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“Folsom Prison Blues” gave Johnny Cash his first top-10 country hit in 1956, and his live concert performance at Folsom—dramatized memorably in the film Walk The Line—gave his flagging career a critical jump-start in 1968. But the prison with which Johnny Cash was most closely associated wasn’t Folsom, it was San Quentin, a maximum-security penitentiary just outside of San Francisco. San Quentin is where Cash played his first-ever prison concert on January 1, 1958—a concert that helped set Merle Haggard, then a 20-year-old San Quentin inmate, on the path toward becoming a country music legend.
Haggard was a product of Bakersfield, California, a hard-bitten Central Valley town that was the final stop for tens of thousands of poor, white farmers and laborers who migrated west during the 1930s, 40s and 50s seeking work in the factories, farm fields and oilfields of California. These Oklahomans, Texans and others referred to by the blanket term “Okies” brought with them a love of country music, and not just any country music, but “Loud music that plays until all hours,” as Wynn Stewart sang in his 1962 country hit “How the Other Half Lives.” Merle Haggard would eventually become an architect of the hard-driving, no-frills Bakersfield Sound, which shook the Nashville establishment in the 1960s. But not before he ran afoul of the legal establishment in ways that most country singers only sing about.
Haggard did his first stint in jail at age 11, when his mother turned him over to the juvenile authorities as “incorrigible.” As a teenager, Haggard went into jail at least three more times, and went out via escape at least once. In 1957, at the age of 18, Haggard was arrested on a burglary charge and sentenced to 15 years in San Quentin. He ended up serving only two years of that sentence, though, and he credits Cash with giving him the inspiration to launch a career after prison that included 38 #1 hits on the country charts, including “Sing Me Back Home,” “Okie From Muskogee” and “Today I Started Loving You Again.” Of Johnny Cash’s prison debut, Haggard said this: “He had the right attitude. He chewed gum, looked arrogant and flipped the bird to the guards—he did everything the prisoners wanted to do. He was a mean mother from the South who was there because he loved us. When he walked away, everyone in that place had become a Johnny Cash fan.”
READ MORE: Why Hate Groups Went After Johnny Cash in the 1960s
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Newly-Released Photos Document Historic Johnny Cash Prison Performances
SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Fifty years ago, the late Johnny Cash stepped onto a stage in a cafeteria at Folsom State Prison and sung his heart out to hundreds of inmates. By his side: a legendary Bay Area photographer.
KPIX has an exclusive look at newly-released photographs from the historic music event. Some have never been seen by the public and are on display in an exhibit at the San Francisco Art Exchange.
The display includes dozens of photographs of the phenomenal musician as he performed at Folsom Prison in 1968 and later at San Quentin State Prison in 1969.
“There’s a number of photographs that have never been seen before by anybody,” said gallery co-founder and creative director Theron Kabrich. “Aficionados of the performance don’t even know these photographs even exist.”
Every moment of the legendary concerts was photographed by the late Jim Marshall, who was trusted and hand-picked by Cash.
“Jim was very good friends with Johnny Cash. They had already developed a friendship and the two of them bonded because they were two flawed human beings who really lived their lives the way they wanted to with no excuses,” explained Amelia Davis. Davis is the sole beneficiary of the Jim Marshall Estate. Marshall died in 2010.
After Marshall’s death, Davis sorted through his images and proof sheets and was astounded.
She said he would take a roll of film and then pick the one he wanted to print. But, as she discovered, there were countless images that were beautiful and she has decided to publish them for all to enjoy. The latest book is “Johnny Cash at Folsom and San Quentin: Photographs by Jim Marshall” and it will be published on July 24 by Reel Art Press and BMG Books.
Both Cash and Marshall had brushes with the law. The musician suffered from a severe drug addiction and self-destructive behavior. The photographer was on probation for shooting a man at the time of the Folsom Prison concerts.
Davis said Cash was a strong advocate for prison reform and prisoner rights. The musician identified with the underdog and felt the power of redemption.
Johnny Cash at the chapel at Folsom Prison. (Photo: Jim Marshall)
One significant photo that Marshall captured of Cash: a rare color print of the musician leaning up against the door leading into Greystone Chapel, the prison chapel. An inmate named Glen Sherley wrote a song about it and sent it to Cash.
Little did the inmate know that Cash would perform the song at Folsom as Sherley sat in the front row.
After the song, Marshall captured a fleeting shot of Cash on his feet shaking hands with a smiling Sherley.
Kabrich pointed to another photograph that he loved: Johnny Cash standing outside of Folsom on a crosswalk.
“You’ve got these white markers all the way on the road and typically we equate that with a crosswalk, kind of like Abbey Road with the Beatles walking across Abbey Road for the album,” said Kabrich. But this crosswalk was no Abbey Road.
“If you’re walking on this you’re actually walking right into Folsom Prison,” he said.
Inmate Merle Haggard hears Johnny Cash play San Quentin State Prison
Haggard did his first stint in jail at age 11, when his mother turned him over to the juvenile authorities as “incorrigible.” As a teenager, Haggard went into jail at least three more times, and went out via escape at least once. In 1957, at the age of 18, Haggard was arrested on a burglary charge and sentenced to 15 years in San Quentin. He ended up serving only two years of that sentence, though, and he credits Cash with giving him the inspiration to launch a career after prison that included 38 #1 hits on the country charts, including “Sing Me Back Home,” “Okie From Muskogee” and “Today I Started Loving You Again.” Of Johnny Cash’s prison debut, Haggard said this: “He had the right attitude. He chewed gum, looked arrogant and flipped the bird to the guards—he did everything the prisoners wanted to do. He was a mean mother from the South who was there because he loved us. When he walked away, everyone in that place had become a Johnny Cash fan.”
From “I Walk the Line” to “Forty Shades of Green,” Johnny Cash was a simple treasure. The country music artist sold millions of records and became a hot commodity. One of his most beloved songs ever is the 1955 song “Folsom Prison Blues,” which was inspired by the film Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison. The song led to thousands of inmates wanting to catch the star live. The requests led to his first prison gig at the San Quentin State Prison on January 1, 1958.
Around that time, Cash had a vision of recording a live album in front of prisoners. Unfortunately, that vision was tossed to the side for a slew of studio albums. Things took a turn in 1967 when this idea was presented to his record label.
An online exhibit at the California State Library website highlights some of the prison reform advocacy from Cash, featuring links to images of his visits with no less than six U.S. presidents. The site also links to congressional testimony from a session where Cash introduced lawmakers to former inmates to hear their stories. The musician sat in front of Congressional members just at the peak of his fame after the Folsom and San Quentin live con — cert albums. Archival video shows him trying to redirect President Reagan towards a discussion about reform. Reagan seems to be preoccupied with a certain Central American conflict instead. Cash wrote in his autobiography that he prayed with President Carter. The concert for President Nixon became prime-time fodder when Nixon publicly requested that Cash play two highly controversial songs — Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee” and Guy Drake’s “Welfare Cadillac.” Both songs may have originally been conceived as satire, but out of context they were interpreted by many people as highly insulting to particular communities, especially protesters of the Vietnam War and the disadvantaged recipients of Great Society social service programs. In later years, Cash was adamant that he chose different music for the concert for Nixon because he didn’t know the other songs well enough for a presidential concert. Instead he played “What is Truth” with a very anti-war second verse, “The Man in Black,” again anti-war, with a nudge toward Vietnam with the line “Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.” His finale was “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” a saga of the real-life Ira Hayes, a young Native American who raised the flag at Iwo Jima but who found the poverty and post-war trauma to be too much and died young from alcoholism. A recent documentary, ReMastered: Tricky Dick and the Man in Black on Netflix, uses news footage to show just how explosive these interchanges would have been in the American mindset at the time. The question, “What will Cash play?” became a political hot-button and six-o’clock news story. Whether Cash was honest in that he didn’t have the time or talent to adjust to the other songs for himself, or whether he purposely played music that would have been a subtle support for the leftist notions at the time, is something he took to his grave. But he capitalized on the attention at the time for discussions of the prison-reform advocacy issue. His concert for Nixon took place just about the same time he testified in front of Congress. “I have seen and heard of things at some of the concerts that would chill the blood of the average citizen,” Cash told the Subcommittee on National Penitentiaries. “But I think possibly the blood of the average citizen needs to be chilled in order for public apathy and conviction to come about because right now we have 1972 problems and 1872 jails….People have got to care in order for prison reform to come about.”
He became an ordained minister
Cash was well-known for his “outlaw” image based on his reputation as a hellion, particularly in the 60s, when he would smash up hotel rooms, drive his Jeep while hopped up on pills, and have brushes with the police. This period of his life reached a head when he was drummed off the Grand Ole Opry for dragging a mic stand across the footlights of the stage in a fit of temper, disrespecting the “mother church” of country music. Afterward, he ran his car into a utility pole, knocking out several of his teeth and breaking his nose. Most of Cash’s behavioral excesses were the result of drug abuse.
Once he remarried to June Carter of the famous Carter Family in 1968, Cash began a decades-long re-examination of his life and re-dedication to his Christian roots. This culminated in two and a half years of study in the late-70s, after which he received a degree in theology and became a minister. He was encouraged in his studies by the Reverend Billy Graham, who became a close friend of the Cash family during these years. Although he never attempted to marshal a congregation or play a guiding role in church services, Cash did preside at the wedding of his daughter Karen. Becoming a minister was the utmost expression of the religious feeling that characterized much of his life.
Cash was born J. R. Cash in Kingsland, Arkansas, on February 26, 1932,   the son of Carrie Cloveree (née Rivers) and Ray Cash. He had three older siblings, named Roy, Margaret Louise, and Jack, and three younger siblings, named Reba, Joanne, and Tommy (who also became a successful country artist).   He was primarily of English and Scottish descent.    His paternal grandmother also claimed Cherokee ancestry, though a DNA test of Cash's daughter Rosanne found she has no known Native American markers.   He traced his Scottish surname to 11th-century Fife after meeting with the then-laird of Falkland, Major Michael Crichton-Stuart.    Cash Loch and other locations in Fife bear the name of his family.  He is a distant cousin of British Conservative politician Sir William Cash.  His mother wanted to name him John and his father preferred to name him Ray, so J. R. ended up being the only compromise they could agree on.  When Cash enlisted in the Air Force, he was not permitted to use initials as a first name, so he changed it to John R. Cash. In 1955, when signing with Sun Records, he started using the name Johnny Cash. 
In March 1935, when Cash was three years old, the family settled in Dyess, Arkansas, a New Deal colony established to give poor families the opportunity to work land that they may later own.  From the age of five, he worked in cotton fields with his family, singing with them as they worked. The Cash farm in Dyess experienced a flood, which led Cash later to write the song "Five Feet High and Rising".  His family's economic and personal struggles during the Great Depression gave him a lifelong sympathy for the poor and working class, and inspired many of his songs.
In 1944,  Cash's older brother Jack, with whom he was close, was cut almost in two by an unguarded table saw at work and died a week later.  According to his autobiography he, his mother, and Jack all had a sense of foreboding about that day his mother urged Jack to skip work and go fishing with Cash, but Jack insisted on working as the family needed the money. Cash often spoke of the guilt he felt over the incident, and spoke of looking forward to "meeting [his] brother in Heaven". 
Cash's early memories were dominated by gospel music and radio. Taught guitar by his mother and a childhood friend, Cash began playing and writing songs at the age of 12. When young, Cash had a high-tenor voice, before becoming a bass-baritone after his voice changed.  In high school, he sang on a local radio station. Decades later, he released an album of traditional gospel songs called My Mother's Hymn Book. He was also significantly influenced by traditional Irish music, which he heard performed weekly by Dennis Day on the Jack Benny radio program. 
Cash enlisted in the Air Force on July 7, 1950.  After basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and technical training at Brooks Air Force Base, both in San Antonio, Texas, Cash was assigned to the 12th Radio Squadron Mobile of the U.S. Air Force Security Service at Landsberg, West Germany. He worked as a Morse code operator intercepting Soviet Army transmissions.  While copying Soviet transmissions, Cash learned of Soviet Premier Stalin's death.  [ unreliable source? ] While at Landsberg he created his first band, "The Landsberg Barbarians".  On July 3, 1954, he was honourably discharged as a staff sergeant, and he returned to Texas.  During his military service, he acquired a distinctive scar on the right side of his jaw as a result of surgery to remove a cyst.  
In 1954, Cash and Vivian moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he had sold appliances while studying to be a radio announcer. At night, he played with guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant. Perkins and Grant were known as the Tennessee Two. Cash worked up the courage to visit the Sun Records studio, hoping to get a recording contract.  He auditioned for Sam Phillips by singing mostly gospel songs, only to learn from the producer that he no longer recorded gospel music. Phillips was rumoured to have told Cash to "go home and sin, then come back with a song I can sell", although in a 2002 interview, Cash denied that Phillips made any such comment.  Cash eventually won over the producer with new songs delivered in his early rockabilly style. In 1955, Cash made his first recordings at Sun, "Hey Porter" and "Cry! Cry! Cry!", which were released in late June and met with success on the country hit parade.
On December 4, 1956, Elvis Presley dropped in on Phillips while Carl Perkins was in the studio cutting new tracks, with Jerry Lee Lewis backing him on piano. Cash was also in the studio, and the four started an impromptu jam session. Phillips left the tapes running and the recordings, almost half of which were gospel songs, survived. They have since been released under the title Million Dollar Quartet. In Cash: the Autobiography, Cash wrote that he was the farthest from the microphone and sang in a higher pitch to blend in with Elvis.
Cash's next record, "Folsom Prison Blues", made the country top five. His "I Walk the Line" became number one on the country charts and entered the pop charts top 20. "Home of the Blues" followed, recorded in July 1957. That same year, Cash became the first Sun artist to release a long-playing album. Although he was Sun's most consistently selling and prolific artist at that time, Cash felt constrained by his contract with the small label. Phillips did not want Cash to record gospel and was paying him a 3% royalty rather than the standard rate of 5%. Presley had already left Sun and, Phillips was focusing most of his attention and promotion on Lewis.
In 1958, Cash left Phillips to sign a lucrative offer with Columbia Records. His single "Don't Take Your Guns to Town" became one of his biggest hits, and he recorded a collection of gospel songs for his second album for Columbia. However, Cash left behind a sufficient backlog of recordings with Sun that Phillips continued to release new singles and albums from, featuring previously unreleased material until as late as 1964. Cash was in the unusual position of having new releases out on two labels concurrently. Sun's 1960 release, a cover of "Oh Lonesome Me", made it to number 13 on the C&W charts.
(When RCA Victor signed Presley, it also bought his Sun Records masters, but when Cash departed for Columbia, Phillips retained the rights to the singer's Sun masters. Columbia eventually licensed some of these recordings for release on compilations after Cash's death.)
Early in his career, Cash was given the teasing nickname "the Undertaker" by fellow artists because of his habit of wearing black clothes. He said he chose them because they were easier to keep looking clean on long tours. 
In the early 1960s, Cash toured with the Carter Family, which by this time regularly included Mother Maybelle's daughters, Anita, June, and Helen. June later recalled admiring him from afar during these tours. In the 1960s, he appeared on Pete Seeger's short-lived television series Rainbow Quest.  He also acted in, and wrote and sang the opening theme for, a 1961 film entitled Five Minutes to Live, later re-released as Door-to-door Maniac.
Cash's career was handled by Saul Holiff, a London, Ontario, promoter. Their relationship was the subject of Saul's son's biopic My Father and the Man in Black. 
As his career was taking off in the late 1950s, Cash started drinking heavily and became addicted to amphetamines and barbiturates. For a brief time, he shared an apartment in Nashville with Waylon Jennings, who was deeply addicted to amphetamines. Cash would use the stimulants to stay awake during tours. Friends joked about his "nervousness" and erratic behavior, many ignoring the warning signs of his worsening drug addiction.
Although he was in many ways spiraling out of control, Cash could still deliver hits due to his frenetic creativity. His rendition of "Ring of Fire" was a crossover hit, reaching number one on the country charts and entering the top 20 on the pop charts. It was originally performed by June's sister, but the signature mariachi-style horn arrangement was provided by Cash.  He said that it had come to him in a dream. Vivian Liberto claimed a different version of the origins of "Ring of Fire". In her book, I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny, Liberto says that Cash gave Carter half the songwriting credit for monetary reasons. 
In June 1965, Cash's camper caught fire during a fishing trip with his nephew Damon Fielder in Los Padres National Forest in California, triggering a forest fire that burned several hundred acres and nearly caused his death.   Cash claimed that the fire was caused by sparks from a defective exhaust system on his camper, but Fielder thinks that Cash started a fire to stay warm and in his drugged condition failed to notice the fire getting out of control.  When the judge asked Cash why he did it, Cash said, "I didn't do it, my truck did, and it's dead, so you can't question it." 
The fire destroyed 508 acres (206 ha), burned the foliage off three mountains and drove off 49 of the refuge's 53 endangered California condors.  Cash was unrepentant and claimed, "I don't care about your damn yellow buzzards."  The federal government sued him and was awarded $125,172. Cash eventually settled the case and paid $82,001.  As of 2018 there are 488 California condors living wild or in captivity. 
Although Cash cultivated a romantic outlaw image, he never served a prison sentence. Despite landing in jail seven times for misdemeanors, he stayed only one night on each stay. On May 11, 1965, he was arrested in Starkville, Mississippi, for trespassing late at night onto private property to pick flowers. (He used this to write the song "Starkville City Jail", which he discussed on his live At San Quentin album.)  While on tour that year, he was arrested October 4 in El Paso, Texas, by a narcotics squad. The officers suspected he was smuggling heroin from Mexico, but found instead 688 Dexedrine capsules (amphetamines) and 475 Equanil (sedatives or tranquilizers) tablets that the singer had hidden inside his guitar case. Because the pills were prescription drugs rather than illegal narcotics, he received a suspended sentence. Cash posted a $1,500 bond and then was released until his arraignment. 
In this period of the mid-1960s, Cash released a number of concept albums. His Bitter Tears (1964) was devoted to spoken word and songs addressing the plight of Native Americans and mistreatment by the government. While initially reaching charts, this album met with resistance from some fans and radio stations, which rejected its controversial take on social issues. In 2011, a book was published about it, leading to a re-recording of the songs by contemporary artists and the making of a documentary film about Cash's efforts with the album. This film was aired on PBS in February and November 2016. His Sings the Ballads of the True West (1965) was an experimental double record, mixing authentic frontier songs with Cash's spoken narration.
Reaching a low with his severe drug addiction and destructive behavior, Cash was divorced from his first wife and had performances cancelled, but he continued to find success. In 1967, Cash's duet with June Carter, "Jackson", won a Grammy Award. 
Cash was last arrested in 1967 in Walker County, Georgia, after police found he was carrying a bag of prescription pills and was in a car accident. Cash attempted to bribe a local deputy, who turned the money down. The singer was jailed for the night in LaFayette, Georgia. Sheriff Ralph Jones released him after giving him a long talk, warning him about the danger of his behavior and wasted potential. Cash credited that experience with helping him turn around and save his life. He later returned to LaFayette to play a benefit concert it attracted 12,000 people (the city population was less than 9,000 at the time) and raised $75,000 for the high school.  Reflecting on his past in a 1997 interview, Cash noted: "I was taking the pills for awhile, and then the pills started taking me."  June, Maybelle, and Ezra Carter moved into Cash's mansion for a month to help him get off drugs. Cash proposed onstage to June on February 22, 1968, at a concert at the London Gardens in London, Ontario, Canada. The couple married a week later (on March 1) in Franklin, Kentucky. She had agreed to marry Cash after he had "cleaned up." 
Cash's journey included rediscovery of his Christian faith. He took an "altar call" in Evangel Temple, a small church in the Nashville area, pastored by Reverend Jimmie Rodgers Snow, son of country music legend Hank Snow. According to Marshall Grant, though, Cash did not completely stop using amphetamines in 1968. Cash did not end all drug use until 1970, staying drug-free for a period of seven years. Grant claims that the birth of Cash's son, John Carter Cash, inspired Cash to end his dependence. 
Cash began using amphetamines again in 1977. By 1983, he was deeply addicted again and became a patient at the Betty Ford Clinic in Rancho Mirage for treatment. He stayed off drugs for several years, but relapsed. By 1989, he was dependent and entered Nashville's Cumberland Heights Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center. In 1992, he started care at the Loma Linda Behavioral Medicine Center in Loma Linda, California, for his final rehabilitation treatment. (Several months later, his son followed him into this facility for treatment).  
Folsom and other prison concerts
Cash began performing concerts at prisons in the late 1950s. He played his first famous prison concert on January 1, 1958, at San Quentin State Prison.  These performances led to a pair of highly successful live albums, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison (1968) and Johnny Cash at San Quentin (1969). Both live albums reached number one on Billboard country album music and the latter crossed over to reach the top of the Billboard pop album chart. In 1969, Cash became an international hit when he eclipsed even The Beatles by selling 6.5 million albums.  In comparison, the prison concerts were much more successful than his later live albums such as Strawberry Cake recorded in London and Live at Madison Square Garden, which peaked at numbers 33 and 39 on the album charts, respectively.
The Folsom Prison record was introduced by a rendition of his "Folsom Prison Blues" while the San Quentin record included the crossover hit single "A Boy Named Sue", a Shel Silverstein-penned novelty song that reached number one on the country charts and number two on the U.S. top-10 pop charts. The AM versions of the latter contained profanities which were edited out of the aired version. The modern CD versions are unedited, thus making them longer than on the original vinyl albums, though they retain the audience-reaction overdubs of the originals.
Cash performed at the Österåker Prison in Sweden in 1972. The live album På Österåker (At Österåker) was released in 1973. "San Quentin" was recorded with Cash replacing "San Quentin" with "Österåker". In 1976, a concert at Tennessee State Prison was videotaped for TV broadcast, and received a belated CD release after Cash's death as A Concert Behind Prison Walls.
Activism for Native Americans
In 1965, Cash and June Carter appeared on Pete Seeger's TV show, Rainbow Quest, on which Cash explained his start as an activist for Native Americans:
In '57, I wrote a song called 'Old Apache Squaw' and then forgot the so-called Indian protest for a while, but nobody else seemed to speak up with any volume of voice. 
Columbia, the label for which Cash was recording then, was opposed to putting the song on his next album, considering it "too radical for the public".  Cash singing songs of Indian tragedy and settler violence went radically against the mainstream of country music in the 1950s, which was dominated by the image of the righteous cowboy who simply makes the native's soil his own. 
In 1964, coming off the chart success of his previous album I Walk The Line, he recorded the aforementioned album Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian.
We're Still Here: Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears Revisited, a documentary by Antonino D'Ambrosio (author of A Heartland and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making of Bitter Tears) tells the story of Johnny Cash's controversial concept album "Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian", covering the struggles of Native Americans. The film's DVD was released on August 21, 2018. 
The album featured stories of a multitude of Indigenous peoples, mostly of their violent oppression by white settlers: the Pima ("The Ballad of Ira Hayes"), Navajo ("Navajo"), Apache ("Apache Tears"), Lakota ("Big Foot"), Seneca ("As Long as the Grass Shall Grow"), and Cherokee ("Talking Leaves"). Cash wrote three of the songs himself and one with the help of Johnny Horton, but the majority of the protest songs were written by folk artist Peter La Farge  (son of activist and Pulitzer prizewinner Oliver La Farge), whom Cash met in New York in the 1960s and whom he admired for his activism.  The album's single, "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" (about Ira Hayes, one of the six to raise the U.S. flag at Iwo Jima), was neglected by nonpolitical radio at the time, and the record label denied it any promotion due to its provocative protesting and "unappealing" nature.  Cash faced resistance and was even urged by an editor of a country music magazine to leave the Country Music Association: "You and your crowd are just too intelligent to associate with plain country folks, country artists, and country DJs." 
In reaction, on August 22, 1964, Cash posted a letter as an advertisement in Billboard, calling the record industry cowardly: "D.J.s – station managers – owners . where are your guts? I had to fight back when I realized that so many stations are afraid of Ira Hayes. Just one question: WHY. Ira Hayes is strong medicine . So is Rochester, Harlem, Birmingham and Vietnam."   Cash kept promoting the song himself and used his influence on radio disc jockeys he knew eventually to make the song climb to number three on the country charts, while the album rose to number two on the album charts. 
Later, on The Johnny Cash Show, he continued telling stories of Native-American plight, both in song and through short films, such as the history of the Trail of Tears. 
In 1966, in response to his activism, the singer was adopted by the Seneca Nation's Turtle Clan.  He performed benefits in 1968 at the Rosebud Reservation, close to the historical landmark of the massacre at Wounded Knee, to raise money to help build a school. He also played at the D-Q University in the 1980s. 
Johnny Cash used his stardom and economic status to bring awareness to the issues surrounding the Native American people.  Cash sang songs about indigenous humanity in an effort to confront the U.S. government. Many non-Native Americans stayed away from singing about these things. 
In 1970, Cash recorded a reading of John G. Burnett's 1890, 80th-birthday essay  on Cherokee removal for the Historical Landmarks Association (Nashville). 
The Johnny Cash Show
From June 1969 to March 1971, Cash starred in his own television show, The Johnny Cash Show, on the ABC network.  Produced by Screen Gems, the show was performed at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The Statler Brothers opened for him in every episode the Carter Family and rockabilly legend Carl Perkins were also part of the regular show entourage. Cash also enjoyed booking mainstream performers as guests including Linda Ronstadt in her first TV appearance, Neil Young, Louis Armstrong, Neil Diamond, Kenny Rogers and The First Edition (who appeared four times), James Taylor, Ray Charles, Roger Miller, Roy Orbison, Derek and the Dominos, Joni Mitchell, and Bob Dylan. 
From September 15–18, 1969, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he performed a series of four concerts at the New Mexico State Fair to promote the first season of The Johnny Cash Show.   These live shows were produced with help from ABC and local concert producer Bennie Sanchez, during these sets Johnny Cash and Al Hurricane performed together.  Also during The Johnny Cash Show era, he contributed the title song and other songs to the film Little Fauss and Big Halsy, which starred Robert Redford, Michael J. Pollard, and Lauren Hutton.  The title song, "The Ballad of Little Fauss and Big Halsy", written by Carl Perkins, was nominated for a Golden Globe award in 1971.  
Cash had first met with Dylan in the mid-1960s and became neighbors in the late 1960s in Woodstock, New York. Cash was enthusiastic about reintroducing the reclusive Dylan to his audience. Cash sang a duet with Dylan, "Girl from the North Country", on Dylan's country album Nashville Skyline and also wrote the album's Grammy-winning liner notes.
Another artist who received a major career boost from The Johnny Cash Show was Kris Kristofferson, who was beginning to make a name for himself as a singer-songwriter. During a live performance of Kristofferson's "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down", Cash refused to change the lyrics to suit network executives, singing the song with its references to marijuana intact:
On a Sunday morning sidewalk
I'm wishin', Lord, that I was stoned. 
The closing program of The Johnny Cash Show was a gospel music special. Guests included the Blackwood Brothers, Mahalia Jackson, Stuart Hamblen, and Billy Graham. 
At San Quentin is the recording of a live concert given by Johnny Cash to the inmates of San Quentin State Prison, released on June 4, 1969. It topped both the Billboard 200 Top LP's chart and Top C&W LP's chart. The album was nominated for a number of Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and won Best Male Country Vocal Performance for "A Boy Named Sue".
One of country music's unequivocal stars, Johnny Cash retained respect for the travails of the audience elevating him to that position. Recorded live at one of America's most notorious prisons, this album displays an empathy bereft of condescension and captures a performer combining charisma with natural ease. The material is balanced between established favorites and new material including "Wanted Man" (an unrecorded Bob Dylan song), and the lighthearted hit "A Boy Named Sue." It was not the first time Cash had recorded in a penal institution, but this appearance, at a time when American values were vociferously questioned, suggested the artist's rebelliousness had not dimmed.
ORIGINAL ROLLING STONE REVIEW
Johnny Cash remembers the forgotten men. They love him. Singing inside a prison to men whose spirits are being destroyed by our mindless penal system is Johnny Cash's kind of revolution. Music becomes spirituality in the context of the prison. Music is inherently destructive of everything penology stands for. Music affirms. Music liberates.
Cash sounds very tired on this record ("ol' Johnny does best under pressure," he says), his voice on some songs just straying off pitch. But the feeling that actual human communication is taking place more than compensates for this. Communicating to an audience at the time is becoming a lost art because of the ascension of recorded music as the music of this culture. Even the so-called "revolutionary" modern bands, in the context of the new technology of the recording studio, are limited in terms of the kind of feeling they can concoct. The bulk of today's musicians deal in a matrix of values which tends to disregard the interpersonal trip between the artist and the live audience. No one wants to cop out to his own humanity. Mistakes are not permitted to remain on the modern recording except, say, as an intro, representing something clever that happened in the studio.
"San Quentin, What Do You Think You Do?" Cash and Bob Johnston, leaving several minutes of non-musical time-space on this album, show the listener that the human realities were of prime importance to the performer and the producer. Contract the intensity of emotion evident in the laughter of the inmates, the enthusiasm of the applause, and the swell of boos that you'll hear when a guard brings Cash a glass of water after he's sung his new "San Quentin (You've Been a Living Hell to Me)," contrast that to the insipid bullshit laughter and applause on, say, a situation comedy on TV, and you begin to grasp the importance of both Cash's approach and the actual facts of how he is spending his life and who he is choosing as his audience. Consider the values most of us have developed, and consider the manifestations of those values. It's great to trip out on sounds and colors—but the values that accrue to a guy who sits around the pad all day getting wasted, and the values of a guy who spends his time playing for prisoners, enjoying it, and getting it across to us as well are something else again.
The usual objections about live recordings seem more or less irrelevant because the sounds that are presented on this record are much more than music. A new Dylan tune, "Wanted Man," starts the show. Cash's rapport is instant, and he might well act out the lead as well as sing it: "Wanted man by Lucy Watson, wanted man by Jeannie Brown, wanted man by Nellie Johnson, wanted man in this next town . " Dig Cash's own yarn about Southern justice and his night in the Starkville, Mississippi, jail for picking flowers. "I Walk the Line" comes off as hard, tough, Johnny Cash funk, and there's a Shel Silverstein talking blues, "A Boy Named Sue"—really a crack-up. The content is oh-so-Oedipal and hokey, the Cash treatment beautiful. And Cash sings "San Quentin" twice in a row. The incredible difference between the two "takes" totally justifies the double-shot. "I kinda like it myself, now," Johnny declares. "Peace in the Valley," the old spiritual, closes it out, only to be followed by a brief, pounding taste of "Folsom Prison Blues." The concert is over, and those humans are still locked up on the other side of the Bay. The memory of Cash rapping with his hairtrigger audience stays with me. Where must Cash be at to relate so well to those we have put into our dungeons? (RS 38)
All songs by Johnny Cash except as indicated.
"Wanted Man" (Bob Dylan/Johnny Cash)
"Wreck of the Old 97" (Bob Johnston, Norman Blake)
"I Walk the Line"
"Darling Companion" (John Sebastian)
"Starkville City Jail"
"A Boy Named Sue" (Shel Silverstein)
"(There'll Be) Peace in the Valley" (Thomas A. Dorsey)
"Folsom Prison Blues"
All Things Music Plus
ON THIS DATE (57 YEARS AGO)
June 25, 1964 - The Animals: “The House Of The Rising Sun” b/w “Talkin' 'Bout You” (MGM K 13264) 45 single is released in the US.
"The House of the Rising Sun" is a traditional folk song, sometimes called "Rising Sun Blues". It tells of a life gone wrong in New Orleans. The most successful commercial version, recorded in 1964 The Animals, was a number one hit in the United Kingdom, United States, Sweden, Finland, and Canada.
It is recognized as one of the classics of British pop music. Writer Lester Bangs labeled it "a brilliant rearrangement" and "a new standard rendition of an old standard composition." It ranked number 122 on Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. It is also one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. The RIAA placed it as number 240 on their Songs of the Century list. In 1999 it received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. It has long since become a staple of oldies and classic rock radio formats. A 2005 Five poll ranked it as Britains' fourth favourite number one song.
An interview with Eric Burdon revealed that he first heard the song in a club in Newcastle, England, where it was sung by the Northumbrian folk singer Johnny Handle. The Animals were on tour with Chuck Berry and chose it because they wanted something distinctive to sing. This interview refutes assertions that the inspiration for their arrangement came from Bob Dylan. The band enjoyed a huge hit with the song, much to Dylan's chagrin when his version was referred to as a cover. The irony of this was not lost on Dave Van Ronk, who said the whole issue was a "tempest in a teapot," and that Dylan stopped playing the song after The Animals' hit because fans accused Dylan of plagiarism. Dylan has said he first heard The Animals' version on his car radio and "jumped out of his car seat" because he liked it so much.
Dave Marsh described The Animals' take on "The House of the Rising Sun" as ". the first folk-rock hit," sounding ". as if they'd connected the ancient tune to a live wire." Writer Ralph McLean of the BBC agreed that, "It was arguably the first folk rock tune," calling it "a revolutionary single" after which "the face of modern music was changed forever." Van Ronk claims that this version was based on his arrangement of the song.
The Animals' version transposes the narrative of the song from the point of view of a woman led into a life of degradation, to that of a man, whose father was now a gambler and drunkard, as opposed to the sweetheart in earlier versions.
The Animals had begun featuring their arrangement of "House of the Rising Sun" during a joint concert tour with Chuck Berry, using it as their closing number to differentiate themselves from acts that always closed with straight rockers. It got a tremendous reaction from the audience, convincing initially reluctant producer Mickie Most that it had hit potential and between tour stops the group went to a small recording studio on Kingsway in London to capture it.
Recorded in just one take on 18 May 1964, it started with a famous electric guitar A minor chord arpeggio by Hilton Valentine. The performance took off with Burdon's lead vocal, which has been variously described as "howling", "soulful" and as ". deep and gravelly as the north-east English coal town of Newcastle that spawned him."] Finally, Alan Price's pulsating organ part (played on a Vox Continental) completed the sound. Burdon later said, "We were looking for a song that would grab people's attention."
As recorded, "House of the Rising Sun" ran four and a half minutes, regarded as far too long for a pop single at the time. Producer Most, who otherwise minimized his role on this occasion – "Everything was in the right place . It only took 15 minutes to make so I can't take much credit for the production" – nonetheless was now a believer and declared it as a single at its full length, saying "We're in a microgroove world now, we will release it."
The arranging credit went only to Alan Price. According to Burdon, this was simply because there was insufficient room to name all five band members on the record label, and Alan Price's first name was first alphabetically. However, this meant that only Price received songwriter's royalties for the hit, a fact that has caused bitterness ever since, especially with Valentine.
CASHBOX, July 25, 1964 – Newcomer Picks
THE HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN (2:58) [Al Gallico BMI-Price] TALKIN' ABOUT YOU (1:55) [Progressive BMI-Charles] THE ANIMALS (MGM 13264) The Animals are a group of songsters who are currently enjoying a number 1 success in England with "The House Of The Rising Sun" and chances are they can duplicate the chart results in the U.S. It's a haunting, beat -ballad up -dating of the famed folk -blues opus that the group's lead delivers in telling solo vocal fashion. The Ray Charles affair, "Talkin' About You," takes a driving blues ride on the sock flip.
The Animals - House of the Rising Sun (1964) High Quality [HQ].flv
All Things Music Plus
ON THIS DATE (47 YEARS AGO)
June 25, 1973 - Chicago: Chicago VI is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 4.5/5
# Allmusic 4/5 stars
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
Chicago VI is the sixth album by Chicago, released on June 25, 1973. It spent five weeks at #1 on the Billboard 200 Top LP's & Tape chart.
While Robert Lamm maintains his songwriting prowess on Chicago VI (authoring half of the album's tracks, including his response to some of Chicago's negative reviewers in "Critics' Choice"), it is James Pankow who is responsible for the album's two hits, "Just You 'N' Me" (#4) and "Feelin' Stronger Every Day" (#10), the last of which was co-composed with Peter Cetera, who, himself landed another track on Chicago VI, the country-influenced "In Terms Of Two".
After recording all of Chicago's first five albums in New York City, producer James William Guercio had his own Caribou Studios built in Nederland, Colorado during 1972, finished in time for the band to record their sixth album the following February. It would remain their recording base for the next four years.
The album on which Chicago fully dropped its early jazz-rock roots and went strictly pop, 1973's Chicago VI features two of the band's finest singles, the romantic "Just You 'N' Me" and the uplifting "Feelin' Stronger Every Day," along with a solid set of album tracks. Terry Kath's "What's This World Coming To" and Lamm's dreamy "Something in This City Changes People" are nearly as strong as the big hits. Elsewhere, the country-fried "In Terms of Two" proves an interesting stylistic detour. Chicago has always been a definitive singles band, but those looking to explore their catalogue beyond the hits should check out this excellent release.
Excerpt taken from the box set "Group Portrait"
Group Portrait by William James Ruhlmann
Guercio, meanwhile, had bought a ranch in Colorado and built a recording studio there that he dubbed Caribou, seeking to avoid the expense and strictures of the New York studios and what he considered their outdated equipment. Chicago repaired to the ranch in February, 1973, to begin work on its sixth album.
"We got a little tired of recording in New York, with maids beating on your hotel [room door], with the city bustling around," says Parazaider. "That ended an era for the time being, and the sixth, seventh, eighth, tenth and eleventh albums were done up at Caribou Ranch 8,500 feet up in the Rockies, about an hour's drive outside of Boulder."
Although the ranch was intended to facilitate uninterrupted work, things didn't quite work out that way. "It was nice in a way," Parazaider allows, "but after two or three weeks, our productivity waned. You could go up there and snowmobile if it was winter, you could ride a horse and get away from stuff, you could walk in the woods. He had 3,000 acres up there. But after two or three weeks, I had to go over the wall and go down to the city and just see what the heck was going on. It got so quiet the silence was deafening. It bothered me. We never did more than two or three weeks [at a time] after that sixth album."
But from the sound and the overall quality of the work produced, one is hard put to fault the Caribou Ranch, the first fruits of which were released in June, 1973, in the form of the single "Feelin' Stronger Every Day" and the album Chicago VI.
"I can remember the exact beginnings of that one," says Cetera, who co-wrote the rock song that returned Chicago to the Top 10 of the Hot 100. "We were at the Akron Rubber Bowl in Akron, Ohio, an outdoor gig that was delayed a bit because of rain, and so, we got there our normal hour and a half before the gig, and we're sitting around, and we were told we're gonna hold for at least an hour, and I heard Jimmy [Pankow] in the other room playing the actual beginning of that song, and I said, 'Well, that's nice.' I walked over, and I said, 'What is that?' and he went, 'Oh, I don't know, I'm just messing around.' So, I said, 'Well, God, I like that,' and he goes, 'You do?' and I went, 'Yeah.' I went and got my bass, and we sat there and played around with it, and a few weeks later, after we got off the road, I went to his house, and we wrote 'Feelin' Stronger Every Day.'"
The song has a lyric with a curious twist on romantic breakup, the narrator declaring himself on the road to recovery rather than dwelling on the split. To Pankow, it also had an implied message for the band. ", Stronger Every Day' was about a relationship," he says, "but yet, underlying that relationship it's almost like the band is feeling stronger than ever.”
Chicago VI suggests a transition taking place in the group. Lamm, always a present-tense sort of writer, leads it off with his answer to Chicago's negative reviews, plaintively asking, "What do you want,' before lambasting the critics as parasites. "When I wrote 'Critics' Choice’ I was wounded," Lamm says, "because I always felt like we were coming from an honest place and that we certainly didn't feel like what was beginning to be said or written about us. We always felt really good about what we were doing when we recorded and when we performed, and to a large extent, we didn't understand the kind of criticism we were getting. After 'Critics' Choice,' I think everybody in the band got to the point where we felt like if we just try to do great work all the time, that will take care of itself. I'm not sure it ever did."
Pankow's "Just You 'N' Me," which would be released as the album’s second single, and which would go gold and hit Number 1 in Cash Box chart (Number 4 in Billboard) was one of Chicago's most memorable ballads and very much a harbinger of the future. "'Just You ‘N’ Me' was the result of a lovers' quarrel," Pankow recalls. "I was in process of possibly becoming engaged to this lady, who has my been wife for 18 years. We were living together in LA, and we had had a disagreement, and rather than put my fist through the wall or get crazy get nuclear I went out to the piano, and this song just kind of poured out. I didn't have to think about it. We wound up getting married shortly thereafter, and the lead sheet of that song was the announcement for the wedding, with our picture embossed on it."
On a non-musical note, Chicago VI had another unusual cover design one that finally incorporated a small, unsmiling photo of the band, and the design ironically mirrored the state of Chicago's career in 1973. "The sixth album was actually covered with money paper," says Pankow, "U.S. mint paper that they did money on. It was printed on that paper to give it the grainy, almost currency look." The design can only be called appropriate to a record that was second only to Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road as the most successful album of 1973.
ORIGINAL ROLLING STONE REVIEW
What do you want? I'm giving everything I have,
I'm even trying to see if there's more.
Locked deep inside, I've tried.
Can't you see this is me.
What do you need? Is it someone just to hurt
So that you can appear to be smart?
To keep a steady job, play god?
What do you really know?
You parasite, you're dynamite
An oversight, misunderstanding what you hear
You're quick to cheer, and volunteer
Absurdities, musical blasphemies.
Oh Lord, save us all.
—"Critics' Choice" Robert Lamm
My sympathies to Mr. Lamm. As for the rest of the album, it should by now be clear that Chicago has become the prisoner of its own image. In trying so hard to act the role of the "hippest-dudes on the planet," they have only succeeded in caricaturing themselves through overbearing pledges of allegiance to the freak-flag of Hippiedom. It's sad that the group has yet to realize the correlation between their actions and the critical response they generate, but sadder still is the fact that many of the folks who chuckle at them haven't taken the time to differentiate between the group's right-on buffoonery and the music that accompanies it.
If they did, they'd find that they probably had Chicago pegged wrong all along. The Windy City boys may have tried to come on hipper-than-thou, but after their exceptional debut album their product has in fact been strictly MORsville. Not that this should be taken as an excuse for shoddy musicianship, it's just that when people come to grips with where Chicago is really at musically, it's a lot easier to understand them.
Chicago VI contains two more-or-less outstanding commercial ditties, either of which would improve the average radio playlist a hundredfold. Terry Kath's "Jenny" is a real treat. Its simplicity is refreshing—guitar, bass, drums and the pedal steel of J.G. O'Rafferty thrown in for good measure—and the results are a complete success. An ethereal ballad about the love between man and dog, it's so straightforward that it transcends the corniness of the subject.
Peter Cetera's "In Terms of Two" is similarly successful, its major attraction being the youthful harp-blowing of an unidentified harmonicat. It gives direction to the song's otherwise mechanical rhythmic backing and serves as a focus for listener accessibility. Cetera's lyrical arrangement is commendable: He returns to the phrase "in terms of two" not out of repetition but as a restatement of the song's major theme. Once again it's the simple honesty of this song that pulls it through, a quality too much in absence from the rest of Chicago VI.
The other six songs are nearly indiscernible variations of what has by now come to be known as the "Chicago Formula." Pretentious "we gotta get it together" lyrics, muddled musical arrangements and a mix that lacks specific direction are rolled into a glib and slick package, that seems devoid of emotional involvement on the part of the band.
It's doubtful as to whether Chicago will ever return to playing the kind of music that graced their first album. Now that was progressive! So all you folks out there had might as well hunker down and get to know Chicago for what they really are—a bunch of well-meaning guys who mean no harm to anyone. If they want to kid themselves about being anything other than rock & roll Doc Severinsens, it's fine with me. Take their music for what it's worth after all, it's the middle of the road that makes the edges possible. (RS 141)
Gordon Fletcher (August 17, 1973)
"Critics' Choice" (Robert Lamm) – 2:49
"Just You 'n' Me" (James Pankow) – 3:42
"Darlin' Dear" (Lamm) – 2:56
"Jenny" (Terry Kath) – 3:31
"What's This World Comin' To" (Pankow) – 4:58
"Something in This City Changes People" (Lamm) – 3:42
"Hollywood" (Lamm) – 3:52
"In Terms of Two" (Peter Cetera) – 3:29
"Rediscovery" (Lamm) – 4:47
"Feelin' Stronger Every Day" (Cetera, Pankow) – 4:15
Haggard's parents were Flossie Mae (née Harp 1902–1984) and James Francis Haggard (1899–1946).  The family moved to California from their home in Checotah, Oklahoma, during the Great Depression, after their barn burned in 1934. 
They settled with their two elder children, James 'Lowell' (1922–1996) and Lillian, in an apartment in Bakersfield, while James started working for the Santa Fe Railroad. A woman who owned a boxcar placed in Oildale, a nearby town, asked Haggard's father about the possibility of converting it into a house. He remodeled the boxcar, and soon after moved in, also purchasing the lot, where Merle Ronald Haggard was born on April 6, 1937.   The property was eventually expanded by building a bathroom, a second bedroom, a kitchen, and a breakfast nook in the adjacent lot. 
In 1946 Haggard's father died of a brain hemorrhage.  The 9 year-old Haggard was deeply affected by the loss, and it remained a pivotal event to him for the rest of his life. To support the family, Haggard's mother took a job as a bookkeeper.  Older brother Lowell gave his guitar to Merle when Merle was 12. Haggard learned to play it on his own,  with the records he had at home, influenced by Bob Wills, Lefty Frizzell, and Hank Williams.  While his mother was out working during the day Haggard started getting into trouble. She sent him to a juvenile detention center for a weekend to try and correct him, but his behavior did not improve. If anything, he became worse. 
By the age of 13 Haggard was stealing and writing bad checks. In 1950 he was caught shoplifting and sent to a juvenile detention center.  The following year he ran away to Texas with his friend Bob Teague.  The two rode freight trains and hitchhiked throughout the state.   When they returned later that year the two boys were accused of robbery and sent to jail. This time, they had not actually committed the crime, and were released when the real robbers were found. The experience did not change Haggard much. He was again sent to a juvenile detention center later that year, from which he and his friend again escaped and headed to Modesto, California. There he worked a series of laborer jobs, including potato truck driver, short order cook, hay pitcher and oil well shooter.  His debut performance was with Teague in a Modesto bar named "Fun Center", for which he was paid US$5 and given free beer. 
In 1951 he returned to Bakersfield, where he was again arrested for truancy and petty larceny and sent to a juvenile detention center. After another escape, he was sent to the Preston School of Industry, a high-security installation. He was released 15 months later but was sent back after beating a local boy during a burglary attempt. After Haggard's release, he and Teague saw Lefty Frizzell in concert. The two sat backstage, where Haggard began to sing along. Hearing the young man from the stage, Frizzell refused to go on unless Haggard was allowed to sing first. Haggard did, and was well received by the audience. After this experience Haggard decided to pursue a career in music. At nights he would sing and play in local bars, while working as a farmhand or in the oil fields during the day.
Married and plagued by financial issues,  in 1957 he tried to rob a Bakersfield roadhouse, was caught and arrested.  Convicted, he was sent to the Bakersfield Jail.  After an escape attempt he was transferred to San Quentin Prison on February 21, 1958.  There he was prisoner number A45200.  While in prison, Haggard learned that his wife was expecting another man's child, which pressed him psychologically. He was fired from a series of prison jobs, and planned to escape along with another inmate nicknamed "Rabbit" (James Kendrick  ) but was convinced not to escape by fellow inmates. 
While at San Quentin, Haggard started a gambling and brewing racket with his cellmate. After he was caught drunk, he was sent for a week to solitary confinement where he encountered Caryl Chessman, an author and death-row inmate.  Meanwhile, "Rabbit" had successfully escaped, only to shoot a police officer and be returned to San Quentin for execution.  Chessman's predicament, along with the execution of "Rabbit," inspired Haggard to change his life.  He soon earned a high school equivalency diploma and kept a steady job in the prison's textile plant.  He also played for the prison's country music band,  attributing a performance by Johnny Cash at the prison on New Year's Day 1959 as his main inspiration to join it.  He was released from San Quentin on parole in 1960. 
In 1972, after Haggard had become an established country music star, then-California governor Ronald Reagan granted Haggard a full and unconditional pardon for his past crimes. 
Upon his release from San Quentin in 1960, Haggard started digging ditches for his brother's electrical contracting company. Soon, he was performing again and later began recording with Tally Records. The Bakersfield sound was developing in the area as a reaction against the overproduced Nashville sound.  Haggard's first record for Tally was "Singing My Heart Out" backed by "Skid Row" it was not a success, and only 200 copies were pressed. In 1962, Haggard wound up performing at a Wynn Stewart show in Las Vegas and heard Wynn's "Sing a Sad Song". He asked for permission to record it, and the resulting single was a national hit in 1964. The following year, he had his first national top-10 record with "(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers," written by Liz Anderson, mother of country singer Lynn Anderson, and his career was off and running.  Haggard recalls having been talked into visiting Anderson—a woman he did not know—at her house to hear her sing some songs she had written. "If there was anything I didn't wanna do, it was sit around some danged woman's house and listen to her cute little songs. But I went anyway. She was a pleasant enough lady, pretty, with a nice smile, but I was all set to be bored to death, even more so when she got out a whole bunch of songs and went over to an old pump organ. There they were. My God, one hit right after another. There must have been four or five number one songs there. " 
In 1967, Haggard recorded "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive" with The Strangers, also written by Liz Anderson, with her husband Casey Anderson, which became his first number-one single.  When the Andersons presented the song to Haggard, they were unaware of his prison stretch.  Bonnie Owens, Haggard's backup singer and then-wife, is quoted by music journalist Daniel Cooper in the liner notes to the 1994 retrospective Down Every Road: "I guess I didn't realize how much the experience at San Quentin did to him, 'cause he never talked about it all that much . I could tell he was in a dark mood . and I said, 'Is everything okay?' And he said, 'I'm really scared.' And I said, 'Why?' And he said, 'Cause I'm afraid someday I'm gonna be out there . and there's gonna be . some prisoner . in there the same time I was in, stand up—and they're gonna be about the third row down—and say, 'What do you think you're doing, 45200?'" Cooper notes that the news had little effect on Haggard's career: "It's unclear when or where Merle first acknowledged to the public that his prison songs were rooted in personal history, for to his credit, he doesn't seem to have made some big splash announcement. In a May 1967 profile in Music City News, his prison record is never mentioned, but in July 1968, in the very same publication, it's spoken of as if it were common knowledge." 
The 1967 album Branded Man with The Strangers kicked off an artistically and commercially successful run for Haggard. In 2013, Haggard biographer David Cantwell stated, "The immediate successors to I'm a Lonesome Fugitive—Branded Man in 1967 and, in '68, Sing Me Back Home and The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde—were among the finest albums of their respective years."  Haggard's new recordings showcased his band The Strangers, specifically Roy Nichols's Telecaster, Ralph Mooney's steel guitar, and the harmony vocals provided by Bonnie Owens.
At the time of Haggard's first top-10 hit "(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers" in 1965, Owens, who had been married to Buck Owens, was known as a solo performer, a fixture on the Bakersfield club scene and someone who had appeared on television. She won the new Academy of Country Music's first ever award for Female Vocalist after her 1965 debut album, Don't Take Advantage of Me, hit the top five on the country albums chart. However, Bonnie Owens had no further hit singles, and although she recorded six solo albums on Capitol between 1965 and 1970, she became mainly known for her background harmonies on Haggard hits such as "Sing Me Back Home" and "Branded Man". 
Producer Ken Nelson took a hands-off approach to produce Haggard. In the episode of American Masters dedicated to him, Haggard remembers: "The producer I had at that time, Ken Nelson, was an exception to the rule. He called me 'Mr. Haggard' and I was a little twenty-four, twenty-five year old punk from Oildale. He gave me complete responsibility. I think if he'd jumped in and said, 'Oh, you can't do that,' it would've destroyed me."  In the documentary series Lost Highway, Nelson recalls, "When I first started recording Merle, I became so enamored with his singing that I would forget what else was going on, and I suddenly realized, 'Wait a minute, there's musicians here you've got to worry about!' But his songs—he was a great writer." 
Towards the end of the decade, Haggard composed several number-one hits, including "Mama Tried," "The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde," "Hungry Eyes," and "Sing Me Back Home".  Daniel Cooper calls "Sing Me Back Home" "a ballad that works on so many different levels of the soul it defies one's every attempt to analyze it".  In a 1977 interview in Billboard with Bob Eubanks, Haggard reflected, "Even though the crime was brutal and the guy was an incorrigible criminal, it's a feeling you never forget when you see someone you know make that last walk. They bring him through the yard, and there's a guard in front and a guard behind—that's how you know a death prisoner. They brought Rabbit out . taking him to see the Father, . prior to his execution. That was a strong picture that was left in my mind." In 1969, Haggard's first tribute LP Same Train, Different Time: A Tribute to Jimmie Rodgers, was also released to acclaim.
Haggard's songs attracted attention from outside the country field. The Everly Brothers covered both "Sing Me Back Home" and "Mama Tried" on their 1968 country-rock album Roots. The following year, Haggard's songs were performed or recorded by a variety of artists, including the Gram Parsons incarnation of the Byrds, who performed "Sing Me Back Home" on the Grand Ole Opry and recorded "Life in Prison" for their album Sweetheart of the Rodeo singer-activist Joan Baez, who covered "Sing Me Back Home" and "Mama Tried" crooner Dean Martin, who recorded "I Take a Lot of Pride in What I Am" for his album of the same name and the Grateful Dead, whose live cover of "Mama Tried" became a staple in their repertoire until the band's end in 1995. [ citation needed ]
In the original Rolling Stone review for Haggard and The Strangers 1968 album Mama Tried, Andy Wickham wrote, "His songs romanticize the hardships and tragedies of America's transient proletarian and his success is resultant of his inherent ability to relate to his audience a commonplace experience with precisely the right emotional pitch. Merle Haggard looks the part and sounds the part because he is the part. He's great." [ citation needed ]
In 1969, Haggard and The Strangers released "Okie From Muskogee," with lyrics ostensibly reflecting the singer's pride in being from Middle America, where people are conventionally patriotic, don't smoke marijuana, don't take LSD, don't protest by burning draft cards or otherwise challenge authority.  In the ensuing years, Haggard gave varying statements regarding whether he intended the song as a humorous satire or a serious political statement in support of conservative values.  In a 2001 interview, Haggard called the song a "documentation of the uneducated that lived in America at the time".  However, he made several other statements suggesting that he meant the song seriously. On the Bob Edwards Show, he said, "I wrote it when I recently got out of the joint. I knew what it was like to lose my freedom, and I was getting really mad at these protesters. They didn't know anything more about the war in Vietnam than I did. I thought how my dad, who was from Oklahoma, would have felt. I felt I knew how those boys fighting in Vietnam felt."  In the country music documentary series Lost Highway, he elaborated: "My dad passed away when I was nine, and I don't know if you've ever thought about somebody you've lost and you say, 'I wonder what so-and-so would think about this?' I was drivin' on Interstate 40 and I saw a sign that said '19 Miles to Muskogee', while at the same time listening to radio shows of The World Tomorrow (radio and television) hosted by Garner Ted Armstrong.  Muskogee was always referred to in my childhood as 'back home.' So I saw that sign and my whole childhood flashed before my eyes and I thought, 'I wonder what dad would think about the youthful uprising that was occurring at the time, the Janis Joplins. I understood 'em, I got along with it, but what if he was to come alive at this moment? And I thought, what a way to describe the kind of people in America that are still sittin' in the center of the country sayin', 'What is goin' on on these campuses?'", as it was the subject of this Garner Ted Armstrong radio program. "And a week or so later, I was listening to Garner Ted Armstrong, and Armstrong was saying how the smaller colleges in smaller towns don't seem to have any problems. And I wondered if Muskogee had a college, and it did, and they hadn't had any trouble - no racial problems and no dope problems. The whole thing hit me in two minutes, and I did one line after another and got the whole thing done in 20 minutes."   In the American Masters documentary about him, he said, "That's how I got into it with the hippies. I thought they were unqualified to judge America, and I thought they were lookin' down their noses at something that I cherished very much, and it pissed me off. And I thought, 'You sons of bitches, you've never been restricted away from this great, wonderful country, and yet here you are in the streets bitchin' about things, protesting about a war that they didn't know any more about than I did. They weren't over there fightin' that war any more than I was." 
Haggard began performing the song in concert in 1969 and was astounded at the reaction it received:
The Haggard camp knew they were on to something. Everywhere they went, every show, "Okie" did more than prompt enthusiastic applause. There was an unanticipated adulation racing through the crowds now, standing ovations that went on and on and sometimes left the audience and the band members alike teary-eyed. Merle had somehow stumbled upon a song that expressed previously inchoate fears, spoke out loud gripes and anxieties otherwise only whispered, and now people were using his song, were using "him," to connect themselves to these larger concerns and to one another. 
The studio version, which was mellower than the usually raucous live-concert versions, topped the country charts in 1969 and remained there for a month.  It also hit number 41 on the Billboard all-genre singles chart, becoming Haggard's biggest hit up to that time, surpassed only by his 1973 crossover Christmas hit, "If We Make It Through December," which peaked at number 28.  "Okie from Muskogee" is also generally described as Haggard's signature song. 
On his next single, "The Fightin' Side of Me," released by his record company in 1970 over Haggard's objections, Haggard's lyrics stated that he did not mind the counterculture "switchin' sides and standin' up for what they believe in," but resolutely declared, "If you don't love it, leave it!" In May 1970, Haggard explained to John Grissom of Rolling Stone, "I don't like their views on life, their filth, their visible self-disrespect, y'know. They don't give a shit what they look like or what they smell like. What do they have to offer humanity?"  In a 2003 interview with No Depression magazine, Haggard said, "I had different views in the '70s. As a human being, I've learned [more]. I have more culture now. I was dumb as a rock when I wrote 'Okie From Muskogee.' That's being honest with you at the moment, and a lot of things that I said [then] I sing with a different intention now. My views on marijuana have totally changed. I think we were brainwashed and I think anybody that doesn't know that needs to get up and read and look around, get their own information. It's a cooperative government project to make us think marijuana should be outlawed." 
Haggard had wanted to follow "Okie from Muskogee" with "Irma Jackson," a song that dealt with an interracial romance between a white man and an African American woman. His producer, Ken Nelson, discouraged him from releasing it as a single.  Jonathan Bernstein recounts, "Hoping to distance himself from the harshly right-wing image he had accrued in the wake of the hippie-bashing "Muskogee," Haggard wanted to take a different direction and release "Irma Jackson" as his next single. When the Bakersfield, California, native brought the song to his record label, executives were reportedly appalled. In the wake of "Okie," Capitol Records was not interested in complicating Haggard's conservative, blue-collar image." 
After "The Fightin' Side of Me" was released, instead, Haggard later commented to the Wall Street Journal, "People are narrow-minded. Down South they might have called me a nigger lover."  In a 2001 interview, Haggard stated that Nelson, who was also head of the country division at Capitol at the time, never interfered with his music, but "this one time he came out and said, 'Merle, I don't believe the world is ready for this yet.' . And he might have been right. I might've canceled out where I was headed in my career."  
"Okie From Muskogee," "The Fightin' Side of Me," and "I Wonder If They Think of Me" (Haggard's 1973 song about an American POW in Vietnam) were hailed as anthems of the Silent Majority and have been recognized as part of a recurring patriotic trend in American country music that also includes Charlie Daniels' "In America" and Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA".   Although Gordon Friesen of Broadside magazine criticized Haggard for his "[John] Birch-type songs against war dissenters," Haggard was popular with college students in the early 1970s, not only because of the ironic use of his songs by counterculture members, but also because his music was recognized as coming from an early country-folk tradition. Both "Okie from Muskogee" and "The Fightin' Side of Me" received extensive airplay on underground radio stations, and "Okie" was performed in concert by protest singers Arlo Guthrie and Phil Ochs. 
Haggard's 1970 LP A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World, dedicated to Bob Wills, helped spark a permanent revival and expanded the audience for western swing.   By this point, Haggard was one of the most famous country singers in the world, having enjoyed an immensely successful artistic and commercial run with Capitol, accumulating 24 number-one country singles since 1966.
In 1972, Let Me Tell You about A Song, the first TV special starring Haggard, was nationally syndicated by Capital Cities TV Productions. It was a semi-autobiographical musical profile of Haggard, akin to the contemporary Behind The Music, produced and directed by Michael Davis. The 1973 recession anthem, "If We Make It Through December," furthered Haggard's status as a champion of the working class. "If We Make It Through December" turned out to be Haggard and The Strangers last crossover pop hit.
Haggard appeared on the cover of TIME on May 6, 1974.  He also wrote and performed the theme song to the television series Movin' On, which in 1975 gave him and The Strangers another number-one country hit.  During the early to mid-1970s, Haggard and The Strangers country chart domination continued with songs such as "Someday We'll Look Back," "Grandma Harp," "Always Wanting You," and "The Roots of My Raising". Between 1973 and 1976, he and The Strangers scored nine consecutive number-one country hits. In 1977, he switched to MCA Records and began exploring the themes of depression, alcoholism, and middle age on albums such as Serving 190 Proof and The Way I Am. Haggard sang a duet cover of Billy Burnette's "What's A Little Love Between Friends" with Lynda Carter in her 1980 television music special, Lynda Carter: Encore! He also scored a number-one hit in 1980 with "Bar Room Buddies," a duet with actor Clint Eastwood that appeared on the Bronco Billy soundtrack.
Haggard appeared in an episode of The Waltons entitled "The Comeback," season five, episode three, original air-date October 10, 1976. He played a bandleader named Red, who had been depressed since the death of his son (Ron Howard). 
In 1981, Haggard published an autobiography, Sing Me Back Home. The same year, he alternately spoke and sang the ballad "The Man in the Mask". Written by Dean Pitchford, whose other work includes "Fame," "Footloose," "Sing," "Solid Gold," and the musical Carrie, this was the combined narration and theme for the movie The Legend of the Lone Ranger, a box-office flop. Haggard also changed record labels again in 1981, moving to Epic and releasing one of his most critically acclaimed albums, Big City, on which he was backed by The Strangers.
Between 1981 and 1985, Haggard scored 12 more top-10 country hits, with nine of them reaching number one, including "My Favorite Memory," "Going Where the Lonely Go," "Someday When Things Are Good," and "Natural High". In addition, Haggard recorded two chart-topping duets with George Jones—"Yesterdays' Wine" in 1982—and with Willie Nelson—"Pancho and Lefty" in 1983. Nelson believed the 1983 Academy Award-winning film Tender Mercies, about the life of fictional singer Mac Sledge, was based on the life of Merle Haggard. Actor Robert Duvall and other filmmakers denied this and claimed the character was based on nobody in particular. Duvall, however, said he was a big fan of Haggard's. 
In 1983, Haggard and his third wife Leona Williams divorced after five stormy years of marriage. The split served as a license to party for Haggard, who spent much of the next decade becoming mired in alcohol and drug problems.   Haggard has stated that he was in his own mid-life crisis, or "male menopause," around this time. He said in an interview from this period: "Things that you've enjoyed for years don't seem nearly as important, and you're at war with yourself as to what's happening. 'Why don't I like that anymore? Why do I like this now?' And finally, I think you actually go through a biological change, you just, you become another. Your body is getting ready to die and your mind doesn't agree."  He was briefly a heavy user of cocaine but managed to kick the habit.  Despite these issues, he won a Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for his 1984 remake of "That's The Way Love Goes".
Haggard was hampered by financial woes well into the 1990s, as his presence on the charts diminished in favor of newer country singers, such as George Strait and Randy Travis. Haggard's last number-one hit was "Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Star" from his smash album Chill Factor in 1988. 
In 1989, Haggard recorded a song, "Me and Crippled Soldiers Give a Damn," in response to the Supreme Court's decision not to allow banning flag burning, considering it to be "speech" and therefore protected under the First Amendment. After CBS Records Nashville avoided releasing the song, Haggard bought his way out of the contract and signed with Curb Records, which was willing to release the song. Haggard commented about the situation, "I've never been a guy that can do what people told me. It's always been my nature to fight the system." 
In 2000, Haggard made a comeback of sorts, signing with the independent record label Anti and releasing the spare If I Could Only Fly to critical acclaim. He followed it in 2001 with Roots, vol. 1, a collection of Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams, and Hank Thompson covers, along with three Haggard originals. The album, recorded in Haggard's living room with no overdubs, featured Haggard's longtime bandmates, The Strangers, as well as Frizzell's original lead guitarist, Norman Stephens. In December 2004, Haggard spoke at length on Larry King Live about his incarceration as a young man and said it was "hell" and "the scariest experience of my life". 
When political opponents were attacking the Dixie Chicks for criticizing President George W. Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq, Haggard spoke up for the band on July 25, 2003, saying:
I don't even know the Dixie Chicks, but I find it an insult for all the men and women who fought and died in past wars when almost the majority of America jumped down their throats for voicing an opinion. It was like a verbal witch-hunt and lynching.  
Haggard and The Strangers number-one hit single "Mama Tried" is featured in the 2003 film Radio with Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Ed Harris, as well as in Bryan Bertino's The Strangers with Liv Tyler. In addition, his and The Strangers song "Swingin' Doors" can be heard in the film Crash (2004),  and his 1981 hit "Big City", where he is backed by The Strangers, is heard in Joel and Ethan Coen's film Fargo. 
In October 2005, Haggard released his album Chicago Wind to mostly positive reviews. The album contained an anti-Iraq war song titled "America First," in which he laments the nation's economy and faltering infrastructure, applauds its soldiers, and sings, "Let's get out of Iraq, and get back on track." This follows from his 2003 release "Haggard Like Never Before" in which he includes a song, "That's The News". Haggard released a bluegrass album, The Bluegrass Sessions, on October 2, 2007. 
In 2008, Haggard was going to perform at Riverfest in Little Rock, Arkansas, but the concert was canceled because he was ailing, and three other concerts were canceled, as well. However, he was back on the road in June and successfully completed a tour that ended on October 19, 2008. [ citation needed ]
In April 2010, Haggard released a new album, I Am What I Am,  to strong reviews, and he performed the title song on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in February 2011. 
Haggard collaborated with many other artists over the course of his career. In the early 1960s, Haggard recorded duets with Bonnie Owens, who later became his wife, for Tally Records, scoring a minor hit with "Just Between the Two of Us". As part of the deal that got Haggard signed to Capitol, producer Ken Nelson obtained the rights to Haggard's Tally sides, including the duets with Owens, resulting in the release of Haggard's first duet album with Owens and The Strangers in 1966, also entitled Just Between the Two of Us.  The album reached number four on the country charts, and Haggard and Owens recorded a number of additional duets before their divorce in 1978. Haggard went on to record duets with George Jones, Willie Nelson, and Clint Eastwood, among others. 
In 1970, Haggard released A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (or, My Salute to Bob Wills), rounding up six of the remaining members of the Texas Playboys to record the tribute: Johnnie Lee Wills, Eldon Shamblin, Tiny Moore, Joe Holley, Johnny Gimble, and Alex Brashear.  Merle's band, The Strangers, were also present during the recording, but Wills suffered a massive stroke after the first day of recording. Merle arrived on the second day, devastated that he would not get to record with him, but the album helped return Wills to public consciousness, and set off a Western swing revival.  Haggard did other tribute albums to Bob Wills over the next 40 years. In 1973 he appeared on For the Last Time: Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. In 1994, Haggard collaborated with Asleep at the Wheel and many other artists influenced by the music of Bob Wills on an album entitled A Tribute To The Music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.  A Tribute was re-released on CD on the Koch label in 1995.
In 1972, Haggard agreed to produce Gram Parsons's first solo album but backed out at the last minute. Warner Bros. arranged a meeting at Haggard's Bakersfield home and the two musicians seemed to hit it off, but later on the afternoon of the first session, Haggard canceled. Parsons, an enormous Haggard fan, was crushed, with his wife Gretchen telling Meyer, "Merle not producing Gram was probably one of the greatest disappointments in Gram's life. Merle was very nice, very sweet, but he had his own enemies and his own demons."  In 1980, Haggard said of Parsons, in an interview with Mark Rose, "He was a pussy. Hell, he was just a long-haired kid. I thought he was a good writer. He was not wild, though. That's what's funny to me. All these guys running around in long hair talking about being wild and Rolling Stones. I don't think someone abusing themselves on drugs determines how wild they are. It might determine how ignorant they are." 
In 1982, Haggard recorded A Taste of Yesterday's Wine with George Jones, an album that produced two top-10 hits, including the number-one "Yesterday's Wine".  In 2006, the pair released a sequel, Kickin' Out the Footlights. Again. 
Haggard released the duet album Pancho & Lefty with Willie Nelson in 1983, with the title track becoming an enormous hit for the duo. In 1987, a second, less successful LP, Seashores of Old Mexico, was also released, and the pair worked together again with Ray Price in 2007, releasing the album Last of the Breed. In 2015, they released their sixth and final duet album, Django and Jimmie. The album's lead single, "It's All Going to Pot", was a subtle reference to smoking marijuana, and the music video for the song showed Haggard and Nelson smoking joints while singing in a recording studio. 
In 1983, Haggard got permission from Epic Records to collaborate with then-wife Leona Williams on Polydor Records, releasing Heart to Heart in 1983. The album, on which they were backed by The Strangers, was not a hit, peaking at number 44. 
In 2001, Haggard released an album of gospel songs with Albert E. Brumley called Two Old Friends.  In 2002, Haggard collaborated with longtime friend and fellow recording artist Chester Smith (founder of television broadcasting company Sainte Partners II, L.P. and owner of several stations in California and Oregon) with a CD titled California Blend.  The CD features classic country, western, and gospel tracks performed by both Smith and Haggard.
In 2005, Haggard was featured as a guest vocalist on Gretchen Wilson's song "Politically Uncorrect", which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.  He is also featured singing a verse on Eric Church's 2006 song "Pledge Allegiance to the Hag". 
In 2005, Haggard was featured as a guest vocalist on Blaine Larsen's song "If Merle Would Sing My Song". In 2015, Haggard was featured as a guest vocalist on Don Henley's song "The Cost of Living" on the album Cass County. [ citation needed ]
In 2010, Haggard was featured along with Ralph Nader, Willie Nelson, Gatewood Galbraith and Julia Butterfly Hill in the documentary film Hempsters: Plant the Seed directed by Michael P. Henning. 
In 2017, Haggard appeared alongside Willie Nelson in the award-winning documentary The American Epic Sessions directed by Bernard MacMahon. They performed a song Haggard had composed for the film, "The Only Man Wilder Than Me"   and Bob Wills' classic "Old Fashioned Love",  which they recorded live on the restored first electrical sound recording system from the 1920s.  It was the last filmed performance of the pair, with Rolling Stone commenting "in the final performance of Sessions, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard perform the duet "The Only Man Wilder Than Me." Haggard has a look of complete joy on his face throughout the session in the old-timey recording set-up once used by his musical heroes." 
Haggard's last recording, a song called "Kern River Blues," described his departure from Bakersfield in the late 1970s and his displeasure with politicians. The song was recorded February 9, 2016, and features his son Ben on guitar. This record was released on May 12, 2016. 
Haggard endorsed Fender guitars and had a Custom Artist signature model Telecaster. The guitar is a modified Telecaster Thinline with laminated top of figured maple, set neck with deep carved heel, birdseye maple fingerboard with 22 jumbo frets, ivoroid pickguard and binding, gold hardware, abalone Tuff Dog Tele peghead inlay, 2-Colour Sunburst finish, and a pair of Fender Texas Special Tele single-coil pickups with custom-wired 4-way pickup switching. He also played six-string acoustic models. In 2001, C. F. Martin & Company introduced a limited edition Merle Haggard Signature Edition 000-28SMH acoustic guitar available with or without factory-installed electronics. 
Wives and children Edit
Haggard was married five times, first to Leona Hobbs from 1956 to 1964. They had four children: Dana, Marty, Kelli, and Noel. 
Shortly after divorcing Hobbs, in 1965, he married singer Bonnie Owens.  Haggard credited her with helping him make his big break as a country artist. He shared the writing credit with Owens for his hit "Today I Started Loving You Again" and acknowledged, including on stage, that the song was about a sudden burst of special feelings he experienced for her while they were touring together. She also helped care for Haggard's children from his first marriage and was the maid of honor for Haggard's third marriage. Haggard and Owens divorced in 1978 but remained close friends as Owens continued as his backing vocalist until her death in 2006. 
In 1978, Haggard married Leona Williams. In 1983, they divorced.  In 1985 Haggard married Debbie Parret they divorced in 1991.  He married his fifth wife, Theresa Ann Lane, on September 11, 1993. They had two children, Jenessa and Ben. 
Cigarette and drug use Edit
Haggard said he started smoking marijuana when he was 41 years old. He admitted that in 1983, he bought "$2,000 (worth) of cocaine" and partied for five months afterward, when he said he finally realized his condition and quit for good.  He quit smoking cigarettes in 1991, and stopped smoking marijuana in 1995.  However, a Rolling Stone magazine interview in 2009 indicated that he had resumed regular marijuana smoking. 
Illness and death Edit
Haggard underwent angioplasty in 1995 to unblock clogged arteries.  On November 9, 2008, it was announced that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer in May and undergone surgery on November 3, during which part of his lung was removed.  Haggard returned home on November 8.  Less than two months after his cancer surgery, he played two shows on January 2 and 3, 2009, in Bakersfield at Buck Owens Crystal Palace, and continued to tour and record until shortly before his death.
On December 5, 2015, Haggard was treated at an undisclosed hospital in California for pneumonia.  He made a recovery, but postponed several concerts. 
In March 2016, Haggard was once again hospitalized.  His concerts for April were canceled due to his ongoing double pneumonia.  On the morning of April 6, 2016, his 79th birthday, he died of complications from pneumonia at his home in Palo Cedro, Shasta County, California.    Haggard was buried in a private funeral at his ranch on April 9, 2016 longtime friend Marty Stuart officiated.  
Loss of material Edit
On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Merle Haggard among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. 
During his long career, Haggard received numerous awards from the Academy of Country Music, Country Music Association, and National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Grammy Awards) (see Awards). He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1977,  the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 1994,  and the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 1997.  In 2006, he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and was also honored as a BMI Icon at the 54th annual BMI Pop Awards that same year. During his songwriting career up to that time, Haggard had earned 48 BMI Country Awards, nine BMI Pop Awards, a BMI R&B Award, and 16 BMI "Million-Air" awards, all from a catalog of songs that added up to over 25 million performances. 
Haggard accepted a Kennedy Center Honor on December 4, 2010, from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in recognition of his lifetime achievement and "outstanding contribution to American culture".  The following day, he was honored at a gala in Washington, DC, with musical performances by Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill, Jamey Johnson, Kid Rock, Miranda Lambert, and Brad Paisley. This tribute was featured on the December 28, 2010, CBS telecast of the Kennedy Center Honors. 
In July 2007, a three-and-a-half-mile stretch of 7th Standard Road in Oildale, California, where Haggard grew up, was renamed Merle Haggard Drive in his honor. It stretches from North Chester Avenue west to U.S. Route 99 and provides access to the William M. Thomas airport terminal at Meadows Field Airport. Haggard played two shows to raise money to pay for the changes in road signage.  In 2015, the converted boxcar in which the Haggard family lived in Oildale was moved to the Kern County Museum for historic preservation and restoration.  
On November 6, 2013, the mayor of Winchester, Virginia, awarded Haggard the Key to the City at the Patsy Cline Theatre after a sold-out show by Bonnie Blue Concerts.
On June 14, 2013, the California State University, Bakersfield, awarded Haggard the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts. Haggard stepped to the podium and said, "Thank you. It's nice to be noticed."
On January 26, 2014, Haggard performed his 1969 song "Okie from Muskogee" at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards along with Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and Blake Shelton. [ citation needed ]
Haggard's guitar playing and voice gave his country songs a hard-edged, blues-like style in many cuts. Although he was outspoken in his dislike for modern country music,  he praised George Strait, Toby Keith, and Alan Jackson. Haggard also had an interest in jazz music, and stated in an interview in 1986 that he wanted to be remembered as "the greatest jazz guitar player in the world that loved to play country".  Keith has singled out Haggard as a major influence on his career.
As noted by an article published in The Washington Post upon Haggard's death, "Respect for the Hag [Haggard] as an icon, both for his musical status and his personal views, is a common theme" in country music.  Many country music acts have paid tribute to Haggard by mentioning him in their songs (a fact aided by his first name rhyming with "girl," a common theme in country songs). These include:
- recorded "My Kind of Girl," which includes the line, "How 'bout some music/She said have you got any Merle/That's when I knew she was my kind of girl." 
- In 2000, Alan Jackson and George Strait sang "Murder on Music Row," which criticizes mainstream country trends: "The Hag wouldn't have a chance on today's radio/Because they committed murder down on music row." 
- In 2005, the country rock duo Brooks & Dunn sang "Just Another Neon Night" off their Hillbilly Deluxe album. In the song, Ronnie Dunn said, "He's got an Eastwood grin and a Tulare swagger/Hollerin' turn off that rap/And play me some Haggard." Brooks and Dunn also reference Haggard in 1993's "Rock My World (little country girl)" off their Hard Workin' Man album as they sing "Acts like Madonna but she listens to Merle/Rock my world little country girl." 
- Red Simpson mentions Haggard and Buck Owens in his 1971 song "I'm a Truck," which contains the line, "Well, I know what he's gonna do now/Take out that tape cartridge of Buck Owens and play it again/I dunno why he don't get a Merle Haggard tape." 
- In 2005, Shooter Jennings mentioned Haggard in the title track of his album Put the "O" Back in Country and later mentioned him in 2007 in his song "Concrete Cowboys". 
- In 2006, Hank Williams III included Haggard, as well as other country icons, in the song "Country Heroes."  mentions him in her 2013 song, "I Do Now": "Thank God for Merle Haggard, he's right, the bottle let me down." 
- "You Never Even Called Me by My Name," written by Steve Goodman and performed by David Allan Coe, mentions Haggard and his song "The Fightin' Side of Me" along with references to Waylon Jennings and Charley Pride.  mentions "The Okie from Muskogee" in his song "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes". 
- Gretchen Wilson's song "Politically Uncorrect" and Eric Church's song "Pledge Allegiance To The Hag" both contain tributes to Haggard, as well as featuring him as a guest vocalist. 
- Country singer David Nail references the Haggard song "Mama Tried" in the lyrics to his song "The Sound of a Million Dreams" from his 2011 album of the same name: ". when I hear Mama Tried I still break down and cry And pull to the side of the road . ". The song was written by Phil Vassar & Scooter Carusoe.
- In John Anderson's song "Honky Tonk Saturday Night", he sings the lines, "I went to the jukebox and played some Merle Haggard/Oh me and the waitress think he's outta sight". centralizes Merle in his song "Monday Morning Merle," with a reference in the chorus ". turns up 'Misery and Gin,' here we are again - Monday Morning Merle."
In the 1970s, several rock acts responded in their own songs to Haggard's criticism of hippie counterculture in "Okie from Muskogee" and "The Fightin' Side of Me". The Youngbloods answered "Okie from Muskogee" with "Hippie from Olema", in which, in one repetition of the chorus, they change the line, "We still take in strangers if they're ragged" to "We still take in strangers if they're haggard."  Nick Gravenites, of Big Brother and the Holding Company, paid Haggard a tongue-in-cheek tribute with the song, "I'll Change Your Flat Tire, Merle,"  later covered by other artists including Pure Prairie League.  Despite these critiques, the Grateful Dead performed "Mama Tried" over 300 times,  and "Sing Me Back Home" approximately 40 times. 
The Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd more respectfully referenced Haggard in their song, "Railroad Song," which contains the lyric, "Well I'm a ride this train Lord until I find out/What Jimmie Rodgers and the Hag was all about." Skynyrd also performed both a cover of "Honky Tonk Night Time Man" and their own take on the song with "Jacksonville Kid" (found on the 2001 CD reissue of the album) on their album Street Survivors.  He described himself as a student of music, philosophy, and communication. He would discuss jazzman Howard Roberts guitar playing, life after death and the unique speaking technique of Garner Ted Armstrong of The World Tomorrow with enthusiasm and authority. 
Television acting Edit
Merle appeared in season five, episode three of The Waltons called "The Comeback". He played Red Turner, a local musician who had become depressed and withdrawn after the death of his son, played by Ron Howard, in the episode called "The Gift". [ citation needed ]
Week in Rock History: John and Yoko’s ‘Two Virgins’ Is Seized as Pornography
This week in rock history, Johnny Cash performed at San Quentin, John and Yoko’s album was seized by police, the Supremes recorded one of their biggest hits, Nirvana signed a fateful record deal and Pink got married in Costa Rica.
January 1, 1958: Johnny Cash performs at San Quentin State Prison
If Johnny Cash changed country music overnight with the release of his 1968 album Live at Folsom Prison, it was a long time coming: his first performance behind bars occurred a full decade earlier.
In 1958, Cash showed his longtime compassion for inmates when he performed at the notoriously rough San Quentin State Prison, site of California’s death row for male prisoners. His audience was enraptured by his frank, unintimidated performance, and their ecstatic response did not go unnoticed by the Man in Black’s label, Columbia. Although some at the company opposed Cash’s enthusiasm for the jailhouse project, producer Bob Johnson backed him in the late 1960s, and Cash subsequently performed at more correctional facilities, releasing Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison in 1968 and Johnny Cash at San Quentin in 1969. Both swept the country charts and became signature Cash releases, and they cemented the singer-songwriter’s reputation as a wary outsider and champion of outlaws the world over.
Interestingly, Cash’s first performance at San Quentin had a future country star in its audience: Merle Haggard, who was serving two years for burglary and, inspired by Cash, would go on to have 38 Number One hits of his own on the Billboard country charts.
January 2, 1969: A shipment of John and Yoko‘s Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins is seized by New Jersey authorities, who deem its cover “pornographic“
After an all-night session of avant-garde jamming in 1968, John Lennon and Yoko Ono decided to release the recordings under the name Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins, the title relating to their feelings of innocence in the world around them and also the consummation of their relationship after that evening. However, New Jersey authorities had a different response to the album art: they found it pornographic.
Two Virgins‘ cover art famously featured a full-length nude photograph of the couple. Shortly after its release, police seized 30,000 copies of the record at Newark Airport in New Jersey, preventing their sale. Following this, the couple’s disc of discordant sound and white noise was sold with a brown paper sleeve obscuring the stark cover, which did not help the disc’s general reception. Ironically, some listeners found the raucous melee an artistically immature expression.
January 5, 1965: The Supremes record “Stop! In the Name of Love”
The Supremes’ classic “Stop! In the Name of Love” was not just their triumph &ndash it also belonged to the greatest songwriters in Motown, the team of Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian Holland and Edward Holland, Jr. As Holland-Dozier-Holland, they wrote scores of classics for such acts as Martha and the Vandellas, the Four Tops and, of course, the Supremes.
By the time “Stop!” was released, the Supremes were already the brightest stars on the Motown Records roster. With their confident, feminine pop hits they held their own alongside the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as one of the biggest groups of the mid-Sixties. While Diana Ross, who served as the lead singer, became an international style icon, bandmate Florence Ballard had the stronger voice, a rivalry thinly fictionalized in Dreamgirls.
“Stop!” was heavily emphasized during the band’s recording process of January 1965. Though it took several intense sessions to record, the song confirmed their claim as one of the biggest acts of the decade by jumping to the Number One position on the charts in March and staying there for two weeks. It remains one of the group’s most widely beloved songs.
January 1, 1989: Nirvana signs a record deal with Sub Pop
Kurt Cobain may have been loosely tagged as part of the early-1990s “slacker” movement due to his unkempt hair and flannel togs, but he was always intensely focused on preserving the artistic freedom of his band, Nirvana. After the band released their first single, “Love Buzz,” in November 1988 on Sub Pop Records, they began recording their debut album, Bleach, in Seattle, for a whopping $600.
But Cobain knew full well that Nirvana would become a hot commodity soon, and he acted on it. In January 1989, before Bleach‘s release, he borrowed the book All You Need to Know About the Record Business from the Seattle library, after which he drunkenly dropped by Sub Pop owner Bruce Pavitt’s home and insisted that Nirvana be signed to a three-album, three-year deal. It was the first such deal ever inked for the bohemian label. According to Everett True, author of Nirvana: the True Story, the band signed a contract that had been Xeroxed from another legal book in the library (with lines covered in White-Out so the musicians could sign over the existing text).
The contract Cobain demanded proved wiser than even he could have known: it not only ensured the band’s creative freedom (and was helpful even after they signed with Geffen Records), but it saved Sub Pop from financial troubles, too.
January 7, 2006: Pink marries Carey Hart
Of all the young pop stars of the 2000s, Pink took the most divergent path. A tough, plainspoken singer with a rock diva’s pipes, the Philadelphia native (born Alecia Moore) began as a dance-pop artist in 2000 with “There You Go” and “Get the Party Started.” She also took part in the superstar “Lady Marmalade” cover with Christina Aguilera for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack before moving into the self-reflective laments of “Family Portrait” and “Dear Diary” and the Grammy-winning pop-punk of “Trouble.”
Pink handled romance differently than her pop peers, too. While Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson were being courted by boy-band heartthrobs, Pink fell for rugged motocross racer Carey Hart. After four years of dating, she proposed to him during one of his races in California by holding up a sign that read, “Will you marry me?” Carey continued the race until Pink added to her sign, “I’m serious!” Carey pulled out of the race to say yes, and they were married one year later on a Costa Rican beach in front of 100 guests. The couple now has a daughter.