Theresa Ann Lane is the widow of country music star Merle Haggard. She became his fifth wife when they tied the knot in 1993 and have two children together named Jenessa and Ben.
Lane and Haggard’s marriage was Haggard’s longest. They were together for 23 years before he died on April 6, 2016. Haggard had battled pneumonia and passed away on his 79th birthday at his home in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
Haggard was hailed in his obituary as “one of the greats of outlaw country, the rough-and-ready genre spawned in opposition to the smooth ‘Nashville sound’ that dominated country music in the 1950s and ’60s.” Haggard won 19 Academy of Country Music awards during his long career and released his final album in 2015.
A&E is honoring Haggard’s musical legacy with a special concert on Monday, April 13, 2020. Merle Haggard: Salute to a Country Legend premieres at 11 p.m. ET on A&E Network. According to producers at Blackbird Presents, the special will bring together a long list of country greats including Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, Keith Richards and Toby Keith. Haggard’s son, Ben, is also part of the special.
Here’s what you need to know about Haggard’s wife, Theresa Ann Lane.
1. Theresa Ann Lane Said She Struggled to Listen to Merle Haggard’s Music After His Death, Describing Him as a Man With a ‘Heart of Gold’
Theresa Ann Lane has said it was difficult for her to listen to her late husband’s music after his passing. In April 017, one year after Merle Haggard’s death, Lane was present for the Sing Me Back Home: The Music of Merle Haggard special that was put on in his honor in Nashville.
Lane told Rare Country at the time that she appreciated the show of love for her husband even though it was an emotional event for her. “I’m barely walking, cause I lost my everything. He was my world.” Lane also described Haggard as a “really giving man” with a “heart of gold.”
Lane’s emotion was visible when she arrived at the tribute concert in 2017. She told Taste of Country that it was “amazing” to see “all the artists coming out and singing his songs that he sweated and toiled over and lived, and bringing them to life again” but admitted it all “overwhelming.” Lane said she was confident Haggard’s music would continue to inspire listeners, including other musicians, and that his music would always live on. Lane added, “He touched the world… I don’t really know how if he really knew how much he was loved. He was a lover. He was a giver. But I think he knows right now. He’s right here behind me.”
2. Merle Haggard Said His Romance With Theresa Ann Lane Bloomed As They Wrote Music Together
Merle Haggard was the legendary musician but his wife could hold her own on stage beside him. The video embedded above shows Theresa Ann Lane and Haggard performing “Jackson” by Johnny and June Carter Cash.
Lane and Haggard’s romance actually grew in part out of their shared love of music. Haggard described Lane to the Orlando Sentinel in 1999:
She sings, and she writes real good. She’s a real good writer, and that’s kind of how we got to liking each other, was through writing and her desiring to be a writer. She wanted me to teach her to write, and hell, she knew how to write. She just needed a little direction.
In that interview, Haggard also explained that he had been apprehensive at first after meeting Lane. Due to the age difference, he was not sure whether he trusted her intentions. “I didn’t really think there was any reason why she could want to hang around with me, other than the wrong reasons,” Haggard told the Sentinel. But Haggard added that marrying Lane turned out to be the best decision he had ever made in his life.
3. Theresa Ann Lane Was Initially Interested In Merle Haggard’s Guitarist the Night They Met
Theresa Ann Lane and Merle Haggard’s romance almost did not get off the ground. They met after one of his shows, but Lane had to be convinced to even attend the concert. Lane’s mother persuaded her to give Haggard’s music a chance.
After the show, Lane was chatting with Haggard’s guitarist, Clint Strong. They were planning to go to Strong’s room when Haggard stepped in. He asked Strong to fetch a guitar from the bus. Haggard told Strong that he would walk Lane up to the hotel room.
But when Strong came upstairs with the guitar, he found the door closed. Lane explained to Rolling Stone that Haggard yelled at Strong through the door, “Get the f*ck 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 ass.”
Lane said she ended up going on tour with Haggard for a month after that incident.
4. Theresa Lane Described Her First Pregnancy as a ‘Blessing’ Because She Thought She Was Unable to Have Children
Theresa Ann Lane and Merle Haggard were married in 1993, but they extended their family before walking down the aisle. Their daughter, Jenessa, was born in December 1989.
Lane told Rolling Stone the unexpected pregnancy had been a “blessing” because Lane had assumed she could not bear children. Haggard came up with his daughter’s name after hearing it in a dream.
Lane and Haggard’s son, Benion Haggard, was born in December 1992. Ben was named after the late gambling icon (and convicted killer) Benny Binion, who ran the Horseshoe casino in Las Vegas. Binion’s daughter, Becky Behnen, explained to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Haggard thought of Binion as a father figure. “My father lived with me at my house his last six years. Merle was here a lot. They always enjoyed eating chicken and dumplings a lot.” Binion died in 1989 at the age of 85.
5. Ben Haggard Followed His Father’s Footsteps Into the Music Industry
Theresa Ann Lane and Merle Haggard’s son, Benion, is a professional musician like his father. Benion, who goes by Ben, got his start in country music by performing with his father. According to Ben’s website, he became Haggard’s lead guitarist at the age of 15.
After Haggard died in 2016, Ben and his half-brother Noel, kept touring with the rest of the band. He sings Haggard’s songs as well as covers of other classic country hits. Ben recalled his father telling him before his death, “You’d be an idiot not to take my guitar and my bus, not to sing my songs for as long as you can… Go out there and play until there’s nobody to play to.”
On the bio section of his website, Ben said Haggard used to tell him, “Son, you’ve got to create your own thunder.” That’s what Ben aims to do as he continues to carve out his own musical career. Ben also explained his approach to songwriting: “I couldn’t really go out there and sing about drinking a beer on a tailgate under the moonlight. I want to sing about things I value within my heart.”
Ben confessed to Wide Open Country that he had to overcome stage fright before he was also to take the microphone and sing on stage. “After about eight years on the road playing guitar, I finally got to the point where it didn’t really bother me and then we started all over again with the singing. So I’m having to re-learn how to get comfortable on the mic.”