By Tim Ghianni
(Reuters) - Country music great Merle Haggard has been admitted to a Georgia hospital with a respiratory illness that forced him to cancel a concert Tuesday night just seven minutes before taking the stage.
"He has a respiratory virus or infection," Frank Mull, his tour manager and close friend, said as he waited Wednesday morning for a taxi to take him to the hospital in Macon, Georgia.
Haggard, 74, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, is best known for songs like "Mama Tried," "Okie from Muskogee" and "The Fightin' Side of Me."
With influences ranging from Lefty Frizzell to Bob Wills to Jimmie Rodgers, Haggard is an architect of country music's so-called "Bakersfield Sound."
Haggard was preparing to take the stage Tuesday night in Macon when it was determined he was too ill to perform, Mull said.
A concert scheduled for Wednesday night in Columbus, Georgia was cancelled. Haggard's next scheduled concert is Thursday in Paducah, Kentucky.
"I imagine we'll determine more (about other tour dates) when I get to the hospital," said Mull, who was going to meet with the singer and doctors.
Mull said Haggard was unwell when he left his California home to begin the tour, but did not want to disappoint his fans.
"He wasn't well when he left home," he said. "He thought he was well enough to work and he did work three dates, and he got progressively worse."
(Reporting By David Bailey; Editing by Paul Thomasch)