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5 Questions with Hank Haggard

Hank Haggard has a classic country baritone, the kind that will have you sobbing into your beer one minute and two-steppin’ with your sweetheart the next.

Hank is headlining a double-bill “Honky Tonk Night” this Friday, March 22, at the Guardian taproom, with opening act and outlaw country singer Sissy Brown.

Music starts at 7:30 p.m.

Hank chatted with the Brew Blog this week about what makes honky tonk music and honky tonk bars so special.

He’s from Muncie originally, so get out to the taproom and welcome him back!

What’s the country music culture in Muncie?

Do you know where Walt’s Triangle is (1634 Kirby Ave.)? This place is a gem. It’s a honky tonk. We’ve played in there a couple times.

When I played at Walt’s, that was the most educated crowd as far as country music goes that I’ve ever played to. I mean, they were asking for kind of obscure classic country songs. People don’t even know these songs anymore. I was shocked. We knew a lot of what they wanted. But, it was interesting.

I like the breweries, places like Guardian. There’s a musical renaissance. It’s ironic because honky tonk music is liked by old people and younger people, and breweries bring in young people.

What’s so special about honky tonk music?

I really started to listen to it in college. Then I started going to Nashville. This is before Nashville’s renaissance. Lower Broadway is where all the honky tonk bars used to be. It was to be rough and seedy and the music was incredible. Some of these hillbilly singers were so bad they were good. They had no voice. They’re drunk. But it was 200 percent from the heart. It was the realness of the music.

What’s wrong with the current country scene?

I think that everyone can like what they like — nothing wrong with that. What I don’t like is it being called country music. It’s pop music. There’s nothing wrong with pop music. It has its place. But why do you have to call it country music?

It’s like modern country music has stolen a genre. It’s like all of a sudden if jazz just started referring to itself as classical Beethoven music.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen at a show?

I used to play a place called the Ironworker in Indianapolis. The building is still there, but the Ironworker is gone, unfortunately. One night, this woman just started slamming this other woman with a stool. The Ironworker, being the kind of place it was, no one stepped in to stop it. People were yelling, “Beat her ass.”

Then, seemingly unrelated, these two men started fighting in the back of the bar. They were well into their 70s, maybe even their 80s. It was a sight. Eventually, one of the women stumbled out of the bar. The old men resolved their problems and one of them bought the other a beer.

Places like the Ironworker don’t exist anymore, for better or for worse. I think it’s for worse.

What can people expect at the show on Friday?

We’ll have a three piece band, an upright bass, myself (guitar/vocals) and a fiddle player.

I don’t use set lists. I try to get a feel for what people want. A lot of times they’ll tell you. I do a lot of shuffle — medium-tempo, Texas style stuff. I have more of a Texas influence than a Nashville influence.

I do quite a bit of rockabilly. It’s a traditional Memphis thing. It’s old rockabilly. Sun Sessions era. Johnny Cash. George Jones. Even Buck Owens.

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