Merle Haggard is celebrating his 75th birthday Friday (April 6) and, after some health problems in January, is back in the swing of things with a busy touring schedule, including a Wednesday night (April 11) concert at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.
The Bakersfield, Calif., native has scored 38 No. 1 singles on Billboard's country songs chart, including his 1983 collaboration with longtime friend Willie Nelson on "Pancho and Lefty."
He charted his first single, "Sing a Sad Song," in 1963 and enjoyed his first Top 10 hit in 1965 with "(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers." And even before he topped the chart for the first time in 1966 with "The Fugitive," he had Top 10 hits with two songs that became country classics -- "Swinging Doors" and "The Bottle Let Me Down."
In compiling a list of his first singles that spent multiple weeks at No. 1, it's somewhat surprising that songs such as "The Fugitive," "Branded Man," "Hungry Eyes" and "Workin' Man Blues" each topped the chart for one week only.
Proving that chart success isn't the only factor that defines a country artist's career, here's a list of Haggard's first 10 singles that stayed at No. 1 for two or more weeks:
"Sing Me Back Home" (1967, two weeks)
"The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde" (1968, two weeks)
"Mama Tried" (1968, four weeks)
"Okie From Muskogee" (1969, four weeks)
"The Fightin' Side of Me" (1970, three weeks)
"Daddy Frank (The Guitar Man)" (1971, two weeks)
"Carolyn" (1971, three weeks)
"Grandma Harp" (1972, two weeks)
"Everybody's Had the Blues" (1973, two weeks)
"If We Make It Through December" (1973, four weeks)