Goodbye Buck Owens

In the first ever EGC guest blogging slot, I’m presenting a short item written by Nate “Siderunner” Van Allen. A few days ago he sent to the Siderunners mailing list this farewell piece to Buck Owens. I asked if I could republish it here. He agreed, gave it a little edit and here it is. Many thanks to Nate. If you’ve ever listened to his band, you can hear in their music the fact that they’ve spun Buckaroos discs so often that they hear them even when they are turned off.

—–

I wanted to note to all of you music fans the passing of a legend this week: Buck Owens. In the sixties Buck was the king of the country world recording a shitload of number one hits including “Act Naturally”, later covered by the Beatles. Buck Owens and the Buckaroos were the first country band ever to play Carnegie Hall and that recording remains one of my favorite live recording of all time for its grace, humor and staggering musicianship. In a time where bands try to sound worse and worse the sheer effortlessness of the music on that record stands in stark contrast, a testament to their immense talent, particularly guitar player Don Rich. Originally a fiddle player when he met Buck, Don switched to guitar for the band and ended up revolutionizing country guitar not to mention rock and roll guitar to this day, even if modern players don’t know it.

If it wasn’t enough to be so talented on guitar, Rich also had a voice that ranged from a deep baritone, heard on such songs as “Streets of Laredo”, to the high harmonies that accompanied Buck, that were unbelievably tight in their phrasing and pitch and also made smart use of intervals to produce a heightened emotional effect. There are similar harmonic intervals to what people use in modern recordings but are not skilled enough to pull off and need to use expensive harmonizing machines to do it. All of this came together to form what they call Bakersfield Country sound heard all over real county music today, most notably with Dwight Yoakam and BR-549 among others, not fuckwads such as Toby Keith and the like.

Don and Buck were so close as musicians and partners that when Don Rich was killed in a motorcycle accident Buck Owens quit music. He did this at a time not when he was in decline but on top. He simply quit. Owens later resurfaced on Hee-Haw but to me it was like watching this once great man being reduced to a comedy act. You’ll find his good sense of humor in his Carnegie Hall concert, which some of you might see as a little hokey and pandering, but that’s how they did it back then. It’s important to hear it the times intended.

I always think it’s important when looking at music to see who is going to be relevant in 20-30-40 years. Buck is and will always be, not just in country but also in music you hear everyday.

9 Replies to “Goodbye Buck Owens”

  1. WREK’s Longboards and Longhorns radio show frequently plays Buck Owens in the mix — like every week. It’s great show, check it out. The above link is to the 128 kbps mp3 stream of the most recent show. Dave also has an RSS feed of it set up (search this blog) so you can podcast it if you like.

  2. … and unfortunately this week’s show was preempted by baseball season. Check it out next week, or subscribe to the podcast that Dave set up …

  3. I can relate to Buck Owens’ loss of his friend, Don Rich, his famous guitarist.
    At age 80, last July 16, I lost my piano accompanist for 46 years, my son, Mike Morley. He accompanied my country fiddle playing and, I haven’t played my violin since.
    I hope some day I will play again.
    Thanks for this opportunity to write of my
    loss.
    Sincerely,
    Franklin L. Morley

  4. Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, LUCKY BUCK, Bakersfield-sound-grounded artist, Dr BLT (that’s me, an artist normally humble, except for the day he was compared by Buck Owens himself to Johnny Cash), has written and recorded a brand new song about Buck.

    LUCKY BUCK, written in response to somebody on the internet that called the late Buck Owens a clown and attributed all of his success to luck, was released just before the strike of midnight on March 2, 2010 and has leaped to #2 among Dr. BLT’s most heavily downloaded songs, stopping short of taking over SKY, WE SALUTE YOU, another Dr BLT song that has posted nearly 200,000 downloads since it’s release.

    Sample LUCKY BUCK here:

    LUCKY BUCK
    DR BLT
    words and music by Dr BLT copyright 2010
    http://www.drblt.net/music/LuckyBuckDrBLTDemm.mp3

  5. Buck and Don were, and remain, multi-talented and innovative artists (a term I don’t use lightly) who, through a string of hits, elevated the status of country music throughout the world. Their perfect harmonies, Telecaster and Twin Reverb twang, coupled with infectious melodies and rhythms, helped put the Bakersfield Sound squarely on the map. Thanks Buck and Don, I know you’re “Together Again” in that Big Honky Tonk in the Sky.

Comments are closed.