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 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] Steel guitarist Ralph Mooney 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 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 played the piano. [6] But when Ward left, Gene Price replaced him on bass just in time for the Okie from Muskogee album in 1969, on which he also sang lead vocals. [7] Eddie Burris, the drummer for the Strangers, co-wrote the title track Okie From Muskogee with Merle Haggard.[8] Biff Adam 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 were joined by rhythm guitarist Robert "Bobby Wayne" Edrington, and they got their own showcase on the instrumental “Stealin’ Corn.” [10] A second rhythm guitarist, Marcia Nichols, also joined the band [11]

Gordon Terry, fiddle player for the Strangers.

After Bobby Wayne and Marcia Nichols left, Ronnie Reno 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] Johnny Meeks, 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 played bass with the band.[15] After leaving the Strangers, Tittle would go on to play with his father-in-law Johnny Cash. [16]

Saxophonist Don Markham, 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 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 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 Gordon Terry 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 joined the Strangers. [24] 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 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 trumpet player Gary Church and keyboardist Mark Yeary, who also served as Merle’s co-producer on his records.[28] Clint Strong, who had studied under Stan Kenton, joined the Strangers on lead guitar during the mid-80s.[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
Nelson, Ken; My First 90 Years Plus 3, 2007
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". 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". 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 Music. 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". RollingStone. 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". San Diego Union Tribune. 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". April 18, 2016.
  23. ^ "Funeral Services Scheduled for Fiddler Gordon Terry". CMT. April 10, 2006.
  24. ^ "Merle Haggard". 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". June 10, 1989.
  28. ^ "Ornery". New Yorker. February 12, 1990.
  29. ^ "Merle Haggard's Diverse Influences". San Francisco Gate. November 25, 2015.

External links[edit]