Brown - Dark
Oildale, CA, USA
Traditional Country, Honky Tonk, Bakersfield Sound, Western Swing Revival
Rebellious, Poignant, Reverent, Dramatic, Uncompromising, Earthy, Laid-Back/Mellow, Rousing, Freewheeling, Rambunctious, Searching, Yearning, Warm, Nostalgic, Swaggering, Melancholy, Earnest, Intimate, Restrained, Autumnal, Provocative
Guitar, Songwriter, Vocals
Soundtrack, Actor/Actress, Music Department
Has Detailed Data (New)
Profile Bio Text
Merle Ronald Haggard (April 6, 1937 – April 6, 2016) was an American country and Western songwriter, singer, guitarist, fiddler, and instrumentalist. Along with Buck Owens, Haggard and his band The Strangers helped create the Bakersfield sound, which is characterized by the unique twang of Fender Telecaster and the unique mix with the traditional country steel guitar sound, new vocal harmony styles in which the words are minimal, and a rough edge not heard on the more polished Nashville sound recordings of the same era.
By the 1970s, Haggard was aligned with the growing outlaw country movement, and he continued to release successful albums through the 1990s and into the 2000s. In 1994, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1997, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.
Haggard's parents, Flossie Mae Harp and James Francis Haggard, moved to California from their home in Checotah, Oklahoma, during the Great Depression, after their barn burned in 1934. They settled with their children, Lowell and Lillian, in an apartment in Bakersfield, while James Francis Haggard started working for the Santa Fe Railroad. A woman who owned a boxcar, which was placed in Oildale, a nearby town north of Bakersfield, asked Haggard's father about the possibility of converting it into a house. He remodeled the boxcar, and soon after moved in, also purchasing the lot, where Merle Ronald Haggard was born on April 6, 1937. The property was eventually expanded by building a bathroom, a second bedroom, a kitchen and a breakfast nook in the adjacent lot.
His father died of a brain hemorrhage in 1945, an event that deeply affected Haggard during his childhood, and the rest of his life. To support the family, his mother worked as a bookkeeper. His brother, Lowell, gave Haggard his used guitar as a gift when he was 12 years old. Haggard learned to play alone, with the records he had at home, influenced by Bob Wills, Lefty Frizzell and Hank Williams. As his mother was absent due to work, Haggard became progressively rebellious. His mother sent him for a weekend to a juvenile detention center to change his attitude, which worsened.
Haggard committed a number of minor offences, such as thefts and writing bad checks. He was sent to a juvenile detention center for shoplifting in 1950. When he was 14, Haggard ran away to Texas with his friend Bob Teague. He rode freight trains and hitchhiked throughout the state. When he returned the same year, he and his friend were arrested for robbery. Haggard and Teague were released when the real robbers were found. Haggard was later sent to the juvenile detention center, from which he and his friend escaped again to Modesto, California. He worked a series of laborer jobs, including driving a potato truck, being a short order cook, a hay pitcher, and an oil well shooter. His debut performance was with Teague in a Modesto bar named "Fun Center," being paid US$5, with free beer. He returned to Bakersfield in 1951, and was again arrested for truancy and petty larceny and sent to a juvenile detention center. After another escape, he was sent to the Preston School of Industry, a high-security installation. He was released 15 months later, but was sent back after beating a local boy during a burglary attempt. After his release, Haggard and Teague saw Lefty Frizzell in concert. After hearing Haggard sing along to his songs backstage, Frizzell refused to sing unless Haggard would be allowed to sing first. He sang songs that were well received by the audience. Due to the positive reception, Haggard decided to pursue a career in music. While working as a farmhand or in oil fields, he played in nightclubs. He eventually landed a spot on the local television show Chuck Wagon, in 1956.
Married and plagued by financial issues, he was arrested in 1957 shortly after he tried to rob a Bakersfield roadhouse. He was sent to Bakersfield Jail, and was later transferred after an escape attempt to San Quentin Prison, on February 21, 1958. While in prison, Haggard discovered that his wife was expecting a child from another man, which pressed him psychologically. He was fired from a series of prison jobs, and planned to escape along with another inmate nicknamed "Rabbit". Haggard was convinced not to escape by fellow inmates. Haggard started to run a gambling and brewing racket with his cellmate. After he was caught drunk, he was sent for a week to solitary confinement where he encountered Caryl Chessman, an author and death row inmate. Meanwhile, "Rabbit" had successfully escaped, only to shoot a police officer and return to San Quentin for execution. Chessman's predicament, along with the execution of "Rabbit," inspired Haggard to turn his life around. Haggard soon earned a high school equivalency diploma and kept a steady job in the prison's textile plant, while also playing for the prison's country music band, attributing a 1958 performance by Johnny Cash at the prison as his main inspiration to join it. Upon his release in 1960, Haggard said it took about four months to get used to being out of the penitentiary and that, at times, he actually wanted to go back in. He said it was the loneliest he had ever felt.
According to Rolling Stone, "In 1972, then–California governor Ronald Reagan expunged Haggard's criminal record, granting him a full pardon."
Wives and children
Haggard was married five times, first to Leona Hobbs from 1956 to 1964. They had four children: Dana, Marty, Kelli, Noel. They divorced, and in 1965 he married singer Bonnie Owens, former wife of Buck Owens, and a successful country singer at the time. Haggard has credited her with helping him make his big break as a country artist. Haggard shared the writing credit with Owens for his hit "Today I Started Loving You Again", and has acknowledged, including on stage, that the song was about a sudden burst of special feelings he experienced for her while they were touring together. She also helped care for Haggard's children from his first marriage, and was the maid of honor for Haggard's third marriage. Haggard and Owens divorced in 1978, but remained close friends as Owens continued on until her passing as his backing vocalist. In 1978 Haggard married Leona Williams; they divorced in 1983. In 1985 Haggard married Debbie Parret, but they divorced in 1991. He married his fifth wife, Theresa Ann Lane, on September 11, 1993. They had two children, Jenessa and Ben.
Haggard has said he started smoking marijuana when he was 41 years old. He admitted that in 1983 he bought "$2,000 (worth) of cocaine" and partied for five days afterward, when he says he finally realized his condition and quit for good. He quit smoking cigarettes in 1991, and stopped smoking marijuana in 1995. However, a Rolling Stone magazine interview published October 1, 2009, titled "The Fighter: The Life & Times of Merle Haggard," indicated that he had resumed regular marijuana smoking.
Haggard underwent angioplasty in 1995 to unblock clogged arteries. On November 9, 2008, it was announced that Haggard had been diagnosed with non-small-cell lung cancer in May of that year and underwent surgery on November 3, during which part of his lung was removed. Haggard returned home on November 8. Less than two months after his cancer surgery, Haggard played two shows on January 2 and 3, 2009, in Bakersfield at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace, and continued to tour and record until his death.
On December 5, 2015, Haggard was treated at an undisclosed hospital in California for pneumonia. He made a recovery, but postponed several concerts. In March 2016, Haggard was once again hospitalized with pneumonia. Concerts for April were cancelled due to his ongoing battle with double pneumonia. Haggard died on April 6, 2016, his 79th birthday, at his home in Palo Cedro, California, just outside Redding, California.
Couple Profile Source
Full Name at Birth
Merle Ronald Haggard
Has Detailed Data (Music)
Has Detailed Data (105)
Country and Western songwriter, singer, guitarist, fiddler, and instrumentalist
Claim to Fame
Branded Man (1967)
Has Detailed Data (76)
Music Profile Complete
James Francis Haggard
Flossie Mae Haggard
Music Genre (Text)
Country, Western, Outlaw Country, Bakersfield Sound
Capitol, McA, Epic, Curb, Anti, Vanguard
Music Genre (Text)
Outlaw Country, Bakersfield sound
Place of Death
Redding, CA, USA
Cause of Death
Music Genre (Text)
Talent Agency (e.g. Modelling)
United Talent Agency
www.nndb.com/people/975/000023906/, www.biography.com/people/merle-haggard-9542118, www.facebook.com/merlehaggard