A song written by Merle Haggard, and recorded by Merle Haggard & The Strangers for the Capitol label, was recorded on April 10, 1967, at Capitol Recording Studio, 1750 North Vine Street, Hollywood, CA, Merle was accompanied on the recording by: Glen Campbell (guitar), Roy Nichols (guitar), Billy Mize (guitar), Howard Lowe (steel), Eddie Burris (bass), George French (drums) and Bonnie Owens (harmony voca). With the production of Ken Nelson, the song was released on July 8, 1967, on September 2, 1967, reached number # 1 on the charts of US Hot Country Songs, and remained 16 weeks in the charts. It was the second number one of Merle’s career.
The song was included in Merle Haggard’s fifth studio album, Branded Man (Capitol 1967), was released on August 28, 1967, and on December 16, 1967, it reached # 1 on the charts of US Top Country Albums.
Haggard went to jail for robbery in 1957, and was released in 1960. This song is about how he felt no matter what he did, who would always be known for his time in prison: “qualified” as a prisoner. >>
Haggard personified the hard country sound of the 60s and 70s with artists who lived their songs. He served his sentence in San Quentin Prison and saw Johnny Cash perform there, which was a great influence in his life.
Leon Ashley 1967 (RCA Victor)
Mel Tillis 1968 (Kapp Records)
Jack Downing 1970 (RCA Victor)
Ronnie Milsap 1973 (RCA)
David Allan Coe 2003 (King Records)
Warner E. Hodges 2008 (Jerkin ‘Crocus)
Vince Gill & Paul Franklin 2013 (MCA)
Merle Haggard – Branded Man Lyrics
I’d like to hold my head up and be proud of who I am,
but they won’t let my secret go untold.
I paid the debt I owed them, but they’re still not satisfied,
now I’m a branded man out in the cold,
When they let me out of prison, I held my head up high,
determined I would rise above the shame.
But no matter where I travel, the black mark follows me,
I’m branded with a number on my name.
If I live to be a hundred, guess I’ll never clear my name,
’cause everybody knows I’ve been in jail.
No matter where I’m living,
I’ve got to tell them where I’ve been,
or they’ll send me back to prison if I fail.
Now I’m a branded man out in the cold.