If you’re a fan of Buck Owens and/or country music, you’ll want this book. Enjoy an excerpt and find out how you can win a copy of Buck ‘Em! The Autobiography of Buck Owens.
The following is an excerpt of Buck ‘Em: The Autobiography of Buck Owens by Buck Owens with Randy Poe, publishing be Backbeat Books, an imprint of Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group. Reprinted here with permission of the publisher.
The Buck Owens Sound
I got signed to Capitol Records in 1957. By that time, I’d been playing in bars and honky-tonks for over a decade. When I signed that contract with Capitol, I thought, “Man, this is it! After all these years workin’ my ass off in all those dark, smoky clubs and taverns, I’ve finally got it made.” Well, it didn’t take very long for me to find out just how wrong I was.
Things got off to a really bad start because my first few singles didn’t even hit the bottom of the charts. On those early records, the producer had insisted on including all these damn background vocals—lots of guys and gals singing “oohs” and “aahs” under my stone country vocals. It sounded ridiculous. As a matter of fact, those singles came out sounding a whole lot like the kind of stuff they were recording in Nashville back in those days—and the last thing I wanted was for my records to sound like those pop-country things they were doing down there.
The next time I went into the studio, the producer let me do things my own way, which turned out to be a pretty good idea since we ended up having a little success with a song I wrote called “Second Fiddle.” The record came and went pretty fast, but it made it to No. 24 on the charts—high enough for Capitol to want me to keep recording for ’em.
At the next session, I cut a song called “Under Your Spell Again.” We had a Top Five hit with that one, and all of a sudden things were starting to look pretty good for ol’ Buck.
When “Under Your Spell Again” hit the charts, I was living up around Tacoma, Washington. After those early singles had flopped, I’d left Bakersfield and gone up there to work at a radio station, and to play in a band with a fellow by the name of Dusty Rhodes. A few months after I moved to Washington, Dusty found the band a teenaged fiddle player named Donald Eugene Ulrich. Since nobody knew how to pronounce his last name right, I did him a favor and changed his name to Don Rich.
While “Under Your Spell Again” was still going strong, I got a call from Capitol to hurry up and come down and make another record. It was just before Christmas of 1959. I decided to take Don to the studio to play fiddle for me on the four songs I planned to cut.
Dusty Rhodes didn’t play on my records, but he’d co-written one of the songs I was going to be doing on the session, so he volunteered to drive me and Don to Los Angeles in his ’57 Cadillac.
It’s over a thousand miles from Tacoma to LA, so we were doing anything we could to keep from being bored out of our minds. At some point after we’d crossed into California, I started singing “Above and Beyond”—one of the songs we were going to record. As I was singing the song, Dusty said, “Hey, Don, why don’t you sing along with him?”
So there we were—riding along in this big ol’ Cadillac—with me in the front seat playing the guitar, Don sitting in the back seat, and Dusty driving. I started to sing the song again, and Don started singing right along with me. I couldn’t believe my ears. Our voices blended and matched perfectly. Somehow, he knew exactly the way I was going to sing every word. He came in at exactly the right times. If I slurred a word, he slurred the same word in harmony with me. He had the greatest ability to anticipate that I’d ever heard in my life. I swear to you, somehow he could tell—even that very first time we sang together— what I was going to sing and how I was going to sing it.
Now, a lot of folks talk about this thing called the Bakersfield Sound, and a lot of ’em seem to think they know exactly who and how and when it all started. The problem is, everybody’s got their own definition of what the Bakersfield Sound is. Your definition might be different from mine, so I’m not going to try to tell you when the Bakersfield Sound started—but I can tell you exactly where and when the Buck Owens Sound started. The Buck Owens Sound kicked in right before Christmas of 1959, in a 1957 Cadillac, on a long, lonely stretch of California highway. But I didn’t create it alone. Don Rich was as much a part of that sound as I was.
When me and Don finished singing “Above and Beyond,” I knew right then and there that I had found the sound I’d been searching for. I knew “Above and Beyond” was going to be a hit. I knew Don was going to be my musical partner for life. I knew that the two of us would be having hit records together for years to come. And believe me, we did. From 1960 to 1974, hardly a week went by that we weren’t on the charts. And during that time, twenty of those singles went all the way to number one.
Then—in the blink of an eye—it was all over.
The Buck Owens Sound ended just the way it began—on a long, lonely stretch of California highway.
BackBeat Books has been gracious enough to give me one copy of the book to give away to one of you great readers. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment with your favorite Buck Owens song or memory. A winner will be randomly selected from those entries and announced on Wednesday, Nov. 13. Good luck!