I’m sure some of you are disappointed that I’ve chosen two country artists for today, but they’re both celebrating a heavenly birthday.
Alvis “Buck” Owens was a country singer, songwriter, and guitarist who best exemplified the “Bakersfield sound.” It was a response to the “Nashville sound,” which emphasized a more pop music sound, toning down the steel guitar and Southern “twang” in the voices and adding in more piano, horns, and strings. The Bakersfield sound emphasized the very elements that the Nashville sound tried to tone down. It was the music of the oil fields in Bakersfield and the men who worked there.
Buck first came to my attention when Hee Haw made its debut on the CBS Network in 1969. Buck was teamed with Roy Clark as his co-host and a regular cast that included country comedians such as Junior Samples, Lulu Roman, and Archie Campbell and country music veterans such as Grandpa Jones and Stringbean. Hee Haw was, at its base, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In in a country setting. I really looked forward to the first show, while my brothers were less than impressed and had thought I had flipped my lid. When CBS decided two years later to cancel all the shows that appealed to country audiences, Hee Haw was the first to go. It ran in syndication until 1993 and in reruns on The Nashville Network (TNN) from 1996 to 1997.
Buck had a string of fourteen #1 hits on the Country chart in the ’60’s, beginning with “Act Naturally” in 1963. That song was later covered by The Beatles, with Ringo singing lead. I remember an interview with Buck in the mid-’70’s where he said that, when Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band came out in 1967, it played continuously on the band’s bus. He never covered any Beatles songs, but there was a lot of mutual admiration and respect between them.
Here are six songs featuring Buck, lead guitarist Don Rich, and his band, The Buckaroos. In case you have trouble playing one or more tracks, you can play the list on YouTube.
- Act Naturally (1963)
- My Heart Skips A Beat (1964)
- Together Again (1964) – This was the flip side of “My Heart Skips A Beat”; both songs reached #1.
- I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail (1964)
- Made In Japan (1972) – Buck’s last #1 song.
- Streets of Bakersfield (1973) – This wasn’t a major hit for Buck when it was released in 1973, but in 1988 he and Dwight Yoakam recorded it and released it as a single, and that version reached #1.
Buck Owens, Your Five (plus one) For Friday, August 12, 2022.