On this date in 1966, the great Merle Haggard released what would become his very first chart-topping hit, “The Fugitive” (which was later titled “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive” for the subsequent album).
Written by Liz and Casey Anderson, it was released in December of 1966 as the lead single from his I’m a Lonesome Fugitive album, and became Merle Haggard and The Strangers very first #1 hit, as it peaked at the top of the U.S. country singles chart.
While Merle didn’t have a hand in writing it, it certainly helped launch his career in the genre being his first chart-topping hit. He also dropped it not too long after a prison term for burglary, which definitely makes the lyrics about being on the run from the law feel very authentic.
His 1978 performance of it in Austin, Texas for his Live from Austin, TX album is top notch, and he also dedicated the song to “all the shut-in friends over at the county jail”:
“Alright, what would y’all like to hear? Any special… ‘The Fugitive’? Alright.
We’ll go into what is known as our ‘Prison Segment,’ we’ll dedicate it… specially for all the shut-in friends over at the county jail.”