Dubbed the greatest country artist of our time, Merle Haggard burst into the limelight with his first song, “Singing My Heart Out.”
Winning virtually every award possible in country music, his songs have consistently topped the charts for over three decades.
Haggard's family migrated from Oklahoma to Bakersfield, California, during the Dust Bowl days. He acquired his first guitar at 12 and learned to chord as he listened to records. Whenever possible he would sing, and at the urging of friends entered a talent contest in Bakersfield in 1959. He captured second place. He began singing in night clubs, and his first hit “Sing Me A Sad Song” climbed to Number 19 on the charts.
At the first Academy of Country and Western Music Awards, Haggard was named the "Most Promising Male Vocalist" for 1965 and shared a second award with wife, Bonnie, for "Best Vocal Group." A talented songwriter, Haggard had instant hits with "Swinging Doors" and "The Bottle Let Me Down" the following year.
In 1969, Merle released "Okie From Muskogee" which voiced his patriotic feelings and proved to be his most controversial recording at a time in history when anti-war sentiment was strong. It started at Number 5 the first week and rose to Number 1 where it stayed for 37 weeks. He wrote the song because Oklahoma and Muskogee were so much cleaner than the majority of the country at that time. "There's something special about Oklahoma. My family was from Oklahoma, but migrated to California during the Dust Bowl days. So, I guess I was a transplanted Okie. Just like a godfather to a child, Oklahoma is a "god state" to me," said Haggard.