Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson were a duo for the ages YouTube

Even though it’s a song that neither of them wrote, history would ensure that the names Pancho & Lefty became synonymous with Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson.

By 1983, there were few bigger country music stars than Merle and Willie. Even though Merle was just coming off “Big City,” his biggest album in years, the newly formed partnership between the two friends produced not only a blockbuster of an album, but also a musical duo that would last until Merle’s death.


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In fact, the final album that Merle would record would be a new duet album with Willie entitled “Django & Jimmie.”

Still, their 1983 effort will forever define them as a duo. The story of a Mexican bandit named Pancho and a more mysterious character, Lefty, implies Pancho was killed after he was betrayed by his associate Lefty, who was paid off by the Mexican federales.

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The two friends were all too happy to perform the song together whenever they had the chance.

Willie Nelson not only loved his friend, but he also respected him deeply, telling Rolling Stone in 2015, “It’s a mutual-admiration society with us. Merle’s one of the best. There’s not anyone out there that can beat him. Maybe Kris Kristofferson, but then you start running out of names.”

Based in Chicago but often in Nashville, Ken Churilla is a contributor for Rare Country. Follow him @KenChurilla and join the conversation @RareCountry.
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