Born 12 August 1929 in Sherman, Texas,
Died 25 March 2006 in Bakersfield, California.
In 1951 Buck and his wife, Bonnie Owens, moved to Bakersfield, California, where Dust Bowl refugees had ended their trip west. From 1951 to 1958 Buck played at the Blackboard, the center of the vibrant Bakersfield music scene. As lead guitar player and singer for the house band led by Bill Woods (2), Buck played anything to get folks dancing, including country, R&B, rockabilly, rhumbas, polkas, and even sambas.
He also took advantage of Bakersfield’s proximity to Los Angeles to play sessions at Capitol Studios, establishing himself as a session guitarist for artists such as Tommy Collins and Gene Vincent. He made a few singles for local labels, and even recorded a rockabilly single, “Hot Dog,” for Pep in 1956, which was released under the name “Corky Jones” so that Buck’s country credibility would not suffer. Capitol producer Ken Nelson (2) signed Owens to Capitol in 1957. Two years later, “Second Fiddle” became Owens’s first chart record.
During a period he spent in the Seattle area in the late fifties, Buck struck up a musical relationship and personal friendship with a young fiddler, Don Rich. Their partnership was crucial in Buck’s career, and Rich stayed with Owens as musician, guitarist, and leader of Buck’s band, The Buckaroos, until his death in 1974.
Owens’s first #1 hit, which began a string of six years in which he had at least one #1 and usually had three, was “Act Naturally” in 1963, later covered by the The Beatles. Following this, Owens hit the top again and again with songs such as the ballad “Together Again” (#1, 1964), “I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail” (#1, 1965), “Think of Me” (#1, 1966), and “Sam’s Place” (#1, 1967).
Unlike most other artists during the heyday of the Nashville Sound, Owens would virtually always record with his road band, giving his records both a distinctive sound and a live feel. From 1963 to 1967, during the peak of Owens’s commercial and artistic career, Owens and Rich were joined by pedal steel player Tom Brumley, drummer Willie Cantu, and bassist Doyle Holly on all of Owens’s records and on the Buckaroos’ own marginally successful releases on Capitol. While Nelson nominally produced his sessions, Owens would shape and control the band’s sound and songs. These factors, and Owens’s desire to keep the same winning song and arrangement formula, helped to create the conditions for his signature style based upon simple storylines, infectious choruses, twangy electric guitar, an insistent rhythm supplied by a drum track placed forward in the mix, and high two-part harmonies featuring Owens and Rich.
In the '70s, was seen with Roy Clark on the country music themed television show, "Hee Haw"
Owens also invested in radio stations throughout the Southwest, and with his manager Jack McFadden established his own management and booking agency that handled a number of artists.
He was coaxed out of retirement in 1988 by Dwight Yoakam, who helped him return to the top of the charts with the duet “Streets of Bakersfield” (written by Homer Joy). Two new albums followed—Hot Dog! (1988) and Act Naturally (1989), the latter including a duet with Ringo Starr on the title track.