50 Years Ago: Ronald Reagan Pardons Merle Haggard

50 Years Ago: Ronald Reagan Pardons Merle Haggard
Image: Tulsa World

It’s one of the most legendary origin stories in country music history. Merle Haggard from Bakersfield, California was engaging in a life of petty crime while trying to make it as a guitar player and singer until he committed one petty crime too many, and a judge threw the book at him.

It was Christmas Eve 1957, and while hanging out drunk with a buddy of his named Mickey, Merle decided to break into a local Bakersfield restaurant called Fred and Gene’s Cafe to try and scrounge up some money for his family. Merle and Mickey drove to the restaurant and tried to jimmy the back door, only to find the door was already opened. Darting inside, they started figuring out what to steal when they discovered the restaurant was still open, and full of patrons and employees.

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