Merle Haggard had a total of six children across his five marriages -- Ben, Noel, Marty, Jenessa, Kelli and Dana-- plus a son conceived outside of marriage, Scott. Just like fellow music legend and duet partner Willie Nelson, Haggard passed along his musical genes. Out of the seven, there are four gifted country singers who inherited their father's natural talent.
The singer, songwriter and The Strangers bandleader raised six of his children in California, where he helped define the legendary Bakersfield sound. The Grammy winner and Country Music Hall of Fame member's children have developed their own following over the years, often through covering their dad's most-loved songs.
Longtime fans already know about Marty and Noel, two sons from the Hag's marriage to first wife Leona Hobbs (1956-1964). Lately, the attention received by their young half-brother Ben has kept the family business on fans' minds beyond Merle's April 6, 2016, passing on his 79th birthday. All three still play their dad's country classics, as does a lesser-known sibling named Scott.
Here's a very brief look at the second generation of singing Haggards.
Marty Haggard (Born June 18, 1958)
Merle's oldest son had the most prominent solo career, charting five singles on the Hot Country Songs chart between 1981-'87. Among these was a recording of "Trains Make Me Lonesome" that pre-dates George Strait's better-known version.
Marty survived near tragedy multiple times, getting shot by a hitchhiker years before a 1988 car wreck interrupted his singing career. Upon recovery, he focused on Christian-themed songs, eventually forming a music ministry.
Noel Haggard (Born September 4, 1963)
In the late '90s, Noel had a brief major-label run in Nashville, notable for a version of his dad's "Tell Me Something Bad About Tulsa" that predates George Strait's cover. Nowadays, he provides comic relief for Ben whenever they tour together.
Scott Haggard (Born in December 1968)
A product of a relationship outside of his father's five marriages, Scott was raised in Alabama and didn't meet Merle until around 2005. The blue-collar truck driver and country singer might be the least famous of Haggard's sons, although he looks the most like Dad and certainly sounds the part.
Ben Haggard (Born December 14, 1992)
The youngest of Haggard's sons took Dad's songs, bus and band on the road following the legend's 2016 passing. That backstory alone makes Ben the most visible Haggard heir. Plus, he's the best vocalist and guitarist of the bunch. Expect him to start adding original material to his set, which currently consists of his dad's songs (including the hits "Okie From Muskogee," "Silver Wings," "If We Make It Through December" and "Mama Tried") and a handful of classic country covers.
Ben's the son of Haggard's fifth wife Theresa Ann Lane (the country star had no children with three of his other wives: Bonnie Owens, Leona Williams and Debbie Parret).
This story originally ran in 2018.