The Story Behind The Song: “Always Wanting You” – Merle Haggard

The situation got to the point that Haggard literally couldn’t get Dolly off his mind. He would envision her when he walked out on stage to do a show, when he went to sleep at night and when he woke up in the morning. He tried everything to put her out of his mind, but nothing worked. Merle was the type of songwriter who could be inspired by the least little thing which might trigger an idea for a song. But this infatuation with Dolly was big and it completely overwhelmed him. So, of course, there had to be a song come out of it. He proudly wrote “Always Wanting You” specifically for the object of his desire. In fact, he was so proud of his accomplishment that he telephoned Parton at three o’clock one morning from Reno, Nevada and sang the song to her right over the phone (hoping this could possibly impress her enough to give in). Once again, she explained her inability to get involved and eventually, after she listened to the song and his pleading, he finally allowed her to go back to sleep.

This episode became a matter of public record after its inclusion in Merle’s book “Sing Me Back Home: My Own Story.” Haggard wasn’t embarrassed about it, nor did Dolly claim to be. She handled it with her usual grace, saying that she was more flattered than anything about him feeling that way. By withholding her temptation (if she ever was tempted) and Merle not claiming that they had had an affair (so the issue of a scandal was avoided), were the two things she says kept the embarrassment in check. She wrapped it up neatly by simply saying that Merle is a very special friend to her, and it was very bold and sweet of him to tell her that he cared that much.

Although written especially for Dolly, “Always Wanting You” was Merle’s first and only number one single to feature Louise Mandrell. She toured with Haggard’s band for six months, and when he recorded the song at Jack Clement’s studio in Nashville, she joined Ronnie Reno as a supporting vocalist. “Always Wanting You” reached the pinnacle of Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart on April 12, 1975, and was strong enough to remain in that position for two weeks. It was Haggard’s sixth number one single in a row, and the 20th of his eventual 38 chart-toppers, the third most in history.

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