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Merle Haggard Talks Health Scare: ‘I Was Nearly Dead’


Weeks after checking himself into a California hospital with a case of double pneumonia, Merle Haggard is officially on the mend. 

“A couple weeks ago I came in the hospital here, and I guess I was nearly dead,” he told radio DJ Dallas Wayne yesterday afternoon during an interview on the SiriusXM channel Willie’s Roadhouse. (Listen to the interview below.) “They couldn’t tell whether the [lung] cancer had returned or whether I just had pneumonia. They had to wait until they got the pneumonia under control before we could tell. So it’s been kind of a tough couple of weeks, but I’ve got so many people to thank.”

Although short, Haggard’s radio appearance was humbling and grateful, with the country icon taking the chance to name-check several doctors who aided in his recovery at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California. He also tipped his hat to his bandmates, whose West Coast tour with Haggard was cut short by the unexpected hospital stay. Jackie Autry, widow of country pioneer Gene Autry, received her own shout-out.

“She talked me into coming into this hospital and getting some help,” he said, crediting her for saving his life. 

Although Haggard’s show calendar is empty for the rest of the year, he’ll hit the road again in January, kicking off a winter tour that includes a two-night stand at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and a handful of rescheduled dates in California. 

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