86 Facts About Merle Haggard

1.

Merle Ronald Haggard was an American country music singer, songwriter, guitarist, and fiddler.

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2.

Merle Haggard was born in Oildale, California, toward the end of the Great Depression.

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3.

Merle Haggard's childhood was troubled after the death of his father, and he was incarcerated several times in his youth.

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4.

Merle Haggard gained popularity with his songs about the working class that occasionally contained themes contrary to anti–Vietnam War sentiment of some popular music of the time.

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5.

Merle Haggard received many honors and awards for his music, including a Kennedy Center Honor, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (2006), a BMI Icon Award (2006), and induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (1977), Country Music Hall of Fame (1994) and Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame (1997).

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6.

Merle Haggard died on April 6, 2016—his 79th birthday—at his ranch in Shasta County, California, having recently suffered from double pneumonia.

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7.

Merle Haggard remodeled the boxcar, and soon after moved in, purchasing the lot, where Merle Ronald Haggard was born on April 6, 1937.

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8.

Nine year-old Merle Haggard was deeply affected by the loss, and it remained a pivotal event to him for the rest of his life.

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9.

Merle Haggard learned to play it on his own, with the records he had at home, influenced by Bob Wills, Lefty Frizzell, and Hank Williams.

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10.

Merle Haggard's sent him to a juvenile detention center for a weekend to try and correct him, but his behavior did not improve.

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11.

Merle Haggard was again sent to a juvenile detention center later that year, from which he and his friend again escaped and headed to Modesto, California.

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12.

Merle Haggard was released 15 months later but was sent back after beating a local boy during a burglary attempt.

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13.

Merle Haggard was fired from a series of prison jobs, and planned to escape along with another inmate nicknamed "Rabbit" but was dissuaded by fellow inmates.

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14.

Merle Haggard soon earned a high school equivalency diploma and kept a steady job in the prison's textile plant.

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15.

Merle Haggard played for the prison's country music band, attributing a performance by Johnny Cash at the prison on New Year's Day 1959 as his main inspiration to join it.

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16.

In 1972, after Merle Haggard had become an established country music star, then-California governor Ronald Reagan granted Merle Haggard a full and unconditional pardon for his past crimes.

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17.

Merle Haggard asked for permission to record it, and the resulting single was a national hit in 1964.

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18.

Merle Haggard recalls having been talked into visiting Anderson—a woman he did not know—at her house to hear her sing some songs she had written.

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19.

Merle Haggard's was a pleasant enough lady, pretty, with a nice smile, but I was all set to be bored to death, even more so when she got out a whole bunch of songs and went over to an old pump organ.

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20.

In 1967, Merle Haggard recorded "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive" with The Strangers, written by Liz Anderson, with her husband Casey Anderson, which became his first number-one single.

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21.

Merle Haggard's won the new Academy of Country Music's first ever award for Female Vocalist after her 1965 debut album, Don't Take Advantage of Me, hit the top five on the country albums chart.

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22.

Merle Haggard called me 'Mr Haggard' and I was a little twenty-four, twenty-five year old punk from Oildale.

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23.

Towards the end of the decade, Merle Haggard composed several number-one hits, including "Mama Tried, " "The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde, " "Hungry Eyes, " and "Sing Me Back Home".

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24.

Merle Haggard looks the part and sounds the part because he is the part.

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25.

Merle Haggard began performing the song in concert in 1969 and was astounded at the reaction it received:.

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26.

Merle Haggard had wanted to follow "Okie from Muskogee" with "Irma Jackson, " a song that dealt with an interracial romance between a white man and an African American woman.

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27.

Jonathan Bernstein recounts, "Hoping to distance himself from the harshly right-wing image he had accrued in the wake of the hippie-bashing "Muskogee, " Merle Haggard wanted to take a different direction and release "Irma Jackson" as his next single.

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28.

In 1972, Let Me Tell You about A Song, the first TV special starring Merle Haggard, was nationally syndicated by Capital Cities TV Productions.

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29.

Merle Haggard wrote and performed the theme song to the television series Movin' On, which in 1975 gave him and The Strangers another number-one country hit.

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30.

Merle Haggard appeared in an episode of The Waltons entitled "The Comeback, " season five, episode three, original air-date October 10, 1976.

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31.

Merle Haggard played a bandleader named Red, who had been depressed since the death of his son.

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32.

Merle Haggard changed record labels again in 1981, moving to Epic and releasing one of his most critically acclaimed albums, Big City, on which he was backed by The Strangers.

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33.

Between 1981 and 1985, Merle Haggard scored 12 more top-10 country hits, with nine of them reaching number one, including "My Favorite Memory, " "Going Where the Lonely Go, " "Someday When Things Are Good, " and "Natural High".

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34.

The split served as a license to party for Merle Haggard, who spent much of the next decade becoming mired in alcohol and drug problems.

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35.

Merle Haggard has stated that he was in his own mid-life crisis, or "male menopause, " around this time.

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36.

Merle Haggard said in an interview from this period: "Things that you've enjoyed for years don't seem nearly as important, and you're at war with yourself as to what's happening.

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37.

Merle Haggard was hampered by financial woes well into the 1990s, as his presence on the charts diminished in favor of newer country singers, such as George Strait and Randy Travis.

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38.

In 1989, Merle Haggard recorded a song, "Me and Crippled Soldiers Give a Damn, " in response to the Supreme Court's decision not to allow banning flag burning, considering it to be "speech" and therefore protected under the First Amendment.

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39.

Merle Haggard commented about the situation, "I've never been a guy that can do what people told me.

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40.

In 2000, Merle Haggard made a comeback of sorts, signing with the independent record label Anti and releasing the spare If I Could Only Fly to critical acclaim.

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41.

The album, recorded in Merle Haggard's living room with no overdubs, featured Merle Haggard's longtime bandmates, The Strangers, as well as Frizzell's original lead guitarist, Norman Stephens.

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42.

In December 2004, Merle Haggard spoke at length on Larry King Live about his incarceration as a young man and said it was "hell" and "the scariest experience of my life".

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43.

Merle Haggard's not going to play The Palace in Louisville, he's going pick the tertiary towns, and he's going to play on the outer edge.

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44.

Merle Haggard was a California guy, but not the California you see on television with Palm Trees.

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45.

In October 2005, Merle Haggard released his album Chicago Wind to mostly positive reviews.

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46.

Merle Haggard released a bluegrass album, The Bluegrass Sessions, on October 2, 2007.

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47.

In 2008, Merle Haggard was going to perform at Riverfest in Little Rock, Arkansas, but the concert was canceled because he was ailing, and three other concerts were canceled, as well.

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48.

Merle Haggard collaborated with many other artists over the course of his career.

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49.

Merle Haggard went on to record duets with George Jones, Willie Nelson, and Clint Eastwood, among others.

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50.

In 1970, Merle Haggard released A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World, rounding up six of the remaining members of the Texas Playboys to record the tribute: Johnnie Lee Wills, Eldon Shamblin, Tiny Moore, Joe Holley, Johnny Gimble, and Alex Brashear.

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51.

Merle Haggard arrived on the second day, devastated that he would not get to record with him, but the album helped return Wills to public consciousness, and set off a Western swing revival.

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52.

Merle Haggard did other tribute albums to Bob Wills over the next 40 years.

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53.

In 1994, Merle Haggard collaborated with Asleep at the Wheel and many other artists influenced by the music of Bob Wills on an album entitled A Tribute To The Music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.

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54.

In 1972, Merle Haggard agreed to produce Gram Parsons's first solo album but backed out at the last minute.

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55.

Parsons, an enormous Haggard fan, was crushed, with his wife Gretchen telling Meyer, "Merle not producing Gram was probably one of the greatest disappointments in Gram's life.

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56.

Merle Haggard was very nice, very sweet, but he had his own enemies and his own demons.

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57.

In 1982, Merle Haggard recorded A Taste of Yesterday's Wine with George Jones, an album that produced two top-10 hits, including the number-one "Yesterday's Wine".

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58.

In 1983, Merle Haggard got permission from Epic Records to collaborate with then-wife Leona Williams on Polydor Records, releasing Heart to Heart in 1983.

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59.

In 2001, Haggard released an album of gospel songs with Albert E Brumley called Two Old Friends.

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60.

In 2005, Merle Haggard was featured as a guest vocalist on Gretchen Wilson's song "Politically Uncorrect", which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.

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61.

Merle Haggard is featured singing a verse on Eric Church's 2006 song "Pledge Allegiance to the Hag".

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62.

In 2015, Merle Haggard was featured as a guest vocalist on Don Henley's song "The Cost of Living" on the album Cass County.

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63.

In 2010, Haggard was featured along with Ralph Nader, Willie Nelson, Gatewood Galbraith and Julia Butterfly Hill in the documentary film Hempsters: Plant the Seed directed by Michael P Henning.

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64.

In 2017, Merle Haggard appeared alongside Willie Nelson in the award-winning documentary The American Epic Sessions directed by Bernard MacMahon.

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65.

Merle Haggard's last recording, a song called "Kern River Blues, " described his departure from Bakersfield in the late 1970s and his displeasure with politicians.

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66.

Merle Haggard endorsed Fender guitars and had a Custom Artist signature model Telecaster.

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67.

Merle Haggard was married five times, first to Leona Hobbs from 1956 to 1964.

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68.

Merle Haggard credited her with helping him make his big break as a country artist.

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69.

Merle Haggard shared the writing credit with Owens for his hit "Today I Started Loving You Again" and acknowledged, including on stage, that the song was about a sudden burst of special feelings he experienced for her while they were touring together.

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70.

Merle Haggard's helped care for Haggard's children from his first marriage and was the maid of honor for Haggard's third marriage.

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71.

Merle Haggard married his fifth wife, Theresa Ann Lane, on September 11, 1993.

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72.

Merle Haggard said he started smoking marijuana in 1978, when he was 41 years old.

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73.

Merle Haggard admitted that in 1983, he bought "$2, 000 of cocaine" and partied for five months afterward, when he said he finally realized his condition and quit for good.

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74.

Merle Haggard quit smoking cigarettes in 1991, and stopped smoking marijuana in 1995.

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75.

On December 5, 2015, Merle Haggard was treated at an undisclosed hospital in California for pneumonia.

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76.

Merle Haggard was buried in a private funeral at his ranch on April 9, 2016; longtime friend Marty Stuart officiated.

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77.

Merle Haggard was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1977, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 1994, and the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 1997.

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78.

Merle Haggard played two shows to raise money to pay for the changes in road signage.

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79.

In 2015, the converted boxcar in which the Merle Haggard family lived in Oildale was moved to the Kern County Museum for historic preservation and restoration.

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80.

On January 26, 2014, Merle Haggard performed his 1969 song "Okie from Muskogee" at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards along with Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and Blake Shelton.

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81.

Merle Haggard's guitar playing and voice gave his country songs a hard-edged, blues-like style in many cuts.

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82.

Merle Haggard had an interest in jazz music, and stated in an interview in 1986 that he wanted to be remembered as "the greatest jazz guitar player in the world that loved to play country".

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83.

Merle Haggard described himself as a student of music, philosophy, and communication.

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84.

Merle Haggard would discuss jazzman Howard Roberts guitar playing, life after death and the unique speaking technique of Garner Ted Armstrong of The World Tomorrow with enthusiasm and authority.

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85.

Merle Haggard appeared in season five, episode three of The Waltons called "The Comeback".

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86.

Merle Haggard played Red Turner, a local musician who had become depressed and withdrawn after the death of his son, played by Ron Howard, in the episode called "The Gift".

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