Join me at 11 a.m. on Sunday December 15th for Country Classic Spotlight, where we will feature a full half hour of the music and life of the living country legend, Merle Haggard. The Country Classic Show kicks off at 9 a.m.

Merle has been married five times and  his second wife was Bonnie Owens, who was previously married to Buck Owens.  She was Merle's first duet partner and good friend as well as his wife. His third wife, Leona Williams, was also a singer and songwriter.   He married his current wife, Theresa Ann Lane in September 1993.  He is the father of six children .

Haggards signature song, Okie From Muskogee was released in 1969.  He has released close to 70 albums and 600 songs, 250 of which he wrote.  Merle's hits slowed down a bit in the 1980's but he never stopped making music.  In 1981 he recorded Big City,  which went to #1 on the charts.

The Hag was born in Bakersfield, California, on April 6, 1937 and is now 76 years old.  His father was a railroad worker so Merle grew up in the depression era in California.  As a child he was plagued by a respiratory condition.

A rebellious teen, The Hag compiled a criminal record that included truancy, passing bad checks and grand theft auto.  In 1958, he was sent to San Quentin Prison after being convicted for burglary and attempted escape from a county jail.  Merle was pardoned in 1972 by then- Governor Ronald Reagan.

In 1995 he underwent an angioplasty to unblock some clogged arteries.  In November of 2008 he was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer and underwent surgery to remove part of his lung.

Merle accepted the prestigious award for Lifetime Achievement and Outstanding Contribution to American Culture from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on December 4, 2010.

On June 14, 2013, California State University, Bakersfield, honored Merle with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree.