Merle Haggard put on an excellent show Tuesday night at The Centre, in what could be the last time we get to see him perform in the Tri-State.  As he went through his endless number of hits, I got to thinking, 'What's next for country music?'  I don't have a problem with the evolution of country.  I like the new stuff.  I like the old stuff.  What I don't see is iconic figures like Merle making a career like him.  So, who's next?

In my opinion Merle is one of the last true legends left in country music from his generation.  Waylon is gone.  Tammy is gone.  Johnny is gone.  George is gone.  If you look at true superstars, I see 4 from that generation still alive, and that is Merle, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, and Dolly Parton.  For me, I guess it comes down to longevity and overall impact of their career.

That being said, who would meet those criteria and be the next group of legends once they're gone?  I think without a doubt, you'd have to include George Strait.  His longevity is unmatched in almost any music genre.  Secondly, I think based on his immense impact on country music, you'd have to include Garth Brooks.  After that, it's an arguable few that might fit, including, in my opinion, Reba McEntire, Alabama, and Alan Jackson.

I know it's very hard to see into the future, but in the crop of relevant artists we have in country now, I find it even harder to predict the stars who will be revered like the Haggards and Joneses of the world when they reach that stage.  I suppose you could anticipate Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, or Toby Keith reaching that kind of notoriety, but it seems so far away from someone like Merle.  I guess George Jones had a great point when he asked 'Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes?'  So, what say you?  Who do you think we'll be calling 'one of the best ever' when they come to town at 78 years old.  Will there ever me another Merle or Cash or Jones?  Hopefully.