Sunday, March 26, 2006

RIP BUCK OWENS

One of the good things about being dumped at our Auntie Ann’s for a Saturday overnight, when my family lived in Lotus Land, was that she let us stay up late. Which meant we could watch the Spade Cooley Show. Spade was a cowboy fiddler, actor, and bandleader who had a popular locally produced TV show.

At that time (’56-’57-’58) rock and roll was still emerging as a distinct style. There was rockabilly, R&B, boogie-woogie and rock and roll all mixed together. And it showed up on Spade Cooley’s show. I mostly remember the rockabilly.

Spade’s is a common tragic flameout story. He’s a James Elroy icon, for being part of the unsavory pill-popping heyday of Hollywood Babylon, but mostly because old Spade stomped his wife to death in front of his fourteen year old daughter--out at his place in the desert, where he landed after boozing knocked him off TV.

According to web sources, Spade Cooley was an exemplar of western swing. It sounds like western big-band with some of Spike Jones thrown in. Check out some SAMPLES.

Today we honor the long career and happy life of Buck Owens. Buck was a giant of country and western music with such hits as Act Naturally, Save the Last Dance for Me, Tiger by the Tail, and my favorite Under the Influence of Love. Unlike Spade, Buck Owens continued to entertain well into his seventies

Buck Owens went his own way. He didn’t do Nashville, he did Bakersfield. Now that’s walking the walk. Situated in the rich farmland of the San Joaquin Valley, Bakersfield is a big old mountain away from LA. And there’s nothing at all glamorous about it. There Buck built a music hall/restaurant called the Crystal Palace, where he and the Buckeroos performed regularly. A nice lady in the office goes there twice a year. She says it’s a relaxed, y’all come down kind of place, good food, affordable, and, you get to see Buck Owens. But, no more.

Buck Owen’s twangy style came to be known as the Bakersfield Sound. The idea that Bakersfield could have its own sound is kind of a joke, but not to Buck’s millions of fans. He uses a lot of steel guitar, which I love. There’s a great steel guitar solo in the snippet of Under the Influence of Love on the SAMPLES page of the Crystal Palace’s website. Then click through to more Buck-iana.

Way to go, Buck Owens!


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4 comments:

sfmike said...

I love the Buck Owens (and Spade Cooley!) biographies.

When I was a teenage hitchhiker all over hill and dale in California back in the late 1960s/early 1970s, the scariest shithole I got stuck in was Bakersfield, surpassed only by Ridgecrest not far away in the Mojave Desert next to the Naval Air Weapons Range.

Your comment, "Buck Owens went his own way. He didn’t do Nashville, he did Bakersfield. Now that’s walking the walk." couldn't be more convincing. That man was autentico!

Also loved your poem. More, please.

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