By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Oklahoma City District 2 County Commissioner and founder of the S.H.I.N.E. program, Brian Maughan has had the task of finding just the right performer for the 2nd annual “Concert for S.H.I.N.E.” fundraising event for 2015.
The S.H.I.N.E. project stands for Start Helping Impacted Neighborhoods Everywhere.
His mission was to try to top the success of the 2014 event, which featured Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Wanda Jackson, which raised much needed funds to maintain the SHINE program.
Maughan selected that “Okie from Muskogee,” the legendary country music star, Merle Haggard for this year’s show
Haggard will perform on Thursday, April 2 at 8 p.m. at the Grand Event Center in the Grand Casino in Shawnee.
Born in Bakersfield, California, Haggard had a troubled youth and served time in San Quentin prison.
After his release, Haggard was fearful of people’s reaction to his prison time. Country music icon Johnny Cash persuaded him to reveal his story. Cash believed the public would “be behind him.”
In an interview with Biography.com Haggard says, “I had the life that a lot of people had credited him having.”
As a result, during an appearance on the Johnny Cash TV Show, Cash introduced Haggard saying, “In truth, this is the man that has lived that life that I sing about.”
Released in 1969, “Okie from Muskogee” crossed over to the pop charts and earned Haggard the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award in 1970.
“That Merle Haggard is going to join us for our fundraiser staggers me,” Maughan said. “His music has been the soundtrack for all of Oklahoma since the 60’s and there has not been any part of my life that he hasn’t been a chart topping singer and songwriter.”
With 38 No. 1 hits and 250 original songs, Haggard is one of the best-known and most covered artists in country music.
“In any business, being inducted into a ‘hall of fame’ comes at the end of a long and rewarding career,” Maughn said. “Merle Haggard received country music’s highest honor, some 20 years ago, yet he keeps on creating, touring, and providing his audience with his catalog of blissful music.
“Several of Merle’s last records, including ‘Chicago Wind,’ ‘Working in Tennessee’ and ‘I Am What I Am’ are in the same class with ‘Kern River’ and others of his career defining recordings.”
Maughan makes a connection between Haggard’s public life and the S.H.I.N.E. program.
“From reading Merle’s own books, as well as many of the thousands of stories written about him each year, it is obvious that he is a man of practicality, of achievement, of results,” he said.
“Merle has taken the stage in the past several years as a sort of apolitical town crier, speaking his mind about issues he finds important, such as a person’s individuality and their right to live a prosperous and responsible life that they have earned through hard work and perseverance.
“The S.H.I.N.E. program offers such a thing to people who have had legal and familial difficulties in their lives, while also offering students an opportunity to learn the meaning of community service,” Maughan added.
To better serve the public through coordinated community service, SHINE has partnered with local police to remove graffiti from public areas and private property, with owner permission.
This effort has saved taxpayers more than $1.5 million. The program received designation in 2012 by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University as one of eleven Bright Ideas nationwide in local government innovation.
A companion program, SHINE for Students, rewards young people for community service work.
SHINE has been successful with neighborhood associations and local community groups whose requests for litter cleanup and graffiti removal had long been mired in red tape.
Tickets start at $65. This event is for guests 21 and older only. For more information regarding the Merle Haggard “Concert for S.H.I.N.E,” including tax deductible tickets and sponsorship packages, visit www.shineok.org.