Buck Owens: 1929-2006
I know we don't usually do country on this blog, but Saturday I got the very sad news that Buck Owens passed away at age 76. Another of the good ones gone. I even remember as a child how "Hee Haw" used to be one of our Saturday night stables at our house. There he'd be pickin' his red, white and blue guitar to Roy's grinnin' and thumpin' away on the banjo. Sure, the show was corny as it could be, but it was also a lot of fun and gave some good exposure to a lot of top country stars of the period.
But "Hee Haw" shouldn't obscure Owens' real achievements: 20 #1 hits on the country chart and most of all, that Bakersfield sound that always gave his records an extra dose of snap. It should also be noted that Owens thought very highly of the Beatles and also dipped into rock 'n' roll whenever the feeling was right. Witness his thoughtful cover of The Drifters' "Save The Last Dance For Me" and maybe you'll get the feeling that Owens wasn't just your average country star.
You may think that "Johnny B. Goode" was a strange choice for him and the Buckaroos to cover, and it certainly seemed that way to me when I found this in someone's 50-cent box last weekend. But a little research opens up the fact that this was one of Buck's 20 #1 country chart toppers. It was recorded live at the London Palladium and it shows Buck and the boys getting down to business right away with as raucous a verision as a country group can get. It sounds like they're having a good time right from the get-go and the audience gets the rousing opening song it deserves, complete with a crackerjack Don Rich solo to seal the deal. (At least that's the way it sounds here, as the record opens with "And now, let's give a warm London Palladium welcome country-style for the world's number one country artist, Buck Owens and the Buckaroos!" True words, those be.)
What else can I say? Maybe it's not the most stellar Buck Owens selection I could've picked, but it still captures the good-time essence of Owens and his Buckaroos quite nicely. But again, it's only one facet of the man's rich music career. Rather than try and fail miserably to wax poetic, let's just close with "RIP, Buck. You will be greatly missed."