But Merle always felt much more for Dolly than your typical friendship, and was pretty taken by her for most of the time they new each other… as was probably every man Dolly ever met, so I definitely don’t fault him for that.
Merle was married five times, but his marriage to his last wife, Theresa Ann Lane, lasted from 1993 until he passed away in 2016. Dolly, on the other hand, has been married to the same man, her husband Carl Dean, since 1966.
While Dolly’s been known to play it coy in the media in terms of admitting or denying she ever had any sort of extramarital affair, she did go on the record to say that she never had an affair with Merle, specifically after people began speculating about the possibility because of a certain song in particular.
“Merle Haggard was a special, special person. I heard he had a crush on me. All I knew was that we had a great relationship.
When I was on the road with Porter’s show, we traveled some together. Merle would ride on my bus sometimes, and we’d play card games together.
We just had a really good time. But I never thought about him romantically.”
Unfortunately for Merle though, Dolly hit him with the ultimate friend-zone move, saying he reminded her of her brother, Denver:
“We never had an affair or anything like that. We were just buddies, as far as I was concerned.
He reminded me of my brother Denver, so I really related to him. We had a good time, and we loved each other’s music.”
It’s rumored that he initially fell in love with her while recording her 1975 song, “Kentucky Gambler,” which he covered that same year for his Keep Movin’ On album.
They also toured together in the mid-’70s, and Merle has admitted publicly before to writing his song, “Always Wanting You,” about his deep love for Dolly.
To him, it was much more than a friendship kind of love, but clearly Dolly never felt the same way about him.
“Always Wanting You” was a solo write by Merle, and was released as the second single from his aforementioned album, Keep Movin’ On.
It’s a very honest, and pretty damn sad, admission about his love for Dolly and how he ultimately knew it could never be:
“Always wanting you, but never having you, Makes it hard to face tomorrow ’cause I, Know I’ll be wanting you again, Always loving you but never touching you, Sometimes hurts me almost more than I can stand.”