January 15

From Johnny Rodriguez to Merle Haggard,“That’s The Way Love Goes”


From Johnny Rodriguez to Merle Haggard,“That’s The Way Love Goes” 1

This song shows country music rarity…

, it reached the No. 1 spot twice for two different artists. Merle Haggard’s version of “That’s The Way Love Goes” reached the top of Billboard’s country singles chart exactly ten years after Johnny Rodriguez turned the trick with the same tune.

Creation of a Hit

The origin of “That’s The Way Love Goes” belonged to songwriter Sanger D. Shafer a.k.a “Whitey” Shafer”. He had the initial idea on a day in which he and his friend Lefty Frizzell drove to Dallas Frazier’s cabin in the fall of ’73 for the sole purpose of writing songs. Shafer had a little melody going and the first verse of a little tune he was working on. Shafer ran it by Frizzell and his remarks were,

“That’s the way love goes”.

Thereafter, Shafer began looking to that phrase as the title. Within just an hour, the two developed the rest of the song “That’s The Way Love Goes”. On that same day, Shafer and Frizzell also completed another song, “I Never Go Around Mirrors”.

Johnny Rodriguez’s Version

One night at Nashville’s Continental Inn during the latter part of 1973, Johnny Rodriguez was involved in a “guitar pull”. It was a Nashville ritual in which songwriters gather around in a circle, pass a guitar around and each writer would sing the new songs they had written. Along with Rodriguez, the attendees included Dallas Frazier, Merle Haggard and his manager, Lewis Talley, Whitey Shafer and Lefty Frizzell. The session was about to break up and everyone started to get ready to go home when Lefty said he wanted to play just one more song. It was “That’s The Way Love Goes”.

Haggard wanted the song right then. However, he had just finished an album and didn’t have any more studio time scheduled. So the next day, Shafer brought “That’s The Way Love Goes” down to the studio where Rodriguez was recording. Johnny snapped it up and cut it. The result was his third consecutive number one hit on February 16, 1974.

Merle Haggard’s Version

Country legend Merle Haggard recorded “That’s The Way Love Goes” four or five times through the years before he finally got a version he liked. He tried different tempos and band line-ups and arrangements. However, it never quite came together until Haggard teamed up with producer Ray Baker.

Their first session together yielded a number one single: “You Take Me For Granted”. Baker was frustrated when subsequent sessions took up huge chunks of time without results. He had the utmost regard for Haggard’s band “The Strangers” as musicians, but they didn’t get in a hurry about things. Baker was used to getting a certain budget from the record company. Not only that, he utilized the time wisely, being very frugal with the money being spent. That included getting down to business in the studio and no horsing around, a message which Ray couldn’t seem to convey to the band.

So Baker persuaded Merle to use a group of much more-efficient studio musicians for the session. Surprisingly, that was no trouble and Haggard agreed. What was really tough was getting Haggard to come in at 10:00 a. m. to record. Haggard had an apartment on the northeast of Nashville. Baker told him that he would personally drive out there, pick him up and bring him down to the studio. Thereafter, Haggard cut three songs from beginning to end in about two hours and twenty minutes. Even Merle was amazed at how smoothly it came off. One of the three songs recorded that day was “That’s The Way Love Goes”. The song landed at number one on Billboard’s country singles chart on February 11, 1984. It also brought Haggard his very first Grammy for “Best Country Vocal Performance by a Male.”



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