Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens
Picture owned by Benford E. Standley
Alvis Edgar Owens Jr. was born in Sherman, Texas, on August 12, 1929, and at age 3
or 4 nicknamed himself "Buck" after a mule on the family farm. The family moved west
in 1937, settling in Mesa, Ariz., after their trailer hitch broke in Phoenix. Dropping out of
school at 13, he taught himself to play guitar, and by 1951 he had moved to Bakersfield,
Calif., and its thriving country music scene, where he eventually found success.
He was to become a prime architect of the famous Bakersfield Sound of the 1950s and
'60s. His hits, such as "Act Naturally," "Together Again" and "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail,"
topped the Billboard country charts twenty times during the years 1963 to 1972. It was
in these Bakerfield clubs that he developed a trademark style on his Fender Telecaster.
In 1957 Owens got a deal with Capitol Records, and after that deal ended he moved to
Tacoma, Washington to pursue a radio career. While there he met Don Rich, whose
harmony vocals and guitar playing would give Buck a very distinctive sound.
In 1959, Owens hit with a recording of "Second Fiddle" in the Ray Price "shuffle" style.
Later that year the success of "Under Your Spell Again" led Owens to return to Bakersfield
and form a band named the Buckaroos by onetime bass player Merle Haggard.
In 1963 Owens' recording of "Act Naturally" stayed at No. 1 for four weeks and "Love's
Gonna Live Here" spent 16 weeks atop the charts. Owens' recordings regularly topped
the country chart, including "Made in Japan," "My Heart Skips a Beat," "I Don't Care (Just
As Long As You Love Me)," "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail," "Before You Go," "Waitin' in
Your Welfare Line," "Think of Me," "Open Up Your Heart" and "Where Does the Good
From 1969 to 1986 he mastered the television with the syndicated Buck Owens Ranch
Show and as co-host of Hee Haw. He is cited by many of the new generation of country
artists -- particularly Dwight Yoakam, with whom he recorded the 1988 #1 hit "Streets of
Bakersfield" -- as a major influence on their musical styles. This was his 21st No. one
Owens was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996.
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