The Oak Ridge Boys have just released "Rock of Ages: Hymns and Gospel Favorites." One song that is of note is "Sweet Jesus," a Merle Haggard-penned song, performed by the boys and Merle Haggard. Duane Allen, of the Oak Ridge Boys, tells the Boot how they discovered the song.
"My son, Paul Martin, was playing with Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives, They were doing the RFD television show, and Merle was a guest. So Merle came in and gave Paul a CD of a song and said, 'I wrote this. Would you get it to Duane and see if he'll record it?'"
"I listened to it, and I loved it," Allen recalls. "I called Merle, quite a bit before we cut the album, and said, 'Merle, I'm sending out right now a live album. It doesn't fit that, because the album's of hits. And I'm about to mix a Christmas album. It doesn't fit that. But if you will wait a little bit, I think I'm going to cut a hymns album somewhere down the line. If you'll just hold it, I think I can get it on, and we can cut it.' I didn't know that Bill Gaither was going to call me and ask for a hymns album."
Thankfully, the Hag was understanding, and he allowed the group to hold on to the song until the timing was right. When the guys finally went into the studio to record "Sweet Jesus," they realized that something was still lacking in the powerful song.
"I called Merle and said, 'We've got these dates ready to go in the book, and we want to cut this song, but the recitation in the second verse, I don't think I can do it justice,'" Allen explains. "'I think maybe it's for you. Would you honor us with recording with the Oak Ridge Boys on this song you wrote for us. Would you consider that?'"
Not only did Haggard agreed to sing on it but "Sweet Jesus" became a highlight of the new record.