Courtesy of Merle Haggard via Sports & Entertainment Nashville
Over the course of his 53-year career, Merle Haggard made his fair share of friends. As to be expected, many of his friends were his fellow country stars and collaborators.
One of Haggard’s closest friends was none other than Charley Pride, who first met “That Hag” prior to a show in 1966 in Detroit. Both Haggard and Pride were new to the industry, and Pride only had three singles at the time.
Following the news of Haggard’s passing on April 6, 2016, Pride shared a touching message about their first meeting on Facebook. In the message, he revealed how Haggard came to his rescue at the Detroit show 50 years prior.
Pride drove from his home in Montana to the venue in Detroit, and he underestimated how much time he needed to get there. With only minutes to spare before Pride had to appear on stage and with no band to back him up, Haggard came in and saved the day.
“He had agreed to let his band, The Strangers, back me up,” Pride wrote. “We played my three singles and that was it. The audience responded well and I ended up signing a lot of autographs that day.“
From that moment on, Haggard and Pride struck up a friendship, and the two often enjoyed playing their guitars together. Their friendship was so strong that their sons went on to become friends, and Pride’s son Dion and Haggard’s son Marty now perform together from time to time.
In 2000, Haggard was by Pride’s side when he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and continued to be a huge influence on his life and career over the years. Pride wrote about his decades-long admiration of Haggard, saying:
“I’ve always admired Merle because he had the total package. He wasn’t just a great singer. He was also a great songwriter…He was a great artist, an amazing songwriter and a wonderful friend. And I will miss him greatly.”
During a show following Haggard’s death, Pride paid tribute to his friend by covering his number one hit, “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive.” You can watch his performance below.
We’re continuing to pray for all of Merle’s friends and loved ones.