Buck Owens Stayed True to His 'Bakersfield Sound'

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Buck Owens had an impact on country music that goes beyond his many hits or his TV time on Hee Haw. He created the "Bakersfield Sound," challenging Nashville's dominance on the country landscape.


One of the most influential figures in country music died yesterday. Singer/guitarist and rhinestone cowboy Buck Owens was 76-years-old.

During his long career, he had more than 20 number one records.

(Soundbite of Buck Owens song)

Mr. BUCK OWENS (Singer): (Singing) They're going to put me in the movies. They're going to make a big star out of me. They'll make a film about a man that's sad and lonely, and all I've got to do is act naturally.

HANSEN: The Beatles covered Buck Owens' first number one single. Although he was a Nashville outsider, he brought country music to television as co-host of the show Hee Haw. His brand of music came to be known as the Bakersfield Sound.

Buck Owens described it in a 1989 NPR interview.

Mr. OWENS: The Bakersfield Sound, I think, is a, it's a mix of Bob Wells and the Texas Playboys and Little Richard. I liked music with a big beat, and I liked the driving sounds of the drums and the guitars.

(Soundbite of Buck Owens song)

Mr. OWENS: (Singing) Oh the sun's going to shine in my five-foot porch. Love's going to lift me again. Things are going to be the way they were before. Love's going to lift me again.

HANSEN: This was Buck Owens' biggest hit. It topped the country music charts for 16 weeks in 1965, but the music was changing. String arrangements began to replace fiddles, Nashville's original Grand Ole Opry closed, and Owens' old honky-tonk sound seemed destined for the dustbin.

(Soundbite of guitar playing)

HANSEN: But in the 1970's his music was discovered by country rockers; the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers. And when the new traditionalists entered the scene, Owens said his career was back on track.

Mr. OWENS: When all these new people came along, when Dwight Yoakam came along, Rodney Crowell, and Randy Travis, and Ricky Van Shelton, saying, you know, give it to me straight, I don't want my music made by machine, I just want to hear good, plain country music, and the nice part about it, it was all the young people that were saying that.

HANSEN: Buck Owens was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996. Although he preferred to call what he made American Music.

Buck Owens died yesterday at his home in Bakersfield, California.

(Soundbite of guitar playing)

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