Charles “Fuzzy” Owen, who with his cousin Lewis Tally signed Merle Haggard to his first recording contract in 1962, has died.

Owen, who was 91, became Haggard’s lifelong friend and closest confidant, and he was Haggard’s manager for decades.

The Arkansas native had lived in Bakersfield since at least 1949.

He and Tally performed at the Blackboard Cafe years before it became one of the central, iconic venues for the Bakersfield Sound. They started Tally Records, acquired ownership rights to what would become the first hit recording out of Bakersfield, 1952’s “A Dear John Letter,” and performed with an early incarnation of Haggard’s band, the Stranger.

Haggard died in 2016.

17 News will have more Tuesday on the life and times of Fuzzy Owen.