 15; and the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra will perform a Christmas show on Dec. 17.