Merle Haggard Loved the Song “Kentucky Gambler” and It’s Writer
Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton were touring together in 1974. They spent a lot of time together on each other's busses travelling from concert to concert, and Merle did what most single men (he was between wives at the time) would have done--he became totally fascinated with her and developed a crush on Dolly.
Dolly had written a tune titled "Kentucky Gambler" and recorded it herself for her album "The Bargain Store" that was released in 1974. It was never released as a single but Merle thought the tune would be right for his fans. He recorded it and it soon became his 19th number one hit. But that's about as close to getting together with Dolly Parton as The Hag ever got.
Great songwriters like Merle are always looking for inspiration and his infatuation with Dolly so consumed him that it was only natural that a song developed. That song was "Always Wanting You". When Merle had the song complete in his head, he called Dolly at three in the morning and sang it to her. Dolly complimented him on the song but reminded Merle that she was married and not available. Merle did get something out of the time spent with Dolly Parton--the love song to her became his 20th number one hit. Take a listen: