“Bar Room Buddies”
Merle Haggard & Clint Eastwood
Written by Milton Brown, Cliff Crofford, Steve Dorff, and Snuff Garrett
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
July 18, 1980
#1 (1 week)
July 26, 1980
Merle Haggard is the greatest male country artist of all time.
Clint Eastwood is among the greatest film directors of all time.
When they came together to collaborate on “Bar Room Buddies,” Haggard’s greatness on record was already established. Eastwood’s legendary directing career was still way off in the distance, and his acting was still considerably underrated.
Upon recording “Bar Room Buddies,” a duet used to promote the Eastwood film Bronco Billy, Haggard had his doubts about Eastwood’s talent beyond the silver screen. It was a big hit, but Haggard’s instincts were correct. This is a terrible record, and it’s the worst of Haggard’s chart toppers by a wide margin. Clint Eastwood simply cannot sing, and it’s embarrassingly painful to listen to him try.
Haggard would later disavow this record, and rather than belabor the point, I’m going to let him have the final words here. He told Newsweek that “I almost prostituted myself in some ways,” and later told writer Greg Oates that Eastwood “shouldn’t sell his camera. I told him before we started, ‘I hope you’re a better singer than I’m an actor,’ but I believe I’m a better actor than he is a singer.”
These quotes were collected by writer Tom Roland in The Billboard Book of Number One Country Hits, and Roland also shared that George Jones was supposed to be the duet partner with Eastwood, but legalities got in the way. Truth be told, Jones probably would’ve been a better fit, simply because he had a goofy side on record that he could lean into. Haggard was simply too dignified in his artistry to escape unscathed from this collaboration.
However, his next two singles were of the highest caliber. “Misery and Gin” went top five, and it’s one of his best singles of the decade. His next release was even better, and it returned him to the top in early 1981. As for Eastwood, he charted with a Ray Charles duet (“Beers to You”) which missed the top forty. His final chart entry was a collaboration with T.G. Sheppard, “Make My Day,” which went top fifteen. Both records are just as agonizing to listen to, but the Sheppard collaboration is ultimately the best Eastwood country record because he just speaks his Dirty Harry line and doesn’t try to sing.
“Bar Room Buddies” gets an F.
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