Merle Haggard – Criminal Past (TVPG; 2:09) Merle Haggard tells the people about his criminal past on Johnny Cash’s TV show.
Initially a troubled child who served time in San Quentin penitentiary, Haggard grew becoming a country music legend. With 38 No. 1 hits and 250 first tunes, Haggard stays one of the best known and most covered artists in country music.
The son of a railway worker, Haggard grew up in Depression-era California. As a young child, he was harassed with a respiratory illness, which often kept him out of school and confined to bed rest.
A rebellious teenager, Haggard compiled a criminal record that included such violations as truancy, passing bogus checks, and grand theft vehicle. His escalating juvenile delinquency landed him in and from reform facilities and county jails. When not serving time, Haggard pursued a love of music by playing guitar in local pubs and nightclubs.
While serving a 2 1/2-year period, Haggard played in the penitentiary’s country group and took high school equivalency classes. Upon his parole in 1960, Haggard returned to Bakersfield, where he sang and played guitar in the honkytonks of “Beer Can Hill,” the heart of the town ‘s burgeoning country music landscape.
After getting a devoted local following in his hometown, Haggard traveled to vegas, where he started playing bass guitar for Wynn Stewart. Later that year, the group released their debut self titled record. In 1967, their single, “I am a Lonesome Fugitive,” soared to the peak of the country charts. Later that year, Haggard followed the tune’s runaway success with, “Branded Man,” his first self-composed No. 1 tune.
Ultimately, Haggard’s run of No. 1 singles during the 1960s culminated with what would become his signature song and his most contentious record, “Okie from Muskogee.”
Since that time, Haggard has released close to 70 records and 600 tunes, 250 of which he’s composed himself. In 1982, Haggard recorded a duet record with George Jones called A Taste of Yesterday’s Wine, which afforded the chart toppers “Yesterday’s Wine” and “C.C. Waterback.” The next year, he collaborated with Willie Nelson to record the broadly commended compilation Pancho & Lefty.
Haggard was elected to the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 1977. In 1994, his abundance of artistic accomplishments, including 38 No. 1 hits, earned him induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
In 2008, Haggard was identified as having lung cancer. Merle Haggard had surgery to take out the tumour and reflected on the problem as “the best test of my fortitude.” Following a quick healing, Haggard toured and composed tunes one of which was inspired by what President Barack Obama called “Hopes Are quite high,” which he composed two days prior to the inauguration.
Haggard was married to Leona Hobbs from 1956 to 1965, also to Buck Owens’s ex wife and fellow country singer Bonnie Owens from 1965 to 1975. Two more failed unions followed—to backup singer Leona Williams and to Debbie Parrett. Haggard is now married to Theresa Lane, whom he wed in 1993. Merle Haggard has three kids from his first union to Hobbs and two kids with Lane.
Johnny Cash – The Man in Black (TV14; 1:11) View a brief video about Johnny Cash and discover the highlights and low lights of the career of this rock, gospel and country star.
George Jones – Fighting Habit (TVPG; 1:54) George Jones talks about his battle against habit.