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Merle Tried

Updated on November 16, 2017

'A little wrinkle in the right place adds character to a face.' (Jonathan Burden) Hag had a lot of character. He had a lot of love and left a lot of broken hearts... Mine, too


I didn't expect to find inspiration to write about Merle Haggard when I picked up a Decorator Magazine this morning... but this quote from Jonathan Burden, a restoration expert featured in the April issue of Traditional Home... 'A little wrinkle in the right place adds character to a face.' brought Merle to mind immediately, and I knew I had to write about him.

A lot of character that face.

Our National Treasure, Merle Haggard, lost his battle with Pneumonia on his 79th birthday, April 6, 2016.

I am so angry. I was on Facebook when I heard Merle died, from the radio next to me... I posted on I Love Kris Kristofferson... 'Damn Pneumonia. Damn Pneumonia. Damn Pneumonia!'

On my Timeline I wrote 'OMG... We've lost Merle Haggard. Born and Died on April 6. Damn Pneumonia got him.', on a post with the picture above. Then I took it to Image Magick and annotated the dates on it as you see in the photo now. Then I went to my All Country Music page and started a Tribute to Merle that I continued until midnight, April 7.

I Started With This One...

Damn Pneumonia

Merle wanted to live to be 100. He wanted to out-live George Burns.

One of my Hub articles is 'Cure Pneumonia', in which I featured Jack LaLanne and Zig Ziggler who died of Pneumonia. Why haven't we cured this monstrous disease?

In my article I surmised there is no cure for Pneumonia, just a process of elimination. You just keep repeating the process over and over until you work through it. ...or die.

Caregivers don't make patients work to live. Now I'm not saying that's what happened with Merle, but usual proceedures is to deaden pain with sedatives, and keep them comfortable. Well, I didn't have a caregiver, so I had to take care of myself. In doing that, I survived.


This isn't about how Merle died. it's about How he lived!

He tried, you know... Merle Tried.

I think Merle spent the rest of his life trying to atone for his wild youth. You would think he'd have made it by 1970 when he won Entertainer of the Year at the CMA Awards...AND the ACM Awards, as well.... or at least by 1972 when he received a Pardon from the Governor of California, none other than Ronald Reagan who went on to be President of the USA.

I mean, really... he even got inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994...

And then he received The Kennedy Center Awards in 2010!

He had scores of awards, honors and accolades. I was going to post more, but if these aren't enough, well, really.... who needs to be convinced?

He was a beautiful man and he earned every one of those lines on his face!

And, ironically, it was well near 24 hours after the news of his passing that I heard any reference to his prison time mentioned. None at all... And the first mention was very brief. He'd have been proud.

His own songs, Lonesome Fugitive, Branded Man and Mama Tried, tell the only story that needed to be told... Lonesome Fugitive was his first #1 hit!

Branded Man was #2.

#3 - Sing Me Back Home.

#4 - The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde.

Mama Tried didn't make it until #5.

He had 38 # 1's in all... not to mention a lot that should have been (such as In My Next Life), and many that came close... (Misery and Gin, for example.)

It's obvious the world forgave him... and went on to love him. He was talent, personified.

...and he wasn't hard to look at.

With looks like that, it's not surprising he was married 5 times.

He named his first son, Marty, after Marty Robbins, who Merle admired.

A side story of my own, here... A writer...I have several unfinished novels. One is based on the life of a prisoner, that I named Merle, but then diverted attention away from Haggard by saying his mother named him after Merle Travis, who was popular at his birth. Of course, it's still 'unfinished'.

After Marty, I believe was a girl named Dana, then another daughter, Kelli and son, Noel, all from first wife, Leona Hobbs. There was another Leona, Williams this time, and a Debbie somewhere along the line, and Bonnie Owens, who I believe he actually married twice.She kept the stage name Owens, having previously been married to Buck Owens. She was Merle's back-up singer even long after the (second) divorce.

He married his current wife, Theresa, in 1993 and subsequently had 2 children with her, Jenessa and Ben.

[I also found scuttlebutt while researching this writing, of a Scott Haggard, who was born to a woman named Lanorah Margaret Bowden, in around 1968, who Merle did not marry.]

Marty Haggard
Marty Haggard
Noel Haggard
Noel Haggard
Dana Haggard, probably with her husband.
Dana Haggard, probably with her husband.
Kelli Haggard, probably center with her children.
Kelli Haggard, probably center with her children.
Hilary Williams, Merle, Jenessa Haggard, Holly Williams, Miranda Lambert and Katie Williams.  (Williams girls are daughters of Hank Williams, Jr.)
Hilary Williams, Merle, Jenessa Haggard, Holly Williams, Miranda Lambert and Katie Williams. (Williams girls are daughters of Hank Williams, Jr.)
Ben Haggard
Ben Haggard
Scott Haggard
Scott Haggard

Well, I've presented them all...and leave it to your discretion whether or not Scott might have been a son...and as you see, all the boys are musicians... Ben having been the lead guitarist in his Father's band.

A Class Act

Merle was a class act, all right. In my own observation, when he was on stage with Kris Kristofferson, as Kris was singing, he sat on a stool, off-side, sort of, and watched him perform. Yet, when he was singing, Kris harmonized with him on every song. And they did a couple together... but the finale`, was different. Merle kicked off with Why Me, then let Kris finish it. When you think of all the #1 hits Merle had, he gave Kris the spotlight on his ONLY #1. That's class.

Here's More Class

Merle was appreciative of other people's talent. One such was Tommy Collins, who he wrote a song about, calling it Leonard, ...'if just to see the smiling faces in the band'... The song, of course, tells the story of Leonard Sipes, the name Tommy never used.

Tommy Collins was born Leonard Raymond Sipes on September 28, 1930 and died March 14, 2000, at age 69.

While Merle's song says he came to hang a gold one on the wall, I'm not sure what song he might be referring to. He did have a hit on a song recorded by Faron Young in 1954 and again by George Strait in 1988, If You Ain't Lovin' (You Ain't Livin').

However, it turns out he wrote my favorite Hag song ~ Carolyn, and a song I'd have sworn Merle wrote, The Roots of My Raisin'.

January 26, 2014 - 56th Grammy Awards

Willie, Merle and Kris
Willie, Merle and Kris

On January 26, 2014, Haggard performed his 1969 song "Okie from Muskogee" at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards along with Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Blake Shelton.(not pictured) You see son, Ben, in background,

He wasn't done yet...

Remember Pancho and Lefty? Well, this one will rival that...Django and Jimmie.

Released in June, 2014. This will be the one to buy!

Merle and Theresa
Merle and Theresa

24 Years...

'I don't think she knows how much I love her.'

And I heard him say that in an interview... not something that was written. So, it's safe to say, he had a good marriage with his wife,Teresa. He was happy.

This is the photo Ben posted on his Facebook page announcing his Dad died.

I stumbled across the meaning of the tattoo on Merle's arm. It stood for Preston School of Industry, a reform school Merle had been in. I never knew of this tattoo, and when you see pictures of Merle performing, it never shows, because he's holding his guitar with that left hand.

The Hag


Yes, Merle was a Branded Man. His Brand was The Hag.

His number was Number One!

Tiana Dreymor

April 11, 2016


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    • Vista15 profile image

      Tiana Dreymor 20 months ago from Columbus, OH

      Well.... I heard he and Bonnie joshing in a video about getting divorced again... so I'll leave it at that... And as long as he and Debbie Parret never had children, and nobody really heard about her (I didn't), I'll leave that, too.

      But I'm so glad you liked it. First Haggard song I heard wasn't even sung by him... My ex hub was in a band in the 60's and the leader sang Swingin' Doors. I loved it. Then loved it when I heard Merle sing it!

    • profile image

      Eileen Cordova 20 months ago

      Very nice write-up. You captured a lot of what I feel about Merle (fan since 1967!). I'd like to suggest a small edit. He & Bonnie were married only once. His 4th wife was Debbie Parret, who is still a family friend and lives near the Haggard ranch in Northern CA. They were married from 1985 - 1991.