The Strangers (American band)

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The Strangers
Roynichols sm.jpg
Roy Nichols, lead guitarist of the Strangers.
Background information
OriginBakersfield, California, United States
Western Swing
Outlaw Country
Bakersfield Sound
Years active1965–present
MembersRenato Caranto
Jim Christie
Doug Colosio
Floyd Domino
Ben Haggard
Dana Haggard
Noel Haggard
Theresa Haggard
Norman Hamlet
Scott Joss
Taras Prodaniuk
Past membersMerle Haggard
Biff Adam
Paul Anastasio
Johnny Barber
Jimmy Belken
Eddie Burris
James Burton
Glen Campbell
Gary Church
Eddie Curtis
Iris DeMent
Terry Domingue
Wayne Durham
George French
Dennis Hromek
Red Lane
Abe Manuel
Joe Manuel
Don Markham
Randy Mason
Will McGregor
Johnny Meeks
Eugene Moles
Ralph Mooney
Tiny Moore
Marcia Nichols
Roy Nichols
Fuzzy Owen
Bonnie Owens
Gene Price
Ronnie Reno
Sheril Rodgers
Eldon Shamblin
Clint Strong
Gordon Terry
Jimmy Tittle
Kenny Vernon
Redd Volkaert
Jerry Ward
Bobby Wayne
Mark Yeary

The Strangers are an American country band that formed in 1965 in Bakersfield, California. They mainly served as the backup band for singer-songwriter Merle Haggard. However, from 1969 to 1973, they issued several records independent of Haggard, released on Capitol Records. Merle Haggard named the band after his first hit single "(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers".[1] The Strangers were voted touring band of the year by the Academy of Country Music eight times. [2] The band continues to tour with longtime member Norman Hamlet, as well as Haggard's children Ben and Noel Haggard.


Lead guitarist Roy Nichols (October 21, 1932 - July 3, 2001) was from Chandler, Arizona, and had previously played with the Maddox Brothers and Rose, Lefty Frizzell, Wynn Stewart, and Johnny Cash before playing with the Strangers from 1965 until 1987, when health problems forced him into retirement. [3] Duncan, Oklahoma-born steel guitarist Ralph Mooney (September 16, 1928 - March 20, 2011) had previously played with Wynn Stewart and written the song "Crazy Arms", and after leaving the Strangers recorded a duo album with James Burton and then joined Waylon Jennings band. [4]

Norm Hamlet (born February 27, 1935 in Woodville, California) joined the Strangers on steel guitar in 1967 and, shortly afterward, became its bandleader. [5] Howard "Jerry Ward" Lowe was the Strangers original bass player and George French (March 6, 1926 - August 14, 1992) played the piano. [6] But when Ward left, Gene Price (February 27, 1944 - August 13, 2013) from Shamrock, Texas replaced him on bass just in time for the Okie from Muskogee album in 1969, on which he also sang lead vocals. [7] Tulsa, Oklahoma-born Eddie Burris (October 27, 1931 - April 19, 2011), the drummer for the Strangers, co-wrote the title track "Okie From Muskogee" with Merle Haggard.[8] Biff Adam (born April 19, 1936 in Reading, Pennsylvania) replaced Burris as the Strangers drummer in 1970 and also served as Merle’s publicist and bus driver.[9] On the album, The Fightin' Side of Me, the Strangers added rhythm guitarist Robert "Bobby Wayne" Edrington (December 11, 1941 - September 21, 2009) from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and they got their own showcase on the instrumental "Stealin’ Corn".[10] A second rhythm guitarist, Marcia Nichols (May 23, 1950 - October 1976), also joined the band [11]

Gordon Terry, fiddle player for the Strangers.

After Bobby Wayne and Marcia Nichols left, Ronnie Reno (born September 28, 1947 in Buffalo, South Carolina) of Reno and Smiley and the Osborne Brothers joined the Strangers on rhythm guitar, and he also produced Merle's duo album with Mac Wiseman as well as Merle’s The Bluegrass Sessions. [12] Ronnie would also sing lead vocals on albums like Merle Haggard Presents His 30th Album.[13] Gaffney, South Carolina-born Johnny Meeks (April 16, 1937 - July 30, 2015), previously a member of Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, the Champs, and Michael Nesmith and the Second National Band, played bass with the Strangers in the early 1970s and later got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[14] After Meeks left, Jimmy Tittle (born December 1, 1956) played bass with the band.[15] After leaving the Strangers, Tittle would go on to play with his father-in-law Johnny Cash. [16]

Bakersfield, California-born saxophonist Don Markham (November 28, 1931 - February 24, 2017), who had played with Sly & the Family Stone, the Ventures, the Bakersfield Brass, and Johnny Paycheck played with the Strangers from 1974 to 2013. [17] In the mid-1970s, former Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys guitarist Eldon Shamblin (April 24, 1916 - August 5, 1998), who was born in Clinton, Oklahoma, was invited to join the Strangers.[18] After retiring from the Strangers, Eldon Shamblin would continue to perform with them whenever they played in Tulsa.[19] Electric mandolinist Billie "Tiny" Moore (May 12, 1920 - December 15, 1987) from Port Arthur, Texas also joined the Strangers during the 1970s.[20] Like Eldon Shamblin, Tiny Moore had also been a member of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.[21]

In the late 1970s Decatur, Alabama-born Gordon Terry (October 7, 1931 - April 9, 2006) joined the Strangers on fiddle.[22] Terry had previously played with Bill Monroe, Faron Young, and Johnny Cash. [23] After Gordon Terry left the band, fiddler Jimmy Belken (May 25, 1931 - August 19, 2000) joined the Strangers. [24] Born in Dallas, Texas, Belken had previously played with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys as well as Mel Tillis and the Statesiders. [25] In addition to serving as Strangers bassist, Dennis Hromek (born November 12, 1940) would also sing some lead vocals at Strangers shows. [26] When Hromek left Bobby Wayne returned to the Strangers, this time playing bass.[27] Other noteworthy members of the band included bassist Sherman "Wayne" Durham (July 8, 1947 - April 13, 2016), Princeton, Illinois-born trumpet player Gary Church (March 26, 1951 - June 22, 2018), and keyboardist Mark Yeary (born in 1952 in Los Angeles, California), who also served as Merle’s co-producer on his records.[28] Clint Strong (born in 1966), who had studied under Stan Kenton, joined the Strangers on lead guitar during the mid-1980s.[29]

Current members[edit]

  • Renato Caranto – tenor saxophone
  • Doug Colosio – keyboards
  • Jim Christie – drums
  • Floyd Domino – keyboards
  • Ben Haggard – electric guitar, lead guitar, lead and backing vocals
  • Dana Haggard – backing vocals
  • Noel Haggard – lead vocals, electric guitar
  • Theresa Haggard – backing vocals
  • Norman Hamlet – steel guitar
  • Scott Joss – fiddle, mandolin, guitars, backing vocals
  • Taras Prodaniuk – bass guitar


  • The Instrumental Sounds of Merle Haggard's Strangers, 1969 (Capitol Records)

Timeline 1966-1994[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Cantwell, David; Merle Haggard: The Running Kind, 2013
Church, Gary; Autobiography of a Nobody, 2012
Haggard, Merle; Sing Me Back Home, 1981
Haggard, Merle; For The Record, 1999
Moore, Tiny; Merle Haggard Presents Swinging Texas Fiddlin', 1982
Moore, Tiny; Tiny Moore Mandolin Method, 1982
Nelson, Ken; My First 90 Years Plus 3, 2007
Powers, Freddy; The Spree of '83, 2017
Rubin, Rachel Lee; Okie from Muskogee, 2018


  1. ^ "The Life & Times of Merle Haggard". Rolling Stone. October 1, 2009.
  2. ^ "Merle Haggard Obituary". The Guardian. April 6, 2016.
  3. ^ "Roy Nichols; Merle Haggard's Guitarist". Los Angeles Times. July 4, 2001.
  4. ^ "Country star Ralph Mooney Dies". Variety. March 22, 2011.
  5. ^ "My Friends Are Gonna Be Strangers". Country Music Hall of Fame. April 11, 2012.
  6. ^ "Country Music Star, Wife of Local Legends Dies". The Bakersfield Californian. April 25, 2006.
  7. ^ "The Bakersfield Sound: Hag Gets Hard". Merle Haggard's Okie from Muskogee. 2018.
  8. ^ "Eddie Burris Helped Make 'Okie from Muskogee' a Hit". Tulsa World. April 20, 2011.
  9. ^ "Merle Haggard: Under the Growl, a Crooner". The New York Times. July 29, 1993.
  10. ^ "Merle Haggard". Vintage Guitar. July 2014.
  11. ^ "Merle Haggard". All Music Guide To Country. 1997.
  12. ^ "Ronnie Reno, Bluegrass Music's Youngest Old Timer". Bluegrass Unlimited. July 1, 2013.
  13. ^ "Merle Haggard". AllMusic Guide To Country. 1997.
  14. ^ "Johnny Meeks, Former Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps Guitarist, Dead at 78". Guitar World. August 2, 2015.
  15. ^ "Jimmy Tittle". I Still Miss Someone. 2004.
  16. ^ "Addiction". Johnny Cash: The Biography. 2006.
  17. ^ "Don Markham, Longtime Merle Haggard Band Member, Dead at Age 85". Rolling Stone. February 27, 2017.
  18. ^ "Eldon Shamblin, 82, Guitarist for Texas Playboys". The New York Times. August 8, 1988.
  19. ^ "Obituary: Eldon Shamblin". The Independent. August 12, 1998.
  20. ^ "Merle Haggard Talks Music and Life". U-T San Diego. February 29, 2012.
  21. ^ "Tiny Moore & Jethro Burns: Back To Back". All About Jazz. April 7, 2005.
  22. ^ "Watch Merle Haggard's 'Austin City Limits' Debut". Rolling Stone. April 18, 2016.
  23. ^ "Funeral Services Scheduled for Fiddler Gordon Terry". CMT. April 10, 2006.
  24. ^ "Merle Haggard". The Washington Post. April 10, 1995.
  25. ^ "I'll Die With Them, If They'll Keep Me That Long". The Light Crust Doughboys Are On The Air. 2002.
  26. ^ "Merle Haggard's Performance Rewards Audience's Wait". The Oklahoman. January 16, 1984.
  27. ^ "Merle Haggard". Tulsa World. June 10, 1989.
  28. ^ "Ornery". The New Yorker. February 12, 1990.
  29. ^ "Merle Haggard's Diverse Influences". SFGate. November 25, 2015.

External links[edit]