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Merle Haggard

  • Birthplace: Oildale, California
  • Birthday: April 06
Date of passing: 
April 06, 2016

Obituary

Obituary: 

Merle Haggard was a singer-songwriter whose more than six decades in country music included 38 No. 1 hits, including “Okie from Muskogee,” “Mama Tried” and “Big City.”

Born in Oildale, California, Haggard got his start playing clubs in the nearby Bakersfield area. He later joined singer Wynn Stewart’s band and later, with his own group The Strangers, began recording for Tally Records, before Capitol Records acquired his contract. Haggard was prolific, and only a decade into his career he released an LP titled Merle Haggard Presents His 30th Album. He would release nearly 70 albums over the course of his career.

Haggard's early life was rife with petty crimes and included a three-year stint in San Quentin on a burglary conviction. While in prison, he witnessed a performance by Johnny Cash, an event he later described as life-changing.

Haggard's first hit single, "Sing a Sad Song," came in 1964, and he went on to have a string of No. 1 country hits, which continued through the late 1970s, when he moved from Capitol to MCA. In 1981, Haggard shifted labels again, to Epic Records. In 2003, he founded his own independent label, Hag Records, distributed by Nashville-based Compendia Music.

Merle Haggard was a singer-songwriter whose more than six decades in country music included 38 No. 1 hits, including “Okie from Muskogee,” “Mama Tried” and “Big City.”

Born in Oildale, California, Haggard got his start playing clubs in the nearby Bakersfield area. He later joined singer Wynn Stewart’s band and later, with his own group The Strangers, began recording for Tally Records, before Capitol Records acquired his contract. Haggard was prolific, and only a decade into his career he released an LP titled Merle Haggard Presents His 30th Album. He would release nearly 70 albums over the course of his career.

Haggard's early life was rife with petty crimes and included a three-year stint in San Quentin on a burglary conviction. While in prison, he witnessed a performance by Johnny Cash, an event he later described as life-changing.

Haggard's first hit single, "Sing a Sad Song," came in 1964, and he went on to have a string of No. 1 country hits, which continued through the late 1970s, when he moved from Capitol to MCA. In 1981, Haggard shifted labels again, to Epic Records. In 2003, he founded his own independent label, Hag Records, distributed by Nashville-based Compendia Music.

An occasional actor as well, he performed in a handful of TV programs and films. His television credits included the series Doc Elliot and The Waltons, as well as the telefilm Huckleberry Finn and the miniseries Centennial. He also appeared in the 1997 movie Wag the Dog, with Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro and Anne Heche, and Clint Eastwood cast him and featured his memorable song “Misery and Gin” in his 1980 feature Bronco Billy.

Additionally, Haggard appeared as himself on the series Death Valley Days, and he performed on The Johnny Cash Show, Donny and Marie, Hee Haw, The Arsenio Hall Show and PBS’s Great Performances.

His music was also used in a wide variety of television shows and movies. They included the series Knight Rider, The Larry Sanders Show and Friday Night Lights, as well as the films Platoon, Fargo, Crash, Brokeback Mountain, Jack Reacher and The Judge.

In 1994, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and he was celebrated as a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in December 2010. He was also won four Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Haggard died April 6, 2016, in Redding, California. He was 79.

 

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