The Loves of Merle Haggard's Life, From Leona Hobbs to Theresa Ann Lane

Country music legend Merle Haggard is many things: a music icon who was a pioneer for the Bakersfield sound (as opposed the Nashville sound), a Grammy Award-winning artist, and a serial monogamist. There are five main love stories that conclude with Merle Haggard's wife Theresa Ann Lane. We're doing a deep dive into all of the leading ladies of The Hag's life, starting with his first wife before he was a country star.

1. Leona Hobbs

Haggard married his first wife when he was just 19 years old and they were married from 1956 to 1964. The couple ended up having four children together: Dana, Marty, Kelly and Noel. These were the days before the California native's music career and he had some serious problems with the law. After an attempted robbery he was sent to San Quentin Prison. Seeing Johnny Cash perform at the prison inspired him to not only join the prison band, but also to pursue music after his release.

2. Bonnie Owens

Fellow country singer Bonnie Owens was wife number two for Haggard. And he was husband number two for Owens, who had previously been married to country star Buck Owens. Haggard has credited his second wife with helping him get his start in country music. She was a co-writer on his hit song "Today I Started Loving You Again" and a great friend to Haggard over the years. She was dedicated to helping care for the children from his previous relationship with Leona and was constantly on the road as Haggard's opening act.

In the end, the couple called it quits in 1978 after 13 years of marriage. They really were better off as friends and Owens remained a backup singer in Haggard's band until she passed away in 2006.

Read More: Meet Merle Haggard's Four Musically Talented Sons

3. Leona Williams

Leona Belle Helton, known professionally as Leona Williams, was married to Haggard from 1978 to 1983. The two connected when she replaced Bonnie Owens as a backup singer with Haggard's band, The Strangers. She was also a talented songwriter who wrote two number one hits for her husband — "Someday When Things Are Good" and "You Take Me For Granted."

Williams and Haggard even made music together, charting with two duets on the country charts, "The Bull and the Beaver" and "We're Strangers Again."

4. Debbie Parret

Another short-lived marriage for the "Okie From Muskogee" singer was fourth wife Debbie Parret. The couple was only married from 1985 to 1991. Not much is known about his relationship with this particular ex-wife.

5. Theresa Ann Lane

Haggard's fifth wife, Theresa Ann Lane, was the end of the road for Haggard. He finally found his true love after years of looking. Lane's mother actually convinced her to go to one of the country singer's shows. Afterward, she went backstage to see Haggard's guitarist, Clint Strong. The two were heading back to Strong's room when Haggard spotted her, and when he did, he knew she was something special. Haggard once called marrying Lane the "best decision" he'd ever made.

Even though there was a 20 year age gap between the couple, that didn't stop them from staying together for 23 years until Haggard's death on his 79th birthday in 2016. The couple had two children, Jenessa and Ben Haggard.

This article was originally published in March of 2020.

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