Dolly Parton Opened Up About Her Relationship with Merle Haggard: ‘Heard He Had a Crush on Me’

by Jonathan Howard
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During her long and illustrious career, Dolly Parton made a lot of good friends. One of those friends was the legendary Merle Haggard.

Parton has always been a flirt. That is something she has embraced with her personality, but never let it go too far. Despite playing the game and walking the line when telling some stories, Dolly opened up about her relationship with Haggard in her 2020 book.

Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics details a lot of her life and those relationships with other artists. She talked about Merle and the friendship that they had.

“Merle Haggard was a special, special person,” Dolly wrote. “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.”

Parton has always insisted that she has stayed faithful to her husband Carl Dean. And, there’s no reason to believe otherwise. Mostly media conjecture and rumors have followed her. However, when it comes to Haggard, she was unequivocal. Nothing ever happened between them.

“We never had an affair or anything like that,” Parton says in the book. “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.”

Dolly Parton Inspired ‘Always Wanting You’

While Dolly Parton didn’t have a crush on Merle, that didn’t change the way he felt. The two would work closely together in the 1970s. Een touring with one another. During that time, Haggard wrote Always Wanting You. A song inspired by the time he spent with Dolly.

“He sang it to me,” Dolly wrote. “I took it as a great compliment, just as a fellow songwriter would. I didn’t connect it to anything any bigger.” Parton said of the song. It didn’t connect what it really meant at first. “I didn’t know it was that big of a deal.”

It didn’t fully connect until she ran into Merle’s wife, Bonnie at an event. There, Dolly Paron realized the feelings that her fellow singer had for her.

“Later, at a BMI banquet, Merle’s wife, Bonnie, said to me, ‘Well, you know Merle’s in love with you.’ And I said, ‘Well, I love him, too.’ She said, ‘I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about real love.’ I said, ‘Well, I can’t help what he feels. I love him to death, but there’s nothing going on between us, and there never was. I’m honored and flattered that he had a crush. But I’m sorry if it caused any problem.’”

Outsider.com