Buck Owens dies at the age of 76

By Julie Salguero & Katherine J. White
April 4, 2006
Filed under News

Alvis Owens Jr. was just 3 or 4 years old when he walked into his parents’ house one day saying he wanted to be called “Buck,” after the mule on his parents’ farm.

The name stuck as he became well-known in the country-music arena.

Buck Owens died March 25 after decades of performing country music.

Owens’ family reported that he died in his sleep at his home in Bakersfield and that the cause of death was from heart failure.

According to Robert Martinez, Bakersfield College music instructor, “What he (Buck) did for American music was make it popular internationally as a country artist.”

Martinez recalled that Owens, who owned the Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, assisted the BC band by loaning his “Silver Dollar Buck Mobile” for a BC field show.

In 1994, as part of the 80th graduation class, Owens received an honorary associate of arts degree in music and business from BC along with a standing ovation.

According to family, Owens was born to sharecroppers Aug. 12, 1929, in Sherman, Texas. The Owens family moved to Phoenix in 1937, seeking an improved life. The family eventually settled in Bakersfield in 1951. It was in Bakersfield, the family said, that Owens’ musical interests manifested.

Owens’ biography says that Buck became a vital member of a local honky-tonk band, Bill Woods and The Orange Blossom Playboys, performing frequently at the infamous Blackboard nightclub. Biographers state that Owens began to play a Fender Telecaster guitar, which introduced a revolutionary sound in country music.

In the 1950s, Owens began recording for Capital Records; however, by 1957, although a bandleader of the Buckaroos, his band had produced no verifiable hits.

During this particular time frame, his biographers report, Buck distinguished himself as a broadcaster. He relocated to Puyallup, Wash., a suburb of Tacoma, buying part-interest in a radio station. At this station, Owens worked as a DJ and a salesman, in addition to performing music in the area. Biographers state that at this time he had a live TV show in Tacoma.

After his broadcasting stint, Owens savored his first Top 10 record, “Under Your Spell Again,” which was released in 1959.

In 1960, Owens let go of his broadcasting interests in Washington, and he returned to Bakersfield. From 1962 to 1968, Owens produced a string of No. 1 records. He had 42 singles in the Top 10 country strata, with 20 at No. 1 between 1962 and 1972. He also added to his fame with his long-running television show, “Hee Haw.”

Owens is survived by seven grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews, including Mel Owens, the general manager of Buck Owens Productions.

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