Few country musicians have lived the life quite like Merle Haggard. From day one, when Haggard was born in a boxcar his father converted into a home, Haggard has had a lifetime of experiences to draw on. Even his surname seemed to hint at the kind of man he’d become. After his father died of a brain hemorrhage when Haggard was only eight years old, the future country star found himself in plenty of trouble with the law, eventually riding the rails and hitchhiking around the county when he was only 14. In between serving time at various jails and juvenile detention centers, Haggard did manage to land some odd jobs to make money, including driving a truck and literally digging ditches. But when Haggard saw Johnny Cash play in the San Quentin Prison he had served in and was then working at, he found a calling in country music.
Haggard’s deep baritone voice lent a world-weariness to his songs about the kind of life he lived, describing getting in trouble with and being chased by the law, living as a rambler and facing hardship and poverty. He also predicted the coming wave of patriotic country music with songs singing the praises of the United States (and bordering on jingoistic, depending on your point of view) and contributed plenty of entries to the pantheon of great trucker anthems, including “Truck Driver’s Blues,” “White Line Fever,” and “Big Wheels Rolling.” Truly, Haggard has left his mark on country music and trucking services both.