Merle Haggard – I’m A Lonesome Fugitive (1967)

I’m a Lonesome Fugitive is the third studio album by Merle Haggard and The Strangers released on Capitol Records in 1967. The song “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive” brought Haggard country stardom. Although it sounds autobiographical (Haggard had done time at San Quentin), David Cantwell states in his book The Running Kind that it was actually written by Liz Anderson and her husband Casey while driving cross country and was inspired by the popular television show The Fugitive starring David Jansen as Richard Kimble. Haggard felt a connection to the song immediately and when it was released it became his first number one country hit. When Anderson played the song for Haggard, she was unaware about his prison stretch. “I guess I didn’t realize how much the experience at San Quentin did to him, ’cause he never talked about it all that much,” Bonnie Owens, Haggard’s backup singer, and then-wife, is quoted in the liner notes to the 1994 retrospective, Down Every Road. “I could tell he was in a dark mood…and I said, ‘Is everything okay?’ And he said, ‘I’m really scared.’ And I said, ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘Cause I’m afraid someday I’m gonna be out there…and there’s gonna be some convict…some prisoner that was in there the same time I was in, stand up—and they’re gonna be about the third row down—and say, ‘What do you think you’re doing, 45200?'” Haggard would address the issue on his next album, Branded Man.

In 1996, I’m a Lonesome Fugitive was reissued by BGO Records along with Mama Tried.

Track Listing:

“I’m a Lonesome Fugitive” – 2:56
“All of Me Belongs to You” – 2:40
“House of Memories” – 2:47
“Life in Prison” – 3:02
“Whatever Happened to Me” – 2:57
“Drink Up and Be Somebody” – 2:30
“Someone Told My Story” – 2:32
“If You Want to Be My Woman” – 2:16
“Mary’s Mine”
“Skid Row” – 1:57
“My Rough and Rowdy Ways” – 2:23
“Mixed Up Mess of a Heart” – 2:06

AllMusic Review: This early Capitol album contains the haunting “House of Memories.” Haggard begins to really let his roots show on this one — see “Rough and Rowdy Ways,” the Jimmie Rodgers classic. In this great early period Haggard, while seeming entirely contemporary, could evoke the Ghosts of Country Past in an absolutely convincing way without nostalgia or imitation. — George Bedard

Schill Score: 7.5/10

Listen to Album on Spotify