- Date of Birth:
- April 6, 1937
- 5' 9"
Merle Haggard (born Merle Ronald Haggard on April 6, 1937 in Oildale, California) was an American country and western songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist. Merle was given a used guitar when he was 12-years-old, learning the instrument by playing along with records at home. Merle’s debut performance was in a Modesto bar that earned him $5 and free beer. In 1957, Merle was sent to San Quentin Prison after attempting to rob a Bakersfield roadhouse. He was released in 1960, where he started working labor jobs while pursuing a career in music. Merle’s rough childhood, outlaw history and troubled past became the basis for his recoding career. Along with Buck Owens, Merle and his band, The Strangers, created the Bakersfield country sound. He scored his first national hit in 1964 with “(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers,” and five years later, “Okie From Muskogee” gained him even more national fame and fortune. At one time, Merle was the most famous country singer in the world, scoring thirty-eight #1 country singles, numerous Academy of Country Music awards and three Grammy Awards. Merle passed away in his home on April 6, 2016, after “health issues” related to pneumonia.
Best Known For:
Merle Haggard was best known as a country music icon, with songs “The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde” and “Okie from Muskogee.”
Merle married Leona Hobbs in 1956. They had four children together — Dana, Marty, Kelli, Noel — before they divorced in 1964. In 1965, Merle married Bonnie Owens, Buck’s former wife. They divorced in 1978 but remained close friends. In 1978, Merle married Leona Williams, but they split in 1983. In 1985, Merle wed Debbie Parret, but they called it quits in 1991. Merle married Theresa Ann Lane in 1993. They have two children together, Jessica and Ben Haggard, who is also a country singer.