Buck Owens Biography

Singer, Television Personality, Guitarist, Songwriter (1929–2006)
Country singer Buck Owens is one of several musicians credited with creating the Bakersfield Sound, which combines rock and classic country music.


Buck Owens was born on August 12, 1929, in Sherman, Texas. He dropped out of school in the eighth grade and taught himself to play guitar. He signed with Capitol Records in 1957. In 1962, he formed The Buckaroos, which had 15 No. 1 songs. They toured and recorded music through the '60s. Owens hosted the Hee Haw variety show for 15 years. In 1996, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Early Life

Country singer, songwriter and guitarist Buck Owens was born Alvis Edgar Owens on August 12, 1929, in Sherman, Texas. Raised in Arizona, Owens dropped out of school in the eighth grade, at which time he began working odd jobs. Driven by the influences of local country music, he taught himself to play both the acoustic and steel guitar. In 1945, he teamed with fellow guitarist Theryl Ray Britten; the duo performed regularly on local radio stations. During the late 1940s, Owens performed at Phoenix-area honky-tonks with the group Mac's Skillet Lickers.

In 1951, Owens moved to Bakersfield, California. He briefly played with Bill Woods & The Orange Blossom Playboys before fronting his own band, The Schoolhouse Playboys. During the mid-1950s, he contributed to a number of singles produced by Capitol Records, including the 1954 Tommy Collins hit "You Better Not Do That." Other session work for the label paired Owens with Faron Young, Tommy Sands, Wanda Jackson, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Gene Vincent.. On the independent label Pep, Owens began releasing his own singles, including the unimpressive covers "Down on the Corner of Love" and "Sweethearts in Heaven." Shortly after, he forged a friendship with songwriter Harlan Howard. In hopes of publishing their songs, the singer/songwriter duo formed Blue Book Music.

Commercial Success

In 1957, Owens signed a contract with Capitol Records, however, his recordings failed to find an audience. The following year, he moved to the Washington suburb of Puyallup, where he worked as a disc jockey and hosted his own live television show on KTNT in Tacoma. While living in Washington, Owens recorded the single "Second Fiddle," which climbed to No. 24 on the Billboard charts. His subsequent releases, notably "Under Your Spell Again," "Above and Beyond," and "Excuse Me (I Think I've Got a Heartache)," all charted in the Top Ten.

After returning to Bakersfield, Owens released the debut album Buck Owens (1961), which featured the hit single " Foolin" Around." By fusing the sounds of classic country with rock and roll, he exhibited a modern sound with his 1962 recordings "Kickin' Our Hearts Around" and "You're for Me." The following year, he assembled his own band, The Buckaroos, which included a drummer, bassist (Merle Haggard), and a pedal steel guitarist. Their first single "Act Naturally" (1963) shot to the top of the charts and paved the way for 15 consecutive No. 1 hits, most notably "Love's Gonna Live Here" (1963); "My Heart Skips a Beat" and "Together Again" (both 1964); "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail" and "Before You Go" (both 1965). Owens continued his streak through the late 1960s with the chart toppers "Waitin' in Your Welfare Line," "Open Up Your Heart" (both 1966), "Where Does the Good Times Go" and "Sam's Place" (both 1967).

Owens (along with other artists like Merle Haggard and Tommy Collins) was credited with developing "The Bakersfield Sound" a rock-influenced interpretation of classic country music. As a result of the popularity of "The Bakersfield Sound," Owens achieved his greatest success during the 1960s, during which he toured and recorded extensively. In 1969, he was introduced to television audiences when he signed on as host of the variety show Hee Haw. During his 15-year-run on Hee Haw, Owens continued to record music, though his album sales significantly declined.


Owens remained out of the public eye throughout the mid-1980s, but staged an unlikely comeback with his 1988 collaboration with up-and-coming country singer Dwight Yoakam. The duo re-recorded Owen"s 1972 song "Streets of Bakersfield," which reached the top of the charts and marked Owen"s first No. 1 hit since 1972. The following year, he returned to the stage and released the albums Hot Dog! and Live at Carnegie Hall (a reissue of his 1966 concert).

Owens was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996. Owens died on March 25, 2006, at his home in Bakersfield, California. He died in his sleep just hours after finishing a performance at his concert hall and restaurant, Buck Owens' Crystal Palace.

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