"It's got to make a blue flame go behind my left ear and chill bumps run all over my body," Merle explains to Billboard magazine of what draws him to a tune. "And immediately you say, 'Why didn't I think of that? I could have written that, but I didn't think of it.'"
Most of the songs he wishes he had written -- which he says includes the Johnny Cash hit, 'Ring of Fire,' 'Devil Woman' by Marty Robbins and 'Sunday Morning Coming Down' penned by Kris Kristofferson, are more than 30 years old, with one song, Jimmie Rodgers' 'Waiting for a Train' reaching all the way back to 1929. But there's one recent song over which the Country Music Hall of Fame member still feels pangs of jealousy -- George Strait's 'Give It Away,' written by Jamey Johnson and Bill Anderson.
"It's about two people breaking up," explains Merle. "He says, 'What are we gonna do with the chairs and table?' She says, 'F--- it! Give it away.' Jamey is the first to come along in a long spell with the ability to write that way."
Merle may respect others for their writing ability, but he's still doing plenty of writing himself. He recently released his latest CD, 'Working in Tennessee,' which includes nine songs he wrote or co-wrote. While he's battled health problems recently, including a bout with cancer, Merle continues to tour. He's in New Mexico tonight (October 21) for two shows, followed by stops in Nevada and his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif. Keep track of his tour schedule here.