“I’m a Lonesome Fugitive,” which became Merle Haggard and The Strangers’ first No. 1 hit, perfectly suited the catalog of a San Quentin inmate turned country troubadour. It’s so Haggard (both the surname and the adjective) that some may not realize that a Nashville star from the same time period co-wrote the song that helped position a Bakersfield pioneer as a national treasure.
Liz Anderson, the mother of “Rose Garden” singer Lynn Anderson and a brilliant artist in her own right, wrote “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive” with her husband, Casey Anderson. The couple dreamed up the song while traveling cross-country, finding inspiration in popular TV series The Fugitive.
Haggard, a songwriting great who rarely needed help telling captivating stories about lawbreakers, instantly fell in love with “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive” when Anderson played it for him. He recorded it in 1966 for Capitol Records, continuing the momentum started with two Top 5 hits released earlier that year: “Swinging Doors” and “The Bottle Let Me Down.”