Merle Haggard is back in the hospital and is being treated for a recurring bout of double pneumonia in his lungs. A rep for the 78-year-old country music legend told the Associated Press that Merle Haggard has now been forced to cancel all of his March concert tour dates while he recovers in a California hospital.
Haggard, who is best known for his classic hits “Okie From Muskogee” and “Mama Tried,” has been ordered by doctors to rest for at least one more month before he attempts to perform any more concert dates. A total of 10 shows will be postponed while the Grammy-winning singer focuses on his health, including a highly-anticipated two-night stand in Nashville and several dates in Florida.
Haggard has battling pneumonia for several months and had a previous 11-day hospital stay in December. While the country icon had initially planned to get back on the road in early February, he pushed the date back to get further medical treatment. Last month, Merle detailed his near-death health scare to Rolling Stone, telling the music magazine that he finally went to his doctor after he realized something was just not right.
Merle Haggard revealed that he had been suffering from a bad cough for months before he was diagnosed with pneumonia. At one point, Merle blamed his recurring cough on the fact that he had been performing concerts in old buildings. But everything came crashing down in December when he felt like was being suffocated.
“I had a double case of pneumonia about the size of grapefruit on each side. I had a pain that went all the way around from my belly button all the way around to my back. I asked the doctor, ‘What was that pain?’ He said, ‘It was death.’ “
During a call in to SiriusXM’s Willie’s Roadhouse, Haggard said he was in bad shape when pal Jackie Autry, the wife of the late legendary singer Gene Autry, convinced him to get to the doctor because he couldn’t get up to perform one of his shows.
“I guess I was nearly dead. They couldn’t tell whether I had cancer returned or whether I just had pneumonia. They had to wait until they got the pneumonia under control before we could tell.”
Haggard, a longtime smoker, previously battled lung cancer. Between his cancer scare and the pneumonia diagnosis, Merle acknowledged that he’s “really lucky to be alive.”
After a nearly two week stint in Eisenhower Medical Center in California, Haggard was put on steroids and was given judo lessons to help get him up and moving. In addition to his intense medical treatment, Merle said his fans’ prayers helped get him through the initial ordeal. Haggard’s son, Ben, posted a photo on Twitter of a fan praying behind Haggard’s tour bus when it was announced he was unable to perform his shows because he was still too weak. Ben Haggard revealed that his father cried because he so moved by the outpouring of love from his fans.
Told dad there was a guy praying behind the bus, he looked down and weeped.. Moved by the love from the fans! pic.twitter.com/0yS4VA4iF4— Ben Haggard (@BenHaggardMusic) February 3, 2016
Merle Haggard played a few shows in early December before was forced to stop touring due to his initial pneumonia diagnosis. While he was expected to resume his tour in early February, Haggard ended up canceling all of those dates. Now, his March dates have fallen by the wayside as he tries to get himself well once and for all. Merle Haggard is expected to resume his concert tour on April 7 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
Watch the video below for more on Merle Haggard’s ongoing battle with pneumonia.
[Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Big Barrel]