Country music legend Merle Ronald Haggard was born April 6, 1937 in Bakersfield, California. During the great depression Merle's parents had moved from Oklahoma to Bakersfield. When Merle was nine his father died and this affected him deeply. He became rebellious, skipping school and committing petty crimes. When he was 13 he was caught shoplifting and was sent to juvenile detention center. The next year he was arrested for truancy and petty larceny. After that he began working at a variety of jobs including performing in a bar. After seeing Lefty Frizzell in concert, Merle sang some songs for him. Lefty was amazed by Merle's talent and let him sing at his concert. The audience went crazy over Haggard's performance and soon Merle began working at music full-time.

Unfortunately he began to experience money problems and was arrested in 1957 for robbing a tavern. He was sent to San Quentin for 10 years. While incarcerated Merle saw Johnny Cash in concert. He was so impressed by Cash's performance that it inspired him to straighten up and pursue his own singing career. Meanwhile, he earned his high school equivalency diploma and played in the prison band.

After an early release from prison Haggard began recording with Tally Records. His first record was "Skid Row" in 1962. By 1964 he had a hit with a cover of Wynn Stewart's "Sing a Sad Song." One of his most famous recordings is "Okie From Muskogee" which was released in 1969. Haggard says it was a "documentation of the uneducated that lived in America at the time." In 1972 Merle was given a full pardon for his crimes by Ronald Reagan who was governor of California at the time. His chart success continued through the 70's and in 1977 he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Despite having a prison record, Merle Haggard is one of the true giants of country music. His songs are real and honest and are about such themes as love and loss, patriotism, regret and redemption. Merle Haggard was still recording and performing until the time of his death on April 6, 2016.

Information for this biography was obtained from "Wikipedia"


  You are listening to "Okie from Muskogee" by Merle Haggard