They're gonna put me in the Movies

When i was a kid i wrote Buck Owens a letter asking that, when he died, could i please have his red, white and blue guitar?  

Buck Owens, in case you don't know, was a country music singer and the co-host of Hee Haw alongside Roy Clark.  Although mostly known for the Hee Haw gig, Owens actually had a very successful music career.  He pioneered an un-Nashville-ified, stripped down style of production that came to be known as The Bakersfield Sound and had 21 number one hits.  If you don't know any of the other stuff i'm talking about here then you probably don't know any of the hits either, with the possible exception of the song Act Naturally, made famous by The Beatles. 

I'm playing my favorite gig at Dunleavey's tonight...well, not quite as favorite as it once was 'cause Roger's gone, but still it's a fun gig...and i wanted to go in and do a couple of Owens tunes.  Act Naturally, of course, is something of a gimme, so i may avoid that one, but Together Again is a fun song to sing and is an easy one for imitating Owen's peculiar arching vocal style and head-dipping affectation.  (If you watch him perform it's almost as if he were searching for the pitch by raising and lowering his head.)  I might do Under Your Spell Again, but the groove seems to be eluding me on that one.  Tiger by the Tail is a fer sure.  

In preparation for this i've been sitting and singing the songs this week and listening and playing along to the actual tracks with Buck.  I've also, as is my wont, looked him up on the internet to find out more about him as a person.  Obviously, you can look him up as easily as me, so i won't tell you anymore than i've already done here, but instead, i want to tell you a couple of quotes--both of them concerning death--i found interesting in a Wikipedia entry about him.  

The first one concerns his long time friend and guitarist Don Rich, whose death Owens evidently never really got over.  (Rich died in a motorcycle accident in 1974 at the age of 32) In the late 1990s Owens said: "He was like a brother, a son and a best friend.  Something I never said before, maybe I couldn't, but I think my music life ended when he did. Oh yeah, I carried on and I existed, but the real joy and love, the real lightning and thunder is gone forever."  

I think that's really touching that a man--especially in macho-laden country music--would say something so tender about another man.  Of course, at the same time,  Owens could hardly deny the terrible effect Rich's death had had on him, since it was nearly twenty-five years before Owens returned to recording.  I don't know the full story of course, but it seems unfortunate that it evidently took him nearly that long to publicly say how he felt about Rich.

Okay that's one.  Here's number two:   

Owens retired from Hee Haw in 1986.  From that point on he lived in his home town of Bakersfield, California and performed at a nightclub he owned there.  On the evening of March 25th, 2006, Owens had dinner at the club, but said he wasn't feeling well and wasn't going to perform that night.  Evidently there was a couple there who'd come all the way from Oregon to hear him play and Buck decided to do the show saying , "if somebody's gonna come all that way, I'm gonna do the show and give it my best shot.  I might groan and squeak, but I'll see what i can do."  He died in his sleep later that night. 

Quote number two comes from Jim Shaw, Owen's longtime spokesperson.  In an interview following Owen's death he told the Los Angeles Times: 
"So, he had his favorite meal, played a show and died in his sleep.  We thought, that's not too bad."  
No. That's not too bad.  

And yes, i'm still waiting on that guitar.  

1 comment:

Quiche said...

I'll sing harmony with you to Tiger By the Tail if you need back up (: I actually posted a video of it last week or so on Facebook. He was fabulous!
I hope you get the guitar!