Merle Haggard: Country Legend Hospitalized, Postpones Tour Dates

Merle Haggard was hospitalized on Thursday evening, as he is suffering from pneumonia. According to the announcement, which was published on his Facebook page, the country legend is currently getting treatment at an undisclosed hospital in California. Although he was forced to postpone several stops on his current tour, a spokesperson confirmed the shows will be rescheduled.

As reported by People, Haggard underwent surgery to remove a “lemon-sized tumor” from his lungs in November 2008. Although the tumor was determined to be cancerous, the musician made a remarkable recovery. Fewer than two months after the surgery, Merle said he was back to writing songs and ready to “go to work.”

Haggard was eventually declared cancer free. However, as he lost a great deal of lung tissue, he is more susceptible to lower respiratory tract infections.

Rolling Stone reports the 78-year-old country legend postponed Wednesday’s show in Palm Desert, California, Thursday’s show in Oakland, and Saturday’s show in Wendover, Nevada. A spokesperson confirmed all three will be rescheduled in January and February 2016.

The spokesperson did not discuss whether Merle will return to the stage next week. However, the tour dates are still listed on his official website.

A native of Bakersfield, California, Merle Ronald Haggard grew up during the Great Depression. Although he enjoyed playing the guitar and displayed an early talent, Haggard was a rebellious youth.

Charged with numerous crimes, which included fraud and theft, the aspiring musician spent his teen years “in and out of reform facilities and county jails.”

At the age of 21, Haggard was convicted of attempted jail escape and burglary. As reported by Biography he was subsequently sentenced to two years and six months in San Quentin Prison.

While incarcerated, Merle made a decision to turn his life around and focus on a brighter future. In addition to furthering his education, the musician joined the prison band.

Following his release from prison, Haggard focused on his dream of becoming a professional musician. Although he began by playing in small bars and clubs in Bakersfield, he later moved to Las Vegas — where he joined forces with guitarist Wynn Stewart.

Merle signed his first recording contract with Tally Records in 1962. Three years later, he was offered a contract with Capitol Records.

Throughout his career, Merle Haggard recorded more than 50 albums, which included 38 number one songs. However, his most popular and memorable song remains “Okie from Muskogee” — which was released in 1969.

Haggard is also the recipient of an impressive number of awards, including a 1984 Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance, and a 1998 Grammy for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. Most recently, he was awarded the CMT Artist of a Lifetime Award in December 2014.

Earlier this year, Merle combined forces with his close friend Willie Nelson to release a new album titled Django and Jimmie, which debuted at number one on Billboard’s Country Chart.

The country legends reportedly met at a poker game in 1964, which Willie Nelson hosted at his Nashville home. Although the aspiring musicians had a lot in common, they did not become close friends until the late 1970s.

Haggard and Nelson planned a national tour to celebrate the release of Django and Jimmie. Unfortunately, it was later postponed due to issues with Willie’s health.

The men eventually performed several shows together and were met with rave reviews. However, they later parted ways to begin their own tours.

The news about Merle Haggard’s illness and subsequent hospitalization was met with well wishes from his friends, family, and fans. Updated information about the country legend’s health and tour dates is being provided on his Facebook page and his personal website.

[Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP]