Merle Haggard Albums Ranked (rated from worst to best)
Merle Haggard had a troubled childhood spending time in youth offenders facilities in his youth. He was released from San Quentin State prison in 1960 and managed to launch a successful career in the music industry. During the 20 year period between the 60s to the 80s he had 38 number 1 hits on the US country charts with many crossing over onto the Billboard mainstream charts.
Over the course of his life, Merle received many awards and honours including; a Kennedy Center Honor, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a BMI Icon Award, as well as being inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. He died on his 79th birthday (April 6th 2016).
Best Merle Haggard Albums Of All Time
Merle released 64 albums during his career and we’ll rank his top 25 as we see them from the rest to the best.
25. Let Me Tell You About a Song (1972)
Released in June 1972 this was Merle’s 14th studio album. The album produced 2 number 1 hit singles which were; “Grandma Harp” and “Daddy Frank (The Guitar Man)”. The album itself got to number 7 on the Billboard Country Album chart and number 166 on the Pop Album chart.
24. A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (or, My Salute to Bob Wills) (1970)
This was Merle’s 11th studio album which was released on November 16th 1970. In many ways this album was more than just a tribute. Sadly Bob Wills suffered a massive stroke after the 1st day of recording which led to Merle re-learning to play the fiddle, an instrument he hadn’t touched since his childhood.
The album got to number 2 on the Billboard Country Albums chart and number 58 on the Pop Album chart. The album went on to inspire many younger musicians including; “Asleep At The Wheel” and “ Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen”.
23. The Way I Am (1980)
This was Merle’s 30th studio album which was released in April 1980. On this album Merle pays tribute to Ernest Tubb by covering 3 of his songs which are; “Take Me Back and Try Me One More Time”, “I’ll Always Be Glad to Take You Back” and “It’s Been So Long, Darlin’”. The album also includes Floyd Tilman’s “It Makes No Difference Now” as well as the title track which was released as a single which was written by Sonny Throckmorton.
22. My Farewell to Elvis (1977)
Released in October 1977, this was Merle’s 27th studio album. The album got to number 6 on the country album chart , whilst the single “From Graceland to the Promised Land” got to number 4 on the Billboard Country Singles chart. Merle had already started recording an album of Elvis Presley songs when Elvis died at home in Graceland in August 1977. Merle then wrote the song “From Graceland to the Promised Land” and the album was released in October.
The album featured Elvis’s backing group The Jordanaires and his drummer Buddy Harman. Merle only recorded hit songs by Elvis including “That’s All Right” and “Blue Christmas”. The album was a commercial success but left many of Merle’s fans with the feeling he was cashing in in some way.
21. Ramblin’ Fever (1977)
This was Merle’s 22nd studio album which was released in May 1977. It was his 1st album on the MCA Records label and also the 1st without “The Strangers”. It reached number 5 on the country albums chart and was reissued on CD in 2002.
The title track managed to reach number 2 on the country charts and that along with “I Think It’s Gone Forever” were the only songs that Merle wrote that were included on this album.
20. Like Never Before (2003)
This was Merle’s 55th studio album which was released on September 23rd 2003 on his own label, Hag Records. The album features a duet with Merle’s friend Willie Nelson, “Reno Blues” as well as “That’s The News” the track Merle wrote about the Bush Administration’s handling of the Iraq war and the way it was reported in the media.
19. Working in Tennessee (2011)
This was Merle’s 63rd and final solo studio album which was released on October 4th 2011. It was his 2nd release by Vanguard Records and includes a song featuring Willie Nelson and Ben Haggard, “Working Man Blues” as well as “Jackson” with Theresa Haggard. The album got to number 30 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and number 155 on the Billboard 200 chart.
18. My Love Affair With Trains (1976)
Released in July 1976 this was Merle’s 20th studio album. There was only 1 single released from this album which was “Here Comes The Freedom Train” which reached number 10 in the charts and was his 9th hit single in a row. The album‘s title track was written by Dolly Parton and “Railroad Lady” was written by Jimmy Buffett. This album had some special significance to Merle as he was a model train enthusiast.
He released 3 albums in this year as well as appearing in an episode of the TV series “The Waltons”, where he played a country singer called Red Turner and performed the song “Nobody’s Darlin’ But Mine”.
17. Someday We’ll look Back (1971)
Released on August 9th 1971, this was Merle’s 13th studio album. The title track got into the top 5 on the singles chart and the track “Carolyn” went to number 1. Other tracks of note are “One Row At a Time”, “California Cotton Fields” and “Tulare Dust” which all tell the plight of the poor working man (a regular theme on Merle’s albums). The album got to number 4 on the Billboard Country Albums chart.
16. Hag (1971)
This was Merle’s 12th studio album which was released on April 22nd 1971. It became his 5th album to reach number 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart. As well as reaching number 66 on the Pop Albums chart.
The album focuses on the plight of America during the early 70s including the VietNam war, Violence on the streets, homelessness and other social issues. The opening track is Ernest Tubb’s “Soldier’s Last Letter” (VietNam war) and includes the tracks “Jesus Take Hold” (street violence) and “Sidewalks of Chicago” (homelessness). As well as some love songs which include “Shelly’s Winter Love” and “The Farmer’s Daughter”.
15. The Peer Sessions (2002)
Released on May 21st 2002, this was Merle’s 54th studio album which was released on the Audium Record label. It includes songs written by country greats like Jimmy Rodgers, Bob Wills, Jimmie Davis, Floyd Tilman and Doc Watson. Which were all taken from the Ralph S. Peer publishing catalogue.
14. Serving 190 Proof (1979)
This was Merle’s 29th studio album which was released on May 18th 1979. It got as high as number 17 on the Billboard Country Album chart while all 4 singles which were released from this album got to number 4 on the Billboard Country Singles chart. The singles were; “Heaven Was A Drink Of Wine”, “I Must Have Done Something Bad”, “My Own Kind Of Hat” and “Red Bandana”.
13. Keep Movin’ On (1975)
This was Merle’s 18th studio album which was released in April 1975. It made the number 1 spot on the Billboard Country Albums chart and was one of Merle’s most commercially successful albums. There were 3 singles released from the album, all of which reached number 1 on the charts.
The 1st of these 3 hit singles was “Kentucky Gambler” which was written by Dolly Parton (who also provided background vocals on Merle’s version) and stayed on the chart for 11 weeks with one week at number 1. The other 2 were “Always Wanting You” and “Movin’ On” which was used as the title track for the NBC TV series of the same name.
12. Sing Me Back Home (1968)
Released on January 2nd 1968 this was Merle’s 5th studio album. The album title was inspired by a fellow prisoner while Merle was serving his time in San Quentin State prison. A man called Jimmy “Rabbit” Kendrick who escaped, was recaptured and eventually executed at the prison, witnessed by Merle. The events left a lasting impression.
The title track was a number 1 hit on the singles chart for Merle and stayed there for a couple of weeks. He also performed it as a duet with Johnny Cash on the Johnny Cash show in 1969.
11. Roots, Volume 1 (2001)
This was Merle’s 53rd studio album which was released on November 6th 2001. According to music critic Stephen Thomas in his “Allmusic” review, “Roots, Volume 1” was an “unexpected return to how country records used to be made” as well as “an album filled with small gems, but they add up to a large triumph–a rich, masterful album that’s not just the best country album of 2001, but one of Haggard’s finest moments”.
10. Same Train, A Different Time (1969)
Released on May 1st 1969 this was Merle’s 9th studio album and features covers of songs by Jimmie Rodgers. The album contains a number of spoken introductions by Merle where he talks about the life and songs of Jimmie Rodgers.
The album topped the Billboard Country Albums chart without any singles released to promote it.
9. Branded Man (1967)
This was Merle’s 4th studio album which was released on August 28th 1967. The title track was released as a single and topped the Country music charts with the follow up single “I Threw Away the Rose” getting to number 2.
The song “I Threw Away The Rose” was also the song that got Merle’s attention from George Jones, who would record the song himself and it was the start of George recording other Merle’s songs and led to the pair recording duet albums together.
8. I Am What I Am (2010)
This was Merle’s 62nd studio album which was released on April 20th 2010. The album’s final track “It’s Gonna Be Me” was only released on Amazon.com even though it received positive reviews as a song that stands out for its heavy bass line and social critical lyrics. The album got to number 18 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and number 11 on the Billboard Independent Albums chart.
7. If I Could Only Fly (2000)
Released on October 10th 2000, this was Merle’s 50th studio album. It got to number 26 on the Billboard Country Albums chart and stayed on the chart for 27 weeks. The title track had previously been recorded by Merle as a duet with Willie Nelson. The album focused on Merle’s singing and songwriting strengths and was a massive improvement on some of his 1990s albums, the contents of which were dictated by his then record company.
6. Swinging Doors (1966)
This was Merle’s 2nd studio album which was released on October 3rd 1966. There were 3 singles released from this album which were; “Shade Tree (Fix-It Man)”, “Swinging Doors” and “The Bottle Let Me Down” which would get to number 3 on the Country Singles chart, his highest chart entry up to this point in his career.
5. I’m a Lonesome Fugitive (1967)
Released on March 4th 1967 this was Merle’s 3rd studio album which was released by Capitol Records. The title track was released as a single and is the song that got Merle recognition and star status. The album rose to number 3 on the Billboard Country Albums chart and got to number 165 on the Pop charts. The album also features the Jimmie Rodgers song, “My Rough and Rowdy Ways”.
4. Going Where The Lonely Go (1982)
Released on October 18th 1982 this was Merle’s 35th studio album. It was recorded during the same 2 days as his previous album “Big City”. This album got to number 3 on the Billboard Country Albums chart and included 2 number 1 singles which were; The title track and “You Take Me For Granted”. Merle and his backing band “The Strangers” performed as tight a set for this album as they ever did and the album should have been higher placed in the charts, but that’s the music business.
3. Big City (1981)
This was Merle’s 33rd studio album which was released in October 1981 and got to number 3 on the album charts. There were 2 number 1 hit singles released from this album which were; The title track and “My Favorite Memory”. There was a 3rd single which was “Are the Good Times Really Over (I Wish a Buck Was Still Silver)” which reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart and won the Academy of Country Music Song of the Year 1982.
Merle and The Strangers spent 2 days in the recording studios and recorded enough material to fill this album and “Going Where the Lonely Go” (which was released the following year).
2. Back To The Barrooms (1980)
This was Merle’s 31st studio album which was released on October 10th 1980. Tracks include “I Don’t Have Any More Love Songs” which was a Hank Williams Jr. song as well as a cover of The Sutherland Brothers song “Easy Come, Easy Go”.
1. Mama Tried (1968)
Released on October 3rd 1968 this was Merle’s 7th studio album. It got to number 4 on the Billboard Country Albums chart. The title track was released as a single and became one of Merle’s biggest hits, eventually winning the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999. The single got to number 1 and stayed there for a month and was also used on the soundtrack of the film “The Killers Three” which included Merle acting the part of a lawman.
All Merle Haggard Albums In Chronological Order
|Just Between the Two of Us (with Bonnie Owens and the Strangers)||1966|
|Swinging Doors (with the Strangers)||1966|
|I’m a Lonesome Fugitive (with the Strangers)||1967|
|Branded Man (with the Strangers)||1967|
|Sing Me Back Home (with the Strangers)||1968|
|The Legend of Bonnie & Clyde (with the Strangers)||1968|
|Mama Tried (with the Strangers)||1968|
|Pride in What I Am (with the Strangers)||1969|
|Same Train, A Different Time (with the Strangers)||1969|
|A Portrait of Merle Haggard (with the Strangers)||1969|
|A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (or, My Salute to Bob Wills) (with the Strangers)||1970|
|Hag (with the Strangers)||1971|
|Someday We’ll Look Back (with the Strangers)||1971|
|Let Me Tell You About a Song (with the Strangers)||1972|
|It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad) (with the Strangers)||1972|
|Merle Haggard’s Christmas Present (Something Old, Something New)||1973|
|If We Make It Through December (with the Strangers)||1974|
|Merle Haggard Presents His 30th Album (with the Strangers)||1974|
|Keep Movin’ On (with the Strangers)||1975|
|It’s All in the Movies (with the Strangers)||1976|
|My Love Affair with Trains (with the Strangers)||1976|
|The Roots of My Raising (with the Strangers)||1976|
|A Working Man Can’t Get Nowhere Today (with the Strangers)||1977|
|My Farewell to Elvis||1977|
|I’m Always on a Mountain When I Fall||1978|
|Serving 190 Proof||1979|
|The Way I Am||1980|
|Back to the Barrooms||1980|
|Songs for the Mama That Tried||1981|
|A Taste of Yesterday’s Wine (with George Jones)||1982|
|Going Where the Lonely Go||1982|
|Goin’ Home for Christmas||1982|
|Pancho & Lefty (with Willie Nelson)||1983|
|Heart to Heart (with Leona Williams)||1983|
|That’s the Way Love Goes||1983|
|It’s All in the Game||1984|
|A Friend in California||1986|
|Out Among the Stars||1986|
|Seashores of Old Mexico (with Willie Nelson)||1987|
|Two Old Friends (with Albert Brumley, Jr.)||1999|
|If I Could Only Fly||2000|
|Cabin in the Hills||2001|
|Roots, Volume 1||2001|
|The Peer Sessions||2002|
|Like Never Before||2003|
|I Wish I Was Santa Claus||2004|
|Kickin’ Out the Footlights…Again (with George Jones)||2006|
|Last of the Breed (with Willie Nelson and Ray Price)||2007|
|The Bluegrass Sessions||2007|
|I Am What I Am||2010|
|Working in Tennessee||2011|
|Django and Jimmie (with Willie Nelson)||2015|
|Timeless (with Mac Wiseman)||2015|
Frequently Asked Questions
The best selling Merle Haggard album is “Pancho and Lefty” which was a collaboration album between Merle and Willie Nelson, which was released in January 1983.
The newest Merle Haggard album is “Timeless” which was a collaboration album between Merle and Mac Wiseman which was released in 2015.
The first Merle Haggard album is “Strangers” which was released on September 27th 1965.
Merle Haggard’s most famous song is “That’s the Way Love Goes” taken from the album of the same name.
Merle Haggard started singing professionally in the early 1960s.
The genres ascribed to Merle Haggard are; Country, Outlaw Country and Bakersfield Sound.