Remembering Merle Haggard

April 7, 2016

White House photographer

Merle Haggard, who died Wednesday on his 79th birthday of pneumonia, was more than just a country legend. He influenced countless other artists, including other country stars, and some rock and rollers as well. Here are 5 things you may not have known about Merle Haggard.

1. He was born in a boxcar. His parents moved from Oklahoma to California in the 1930's. His father converted an abandoned boxcar sitting on a piece of land near Bakersfield into a small home. Haggard was born there and lived there for several years with his family.

2. Haggard was in the audience at St. Quentin Prison when Johnny Cash recorded an album there. He was in prison for crimes including robbery and escaping from other jails. He has said that the Johnny Cash performance was a big influence on his life.

3. He was a recipent of the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors along with Paul McCartney and Oprah Winfrey.

4. The Grateful Dead, The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd , Lucinda Williams, and Ryan Adams' band Whiskeytown all covered Merle Haggard tunes.

5. When a polka band from Stevens Point recorded a take-off on his song "Okie From Muskogee," called "Pollack from Polonia," Haggard didn't think it was funny, and sued.The Norm Dombrowski and the Happy Notes 45 is considered a treasured collectible by many polka fans in the area.