Merle Haggard’s Kids & Family: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know


Merle Haggard passed away in 2016 on his 79th birthday. He died of double pneumonia, his manager shared. He left behind a large family, including his wife Theresa Ann Lane and his six children. The photo above shows Haggard with his youngest children, Ben and Jenessa, when they were young. It was shared by Merle Haggard’s Twitter account.

He and his wife, Theresa Ann Lane, had two children: Ben Haggard and Jenessa Haggard Bennett. He and his first wife, Leona Hobbs, had four children: two sons, Marty and Noel, and two daughters, Dana and Kelli. Media sources also say that he has another son, Scott Haggard, that he didn’t find out about until 2004.

Merle Haggard had 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, as of 2009. He told Rolling Stone, “It’s a strange feeling to be the one in charge of what some people might call a dynasty. They expect me to have answers, even when I don’t.”

1. Haggard and Lane Had Been Married Since 1993 And She’s About 20 Years Younger Than Him


Merle Haggard’s wife, Theresa Lane Haggard, was about 20 years younger than him. They were married in 1993 and were happily married until he passed away in 2016.

When they were married, she was in her 30s and he was in his 50s. Haggard said that at first he didn’t understand why someone younger wanted to be with him, The Boot reported. Lane and Haggard were still together when he passed away on his 79th birthday after a long series of health struggles.

Haggard and Lane’s first meeting had some drama around it, reported The Boot. Lane’s mother convinced her to go to one of Haggard’s concerts. She met his guitarist, Clint Strong, after the show. They were headed to Strong’s room when Haggard saw Lane. He told Strong to go get a guitar and meet them at the room.

When Strong arrived, Haggard had the door locked. Strong started banging on the door, Lane recalled. And Haggard said: “Get the f**** out of here! She’s my woman now. You don’t know how to treat a woman. Get the hell out of here, or I’m going to fire your a**.”

Haggard was married four times before Lane. First he was married to Leona Hobbs from 1956 to 1964 and they had four children. Then he married singer Bonnie Owens in 1965. He said that Owens helped him make his big break into country music. They divorced in 1978 but remained close, with Owens even serving as the maid of honor for Haggard’s third marriage to Leona Williams. He and Williams were married from 1978 to 1983. Then he married Debbie Parret in 1985, and they divorced in 1991.

Haggard and Lane had two children together.

2. Marty Haggard & Noel Haggard Are Singers Too

Marty Haggard is one of Merle Haggard’s four children with his first wife, Leona Hobbs. When Marty was born, Merle was doing time in prison in Sam Quentin for burglary, People reported. His first memory of his dad when he returned was “domestic combat.” He said his dad liked to argue, and his mom would take things one step further. “It was like a damn circus,” Marty said back in 1986.

But Marty shared in his dad’s talent and began touring with Merle when he was in his teens. In the 1970s, Marty had a small part in a TV movie and stopped to pick up a hitchhiker. The man shot him and Marty drove 15 miles until he found a 13-year-old girl who called for help.

He started a solo career in 1985 and released four singles, one which peaked at number 57 on the country charts. He was nominated for Top New Male Vocalist and one of his songs was covered by George Strait in 1992. But then he was injured in a car accident and suffered severe memory loss, requiring four years of recovery. In 1995, he signed with Critique Records as a Christian singer. He also plays tributes about his dad.

Noel Haggard was born to Merle and his first wife, Leona. He has a career in singing also. He opened many of his dad’s shows and sometimes operated a teleprompter. He released his debut album in 1997 and one song peaked at No. 75 on country charts. In 2003, George Strait covered one of his singles. Noel strongly favors his dad and has much of his dad’s talent.

Today, he frequently performs with his brother Ben Haggard.

3. He Has Three Daughters: Dana, Kelli & Jenessa

Dana Haggard was Merle’s oldest daughter, born to him and his first wife, Leona. When she was born, he was in jail for car theft, Rolling Stone reported. In fact, when she was just an infant, he drove up to a cafe and tried to pick a lock, not realizing it was only 10 p.m. and the cafe was still open. He was taken to jail, escaped, and was caught later at his brother’s house. After that, he was sentenced to five years in San Quentin. Part of the amazing nature of Merle Haggard’s story is how much he reformed his life and turned everything around.

Dana and her brother Marty started their own band at one point, called “Marty and Dana Haggard and the Driftwood Band.” It toured for three years. Sadly, Dana Haggard passed away in 2018 at the age of 61, Bakersfield reported. She died in her sleep, her sister Kelli said.

Kelli Haggard Patterson is Merle’s second daughter, born to him and his first wife, Leona. She said that she and Dana were best friends. “Dana was my best friend and we talked several times a day,” she said after her sister died. “Our life when we were young was very different from what dad’s youngest ones, Ben and Jenessa, experienced, so the four of us, Dana, me, Marty and Noel, clung to each other. This is like having a limb removed.”

Jenessa Haggard Bennett was born to Merle and his wife Theresa and she’s his youngest daughter. The name Jenessa came to Merle in a dream, Rolling Stone reported. Jenessa has been to culinary school and handled much of her dad’s business. In 2016, she and her husband Brian Bennett were planning to dedicate several strains of marijuana to her dad, Westword reported.

4. Ben Haggard Has Performed with Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson & Blake Shelton at the Grammys

Ben Haggard also follows in his dad’s footsteps and inherited much of his dad’s amazing talent. He was the lead guitarist in his father’s band and had been part of the band since he was just 15. The very talented Ben even played with Merle, Willie Nelson, and Blake Shelton at the Grammys. He and Merle are very close. as you can tell from his plentiful social media posts where he proudly talks about his dad. Ben shared a heartfelt tribute to his dad when he passed away.

Merle Haggard had 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, as of 2009. He told Rolling Stone, “It’s a strange feeling to be the one in charge of what some people might call a dynasty. They expect me to have answers, even when I don’t.”

5. Scott Haggard Didn’t Meet Merle Haggard Until the Early 2000s

According to Northern Express, Scott is the son of Lanorah Margaret Bowden and Merle Haggard. The two were never married and had a brief relationship in 1968. Scott said that he met up with Merle in 2004 and told him who he was, which may have been the first time Merle knew about him. Their relationship was off-and-on, but Scott has said that a DNA test confirmed his paternity. Some media sources list him as a seventh child, but other sources don’t mention him at all.

Country Rebel reported that Scott is keeping his father’s legacy alive. Scott was a truck driver before becoming a country singer. In 2006, he dedicated himself to music and has headlined with Mark Wills, Jeff Bates, and Charlie McCoy.

In the video above, he’s performing Merle Haggard’s song Silver Wings.

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