If Barbara Mandrell was country when country wasn’t cool, then Alvis Edgar “Buck” Owens was country when country was barely on the map. He died at his home in his beloved Bakersfield, California yesterday at age 76.
We know this is a blog about manufacturing, more or less, but allow us to indulge our occasional passions. Buck was an innovator (as are all manufacturers) and played a fine manufactured instrument, either his Fender Telecaster or his famous red, white and blue Harmony American acoustic. He became known to most for his corny turn as a host (with blazing guitarist Roy Clark) of Hee-Haw, but he had made his musical bones well before then.
From such classic country tunes as “Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms” on one of this first albums, to pairing with contemporary country star Dwight Yoakum on “Streets of Bakersfield” — or any of songs on the 100 or so albums in between — Buck Owens was as right as rain, as true as the arrow flies. The nasally cry in the voice, the heartache that came through every note, he was a giant not only in country music but in music writ large.
Now that country music has become a multi-billion dollar industry, it’s easy to forget that its roots began way before Johnny Cash waked the line. Every country star who has come after Buck Owens owes him a debt of gratitude. He was a groundbreaker and a journeyman all at once. His songs have been covered by many artists and will continue to be as they are timeless.
And so we take a moment to remember a great man, a great musician and a great career. Buck Owens will be imitated, never replaced.
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