In 2015, Merle Haggard asked America’s favorite Country & Gospel Quartet, the Oak Ridge Boys, to record a song he had written (or to be precise, co-written with Kenny Vernon) called “Sweet Jesus.” The Gospel group was elated and readily agreed. When the time for the recording came, they felt some element was missing with the recitation of the second verse. Hence, they called Merle Haggard to join them in the recording instead.
Duane Allen, though a man of faith himself and had his share of experiencing God’s amazing grace, thought that the lines would be best recited by its writer.
” I don’t think I can do it justice. I think maybe it’s for you,” he said to Merle Haggard
Merle honored their request. Instead of a mere recitation part, the Oak Ridge Boys asked him to do the whole recording of the song he wrote for them while they do the harmony. The quartet’s singing experience with Merle was ecstatic that they made it their special feature in their gospel album named “Rock of Ages, Hymn and Gospel Favorites.” After the album was cut, it was released on May 26, 2015. Later that year, the song won a Dove Award for Best Country Recorded Song granted by the Gospel Music Association.
Second Verse Spoken by Merle Haggard:
As a boy I was always afraid to go down at altar call and kneel down
And over the years I wondered was my soul saved or was it lost
Then I realized salvation was all the Grace of Jesus
And we’d been saved just the way He saved that thief on the cross
Reading through the verse, it requires Merle’s personal touch, indeed. Though he was not the sole writer, he had a firsthand experience of the lines he was singing. Stands to reason than that whatever faith he had some time in his life, he had it passed down to his sons as seen on many of their songs covers uploaded by fans online.
Now let us sample the song.
Note: Embedded video below was a lyrical video borrowed from a fan and not the Oakridge Boy’s version. Still, it sounds just as great.