Alvis Edgar "Buck" Owens, Jr., (August 12, 1929 – March 25, 2006) was an United States singer and guitarist, with twenty number-one hits on the Billboard magazine country music charts. Both as a solo artist and with his band, the Buckaroos (so named by Merle Haggard, a former bandmate), Buck Owens pioneered what has come to be called the Bakersfield sound—a reference to Bakersfield, California, the city Owens called home and from which he drew inspiration for what he preferred to call "American Music".
A consummate bandleader, Buck Owens pioneered a unique and fresh sound: clean and crisp, characterized by sharp, staccato guitar riffs and straightforward lyrics. It was far more streamlined than the honky tonk music of the late 40's and early 1950s with its fiddles and pedal steel. While Owens originally used fiddle and retained pedal steel into the 1970s, his sound on records and onstage was always more stripped-down and elemental, incorporating elements of rock and roll and Western Swing. The sound Owens developed with the Buckaroos depended on his comrarderie and talents of his best friend, Don Rich, whom he met while in Tacoma. Rich can be heard harmonizing on all of Owens hits until his untimely death in the 1974 when Rich lost control of his motorcycle and struck a guard rail on Highway 99 north of Bakersfield as he made his way to join his family for a vacation on the coast at Morro Bay (Rich, whose actual last name is Ulrich, is buried in a simple grave at Hillcrest Park Cemetery northeast of Bakersfield). The tragic loss of his best friend devastated Owens for years and abruptly halted his singing successes and career until Owens performed with Dwight Yoakam in the late-1980's.
Owens co-hosted the popular and groundbreaking Hee Haw program with Roy Clark. Hee Haw, originally envisioned as country music's answer to Laugh-In, outlived that show and ran for twenty-four seasons. Buck was co-host from 1969 until he left the cast in 1986, convinced that the show's exposure had obscured his immense musical legacy.
Alvis Owens, Jr., was born in Sherman, Texas (U.S. Highway 82 through Sherman was named "Buck Owens Freeway" in his honor). "'Buck' was a mule on the Owens farm," Rich Kienzle wrote in About Buck, the biography at Owens' official website adapted from Kienzle's notes for Rhino Records' 1992 "The Buck Owens Collection" box set . "When Alvis, Jr., was three or four years old, he walked into the house and announced that his name was also Buck. That was fine with the family; the boy was Buck from then on." In 1937, his family migrated to Mesa, Arizona, during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.
In 1945, Owens co-hosted a radio show called "Buck and Britt". In the late 1940s, Owens became a truck driver and discovered the San Joaquin Valley of California. He was impressed by Bakersfield, California, where he and his wife settled in 1950.
Soon, Owens was frequently traveling to Hollywood for session recording jobs at Capitol Records, playing backup for Tennessee Ernie Ford, Sonny James, Wanda Jackson, Del Reeves, Tommy Sands, Tommy Collins, Faron Young and Gene Vincent and many others.
During the Rock and Roll craze of the 1950s, Owens recorded a rockabilly record called "Hot Dog" for the Pep label, using the pseudonym Corky Jones. He used the pseudonym because he did not want the fact he recorded a rock tune to hurt his country music career. Buck loved rock and roll virtually from the start, and it influenced his style of country from then on.
Buck's career took off in 1959, when his song "Second Fiddle" hit number 24 on the Billboard magazine country chart. A few months later, "Under Your Spell Again" hit number 4, and then "Above and Beyond" hit #3.
In the early 1960s, the "countrypolitan" sound was popular, with smooth, string-laden, pop music-influenced style like Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves, and Patsy Cline. Owens went against the trend, with a more pure and raw honky-tonk hillbilly feel, mixed idiosyncratically with the Mexican polkas he had heard on border blaster stations while growing up.
Owens was named the most promising country and western singer of 1960 by Billboard magazine, and his Top-10-charting duets with Rose Maddox in 1961 earned them awards as vocal team of the year. In the 1970's, he enjoyed a string of hit duets with a protege, Susan Raye, who became a popular solo artist with recordings produced by Owens.
1963's "Act Naturally" became Buck's first #1 hit. The Beatles later did a straight cover of it in 1965.
In 1967, Owens and the Buckaroos toured Japan, a then-rare occurrence for a country musician. The subsequent live album, Buck Owens in Japan, is considered possibly the first country music album recorded outside the United States. At the White House the following year, they performed for Lyndon B. Johnson.
Creedence Clearwater Revival, one of the biggest American rock bands of the period, often demonstrated a country flavor, and even mentioned Owens in the hit, "Lookin' Out My Back Door":
: A dinosaur Victrola
: List'nin' to Buck Owens
: Doo, doo, doo
: Lookin' out my back door
Hee Haw hit the television airwaves in 1969, keeping Owens busy throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In 1972 he had another #1 hit, "Made in Japan".
Before the 1960s were done, Owens—with the help of manager Jack McFadden—began to concentrate on his financial future. He bought several radio stations, including KNIX and KESZ in Phoenix, Arizona, and KUZZ in Bakersfield, incorporating his trademark red, white and blue guitar into each station's logo. In 1999, Owens sold KNIX and KESZ to Clear Channel Communications; he maintained ownership of KUZZ until his death.
Owens established Buck Owens Enterprises and produced records by several artists, released on the Capitol label.
On July 17, 1974, his guitarist and best friend Don Rich was killed in a motorcycle accident. Owens was devastated and never really recovered from the loss. "He was like a brother, a son and a best friend", he said recently, continuing, "something I never said before, maybe I couldn't, but I think my music life ended when he did. Oh yeah, I carried on and I existed, but the real joy and love, the real lightning and thunder is gone forever." http://www.salon.com/bc/1999/02/23bc.html
Owens recorded for Warner Brothers, but longtime fans and Owens himself were less than happy with the results since the recordings, done in Nashville, reflected the very type of bland country music he had always assailed. His spirit broken by the depression of Rich's death, he simply allowed himself to be led. He was no longer recording by the 1980s, devoting his time to overseeing his business empire from Bakersfield. Slowly, during that time he recovered his equilibrium. It allowed him to realize that despite the excellent pay and friendships he'd developed on Hee-Haw. the show effectively ruined his musical career by redefining him as a comedian, to the point that many knew nothing of his phenomenal country music career or his classic hit recordings. He left the show in 1986.
Dwight Yoakam, from Kentucky, copied Buck's style of music and eventually teamed up for a duet of "Streets of Bakersfield" in 1988. Their duet was Owens' first #1 single in 16 years. Yoakam is considered an honorary resident of Bakersfield and even created the "Bakersfield Biscuit" for Owens' night club restaurant.
Buck Owens died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack on March 25, 2006, only hours after performing at his Crystal Palace restaurant, club and museum in Bakersfield. He had successfully recovered from oral cancer in the early 1990s, but had additional health problems near the end of the decade including pneumonia and a minor stroke suffered in 2004. These health problems had forced him to curtail his regular weekly performances with the Buckaroos at his Crystal Palace nightclub-restaurant in Bakersfield.
The Los Angeles Times interviewed longtime Owens spokesman (and Buckaroos keyboard player) Jim Shaw, who said Owens "had come to the club early and had a chicken-fried steak dinner and bragged that it's his favorite meal." Afterwards, Owens told band members that he wasn't feeling well and was going to skip that night's performance. Shaw said a group of fans introduced themselves as Owens was preparing to drive home; when they told him they had traveled from Oregon to hear him perform, Owens changed his mind and took the stage anyway.
Shaw recalled Owens telling the audience, "If somebody's come all that way, I'm gonna do the show and give it my best shot. I might groan and squeak, but I'll see what I can do." Shaw added, "So, he had his favorite meal, played a show and died in his sleep. We thought, that's not too bad."
Owens left behind three ex-wives, and three sons: Buddy Alan (who charted several hits as a Capitol recording artist in the early 1970s), Michael and Johnny Owens. He was interred in the family mausoleum at a Bakersfield cemetery. The front of the mausoleum is inscribed "The Buck Owens Family" with the word's "Buck's Place" beneath.
His first wife, country singer Bonnie Owens, died at age 76 on April 24, 2006, at a Bakersfield hospice. Her ashes were also interred in the Owens mausoleum.
Courtesy of: http://www.wikipedia.org/