Monday, March 27, 2006

The man in the cornfield

"Theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey're gonna put me in the movies. Theeeeey're gonna make a big star out of me...."

The first time I remember seeing Buck Owens, he popped up out of a cornfield. Yep, I'm ashamed to admit it. For years, all I knew of Owens was his overblown laugh, that American flag guitar, and the fact that he was Roy Clark's co-host on "Hee Haw."

Then I heard "Act Naturally" on the radio. And went crazy.

Turns out Owens was a country music pioneer. His "Bakersfield" sound and rubber-meets-the-road vocals was a nice counterpoint to the polished, string-backed "Nashville Sound" of the 1960s. (Think "For the Good Times.")

Buck Owens died Saturday. He was 76.

We hadn't seen much of him in recent years. A stroke had slowed him down, kept him out of the limelight. The last time I remember seeing him on anything was around 1988, when he and Dwight Yoakam teamed up to sing about the "Streets of Bakersfield."

If you ignore his exploits in Cornfield County, Owens' country music discography is nothing short of stunning. ""Love's Gonna Live Here." "Made In Japan." "Cryin' Time." "Tiger By the Tail." And a true country classic: "Together Again." Listen to that song and I dare you not to think about the joy you feel whenever you are reunited with the one you love most.

Like so many of the country music greats, Buck was from Texas. But he finally made it out to California and would forever be associated with the Bakersfield sound. His first wife, Bonnie, later married Buck's California country "rival," Merle Haggard. (Hers is the voice that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck when you listen to Hag's "High On A Hilltop.")

But they stayed friends. Buck even flew up to see Haggard last year when he opened for Bob Dylan, Hag told the New York Times over the weekend.

Owens always said that "Hee Haw" destroyed his album sales. He seemed almost bitter about it. But don't fret too much, Buck. If It weren't for you and that cornfield, a little boy from Knoxville would have never found your music.

Godspeed, Mr. Owens.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

WHERE OH WHERE ARE YOU TONIGHT?
WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME HERE ALL ALONE?
I SEARCHED THE WORLD OVER AND THOUGHT I FOUND TRUE LOVE
YOU MET ANOTHER AND (pffbt)
YOU WERE GONE

12:29 PM  
Blogger Brian Hornback said...

I remember watching Hee Haw as a young kid. I always prefered Buck to Roy Clark, hmmm what does that say about me?

5:02 PM  

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