Being a Merle Haggard fan for the last few months has been like riding a roller coaster. The country legend canceled numerous tour dates back in December when it was discovered he was suffering from a double pneumonia. Merle took some time off to recover in the hospital and a treatment facility, and just when it appeared Merle was getting better, he canceled some January dates in New Mexico on the 30th and 31st. Then Merle was finally set to return to the stage on February 2nd at the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside, California, but canceled at the very last minute. “Thank you to the fans who came out tonight in riverside! Sadly I’m just not strong enough yet,” Merle said on social media. Merle’s son Ben had opened the show before Merle’s fiddle player came out and announced the cancellation to the crowd.
Afterward, word came down that Merle had canceled all February dates to continue to rest up after the pneumonia, but then he ended up playing four of the canceled dates, including a couple in Las Vegas, and a show at the Saban Theatre in Beverley Hills with Kris Kristofferson on February 3rd. The other dates later in February remained canceled.
All of this, and a lack of official information has led to wild speculation about Merle Haggard’s health, if he’s possibly being forced to play shows when he isn’t up to it, or if fans are being given the run around for some reason. Then a report surfaced earlier this week from Country Weekly giving a fan’s account of Merle Haggard struggling to perform at his February 13th show in Oakland. “[He] could barely walk onto the stage. He didn’t need a hand or a cane, but he needed time, time to get to the mic,” said the fan.
The mood has swung from concern, to anger, and back to concern by some fans because dates were canceled last minute, and other dates that were announced as canceled ended up being played. But according to the Merle Haggard camp, everything is okay, the sky isn’t falling, and everything will soon return back to normal.
“Merle Haggard’s not on death’s door,” his publicist Tresa Redburn told Saving Country Music on Friday (2-19). “The lack of information is because there isn’t any. He had a double pneumonia and he’s resting. He did four shows out of the shows he canceled in December. He wasn’t quite strong enough to do the whole eight dates.”
One of the reasons no official word can down about the February dates was because it was a very fluid situation, with Merle deciding day by day if he was feeling well enough to perform. Merle has been telling some that performing helps him feel a little better as he continues his recovery.
“I saw him last Thursday and he was amazing,” says Tresa Redburn. “His voice was slightly weaker because of the illness, but it was an amazing show with him and Kris Kristofferson. He’s going to be 79 in April. He been a little bit weaker than usual, but he’s planning on continuing and doing his thing. The whole year rest of the dates haven’t been canceled.”
Merle has tour dates scheduled through the deep South starting on March 3rd in Arkansas. See Merle Haggard Tour Dates.