Merle Haggard will be honored with the Crystal Milestone Award on the 49th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, to commemorate Haggard's prolific 50 years in country music. The ceremony, which will be co-hosted by Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, is produced for television by dick clark productions, and will be broadcast live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Sunday, April 6 (8 p.m.), on the CBS Television Network.
Haggard became the ACM's first Entertainer of the Year when the award was presented in 1970. That win marked the Academy's first "triple crown" achievement, as Haggard had already accepted the Most Promising Male Vocalist of the Year Award in 1965, and the first of six Male Vocalist of the Year awards the following year. Two of his most celebrated songs have also collected Single Record and Song of the Year awards from the ACM: "Okie From Muskogee" (1969) and "Are the Good Times Really Over" (1982). A winner of the ACM Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award and Poet's Award, Haggard joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994. In 2014, he will celebrate the milestone of 50 years in country music.
Past recipients of the Crystal Milestone Award include Jason Aldean, Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Gayle Holcomb, Jennifer Nettles and Taylor Swift.
At age 76, the veteran singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer/bandleader is still making some of the most compelling music of his long and storied career. Haggard is widely regarded as country music's greatest living recording artist. He has scored 39 No. 1 country hits, won various Grammy and ACM awards, become the only California-born artist in the Country Music Hall of Fame, is the only country performer ever featured on the cover of the jazz bible Downbeat, and the only man to be invited to perform at the White House and "invited" to serve time in San Quentin Penitentiary.
His prison experiences led Haggard - who began playing guitar at the age of 12 - to take stock of his life and pursue a career in music. Upon his 1962 release, he became a fixture of the thriving country music scene in Bakersfield, Calif., working manual labor jobs by day and playing local clubs by night.
In 1965, Haggard launched a string of classic hits, including "Swinging Doors," "The Bottle Let Me Down," "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive," "Branded Man," "Sing Me Back Home," "Today I Started Loving You Again," "Mama Tried," "Hungry Eyes," "Silver Wings," "Workin' Man Blues," "The Fightin' Side of Me," "If We Make It Through December" and the much-misunderstood "Okie From Muskogee." A new star-studded tribute album, "Working Man's Poet: A Tribute To Merle Haggard," will be released April 1.