Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Aledo native Suzy Bogguss will return to home to play a free concert at 8 p.m. June 4. The concert is part of the 25th annual Rhubarb Fest.

Bogguss is a regular on the Grand Ole Opry. Recently, Margo Price of Aledo also appeared on the famous Opry stage, giving a western Illinois town of 3,700 the unique distinction of having two of its native daughters play the Opry.

"It's one of the coolest clubs to belong to in the world," Bogguss said in an April 20 interview. "This time (mid-April) we did two shows, because Eric Church was performing."

She said some of her friends from the U.K. were in town and couldn't believe the camaraderie back stage among the musicians. Bogguss said it's been a tough few years, with the Opry losing Little Jimmy Dickens, Porter Wagoner and, on April 6, Merle Haggard.

She said such artists as Marty Stuart and Ricky Skaggs help keep the Opry alive, though, even with the loss of such legendary singers.

"It's packed, because we include the young artists who are on the radio," Bogguss said. "It doesn't seem to be waning."

The graduate of Aledo High School performed a tribute on the Grand Ole Opry to Haggard. Her CD, "Lucky," was all songs written by Merle Haggard.

She said she was touched by the words of Haggard's son, Ben, who played in his father's band.

"'People say my dad was one of the greatest country singers of all time. To me, he was the greatest.' I feel the same," Bogguss said.

She said she talked to Haggard on the phone before recording "Lucky."

"I called him ahead of time, before we cut it," Bogguss said. "I just wanted to show people, these songs are so universal. A female can sing them as easily as a male."

She said in addition to Merle's voice, she loved his style, because, "I've always gravitated toward stories." Haggard was a storyteller, with a style of his own.

"He lived it," Bogguss said of the stories Merle sung about.

Talking to Haggard on the phone was a thrill, she said.

"I'm talking to Merle Haggard on the telephone," Bogguss said she was thinking. "I'm walking around the house talking to Merle Haggard."

She said she's not sure if it's widely known, but Haggard, who was battling pneumonia, had been at the hospital, but was discharged as it became apparent nothing more could be done.

"He chose to stay on his bus,"  which is where he passed way, Bogguss said, a sense of wonder in her voice. What is widely known is Haggard told a doctor that he (Haggard) would die on his birthday. She said the singer had the willpower to make that happen, dying on his 79th birthday.

On the day of the interview, Bogguss was at home in Franklin, Tenn., doing some recording. She advised her Mercer County fans to watch for some big news about that.

"It's a secret," she giggled. "They can go to Facebook and follow me" to learn more.

What she calls an acoustic trio will back her at the Rhubarb Fest concert.

"The guys that play are such phenomenal  musicians," she said.

Bogguss said her guitar player is not from the U.S., although "he looks like a Texan."

She said when he speaks in his thick, Scottish brogue, fans will realize he's from no part of Texas known to anyone.

Bogguss, who, despite her fame, still comes across as a friendly person from Aledo, is looking forward to her trip home, which is sandwiched between concerts in Minneapolis and Springfield.

She offered some advice for friends and fans who attend the concert at the Central Park Band Shell.

"... yell, scream and have some fun."

Read more of the Suzy Bogguss interview in the 25th annual Rhubarb Fest booklet, coming soon.