Country music fans in Southwest Virginia were blessed with multiple shows from Merle Haggard in the final years of his life.
The singer and songwriter affectionately known as “The Hag” last played Roanoke in a double-bill with Willie Nelson, in October 2015. Haggard had headlined Harvester Performance Center the previous June. He hit Salem Civic Center in 2013, and Roanoke Performing Arts Theatre (now Berglund)in 2009.
Haggard’s youngest son, Ben, played lead guitar on all those shows. In the days after Merle Haggard died, Ben teamed up with his older half-brother, Noel, who used to open shows for the Hag, to form an act that pays tribute to their father.
The pair hits Elmwood Park Amphitheater on Friday, leading a band that includes Joe Reed, who played bass with their pop’s old band, The Strangers.
Both men are capable singers, with Ben Haggard displaying a baritone that resembles Merle’s.
The concert benefits NAMI-Roanoke Valley, a nonprofit that focuses on helping people with such illnesses as schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar disorder.