Few country legends have shown such vitality and enthusiasm for their music as Bakersfield’s Buck Owens (1929-2006); best known by some for his huge hit ‘Act Naturally’ and when in 1986 he came out of retirement to record a remake of ‘Streets Of Bakersfield’ with then New Traditionalist Dwight Yoakam as he rolled back the years!
Country fans will of course also have fond memories of such favourites as ‘My Heart Skips A Beat’, ‘I've Got A Tiger By the Tail’, ‘Love’s Gonna Live Here’ (that he also did as duet with Emmylou Harris) and ‘Sam's Place’ plus hit duets with Susan Raye and Rose Maddox. A unique talent Owens like a few more also dabbled, during his formative years in rockabilly. You have a couple here where he records under the pseudonym of Corky Jones and on showing hints of Elvis he sounds most capable but not as you would want 44 tracks of it!
As it is Owens who had fans in The Beatles (and you can also hear where Nick Lowe got some of his ideas too) and with his band, The Buckeroos featuring long-time partner Don Rich (harmony vocals) he was hot stuff. A country trend setter he put Bakersfield on the map and to help fuel the careers of a host more from the area (Merle Haggard, Tommy Collins, Wynn Stewart etc) using twangy steel guitar, fiddle and electric lead guitar.
Made up of twenty singles and the Capitol albums Sings Harlan Howard (1961) and Under Your Spell Again (1961) the hugely prolific recording act who prior to gaining a contract with the legendary Ken Nelson at the label was used as a guitar player for records by Wanda Jackson, Gene Vincent, Faron Young, Sonny James and was once the lead guitarist for Tommy Collins (mid-1950s) and wrote a few songs with Harlan Howard. A shrewd businessman Owens not only co-owned, with Howard the publishing company their collaborations and individual compositions were published but when he left Capitol in 1976 he took over the ownership of his recordings too! After this he made it big through his appearances on the tv comedy Hee Haw during the 1970s and 1980s (up till 1986) and purchasing radio stations.
His work with Maddox is excellent (‘Loose Talk’, ‘Mental Revenge’) while his fine covers of such Harlan classics as ‘Heartaches By The Number’, ‘Pick Me Up On Your Way Down’ and their co-write ‘Foolin’ Around’ are up there with ‘Under Your Spell Again’. While there is more from the duo in ‘Above And Beyond’ (that was also a hit years later for Rodney Crowell) and the fabulous ‘Excuse Me (I Think I’ve Got A Heartache)’ as the recipe for good, honest as the day is long country music is perfected. Others of note include the tempting dance tune ‘I’ll Give My Heart To You’ and with neat percussion (plus of course pedal steel guitar, tinkling piano and fabulous fiddle) ‘My Everlasting Love’ is a highlight and sound to copy in anyone’s book. Go, try him out. You will not be disappointed since these recordings were before Owens was tempted to cover work of The Beatles and others that weren’t always beneficial when it came to furthering his standing as an all-time great (well that is how I feel).
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