Buck Owens – box set
First of all, this is not a history lesson on Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. For that and many other wonderful things, check out the Buck Owens box set on Rhino Records. What follows is merely an attempt to spread the word on what might have been the baddest band of their time. To wit: The Beatles made sure the Buckaroos records were sent to them immediately upon release. And Owens once took a full page ad in a country journal to promise to only play strict country music only to have his next release be a balls-out version of Chuck Berry’s Memphis!
The Buckaroos, led by Owens right-hand man, guitarist Don Rich, were pure Bakersfield lightning. Rich would throw out guitar lines that no one was used to hearing and ended up influencing every hip player in his wake. Rich would continue to dazzle crowds with Owens band until his tragic death in a motorcycle accident in 1976. After Rich died, Owens lost much of his desire to record and tour.
Unfortunately, many people only know him as the smiling host of Hee-Haw, which is a pity. Owens seemed to view it as a steady gig, and maybe it kept his mind off of Richs loss. During his TV tenure, Buck released next to nothing; country trends seemingly had passed him by.
For his time, Owens was an astute businessman. He made sure he owned all his master tapes and rights. He let all his catalog go out of print, figuring he would just wait till the time was right again. That time is now. Aside from the indispensable Rhino box, the Sundazed label has licensed master tapes directly from Owens and has begun an extensive reissue program of his catalog, including extra tracks on all the releases. Every one of these is worth having, as they all have qualities long lost in country music: consistency, great songs, and individualistic over-the-top playing.
The production was really a marvel for its time. Buck thought the guitars should sound like they were jumping out of the AM car speakers that most people were listening on. He succeeded in a big way. The dueling guitars of Rich and Owens spring forth onto the wide-open road, blazing in their telecaster glory. The production seems modern to a point that I don’t hear anything in todays sounds that sounds as clear or as urgent. These things were made to take home and weep or run around your house to.
There have been many desciples of Bucks Bakersfield sound in the past ten years, most notably Dwight Yoakum and David Ball. To their credit, they have come up with some fine moments, but they have yet to equal the sheer hotness and overall playability of many years of Owens releases. The current reissues give you a chance to hear how fresh and vibrant this music sounds today. You may have heard these songs before, but damn if they dont sound better right about now.