Fifty-four years ago today, on May 16, 1969, Merle Haggard recorded one of the biggest hits of his career. It was on that date the the singer recorded “Workin’ Man Blues,” from his 1969 album A Portrait of Merle Haggard.
“Workin’ Man Blues,” which became a No. 1 hit, was written by Haggard as a tribute to his loyal fans, many of whom were blue-collar workers laboring every week for a paycheck. With lines such as “I keep my nose on the grindstone, I work hard every day / Might get a little tired on the weekend, after I draw my pay / But I’ll go back workin’, come Monday morning, I’m right back with the crew / I’ll drink a little beer that evening / Sing a little bit of these workin’ man blues,” the song was Haggard’s way of showing his fans that he understood.
“Workin’ Man Blues” landed at the top of the Billboard charts on Aug. 16, 1969. It stayed there for one week, before being bumped out of the top spot by Johnny Cash‘s “A Boy Named Sue.”
“Workin’ Man Blues” was one of 38 No. 1 singles that “the Hag” earned during his career. The song was included on several of his compilation albums, including Songs I’ll Always Sing in 1977, 16 Biggest Hits in 1998 and 10 Great Songs in 2012. In 1994, Diamond Rio, Lee Roy Parnell and Steve Wariner recorded a cover version of the song together, for a tribute album, Mama’s Hungry Eyes: A Tribute to Merle Haggard.
Haggard passed away on April 6, 2016. At the 2016 American Country Countdown Awards less than a month after the icon’s death, Toby Keith performed “Workin’ Man Blues,” along with several other of Haggard’s hits, including “Mama Tried,” “Today I Started Loving You Again,” “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” and “Okie From Muskogee.”
This story was originally written by Gayle Thompson, and revised by Angela Stefano.