Dismiss Notice
We are making some updates and reconfigurations to our server. Apologies for any downtime or slow forum loading now or within the next week or so. Thanks!

Why was Merle Haggard chosen for Centennial instead of John Denver?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Folknik, Jun 11, 2021 at 12:46 PM.

  1. Folknik

    Folknik Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I'm sure many of us remember the late '70s TV miniseries Centennial, based on James A. Michener's epic novel about a fictional Colorado settlement. In one of the later episodes, Merle Haggard plays the role of a folksinger/songwriter chosen to write a commemorative song for a celebration of the history of the town of Centennial. The song he sang (written by the character he played, according to the screenplay) was "I Guess He'd Rather Be In Colorado" which was written by Bill and Taffy Danoff (who would later form the Starland Vocal Band) and originally recorded by John Denver. To my knowledge, the video of Centennial is the only place Haggard's version of the song is available. What I've always wondered is why John Denver wasn't chosen to play that part. He was still quite popular at the time and was almost synonymous with the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. His appearances in Oh, God! and an episode of McCloud (in which he played a young deputy sheriff and in one scene sat at his desk, strumming his guitar, and singing that same song), reveal that he wasn't a half bad actor. Merle had a few lines in Centennial that basically revealed that he was better off sticking to his music. I've often wondered if the producers of the series may have approached Denver, and maybe his price was too high, or maybe he was otherwise committed. He never was one to shy away from the public eye. It seems odd to me that he was never even considered for the role, although it's possible. In my opinion, he would have fit the part more naturally than Haggard did, and although he didn't write the song, he was the first to record it. And since the novel mentioned a folksinger, Denver's style fit into many people's understanding of "folk" more than Haggard's more hard-edged country sound.
    Sub- question: If they were going to cast Merle Haggard in the role, why didn't they have him write a new song especially for the series, rather than covering a John Denver song that didn't really suit his voice?
    S. P. Honeybunch likes this.

Share This Page