Buck Owens and the Buckeroos were very much country. But, as my story illustrates, they weren't ever part of the Nashville machine that produced increasingly clinically clean music. The Buckeroos were the leaders of a very different sound. A honky tonk sound that brought in rock-n-roll and pop elements with flawless two-part harmonies, stunningly catchy melodies, and jaw-dropping Telecaster work. The country sound they created became known as the Bakersfield Sound, so named for the dirty California town the Buckeroos called home. And that sound (also preached by fellow Bakersfield musician, Merle Haggard) would become wildly popular despite it's arm's-length distance from Nashville. Starting in 1963, the Buckeroos reached the #1 spot on the country charts with Act Naturally, (do click on that link just to see the heavy lady eating chicken during the song!) a song The Beatles would cover just the next year. Before it was all done, the band would go on to have an impressive 20 #1 hits on the country charts. Buck's clean and compelling voice had a lot to do with that success. But the band had a lot to do with it as well. Buck Owens and the Buckeroos were a singular cohesive unit until 1971, when bassist and vocalist Doyle Holly departed. Tom Brumley laid down some juicy pedal steel. And no real music fan, or guitarist, would forget to mention the powerful work of Buckeroo guitarist Don Rich. Rich was just important to the Buckeroos as was Buck. Rich's guitar work is nothing less than groundbreaking with deep, fast, melodic Telecaster work that would come to signify the Bakersfield sound more than anything else. And his vocal ability rivaled Buck's and complimented Buck's as this video of him taking the lead on Wham Bam demonstrates. In fact the two built a musical synergy that made each other greater. The brilliant guitarist, Buck Owens often demurring to the guitar work of Don Rich and the more than capable vocalist, Rich, complimenting Owens' lead vocals with his own falsetto vocals. To point, the two musicians were so integral to the total sound that the two shared center stage at all time, often sharing the same microphone. All this can be seen in this great live performance of My Heart Skips A Beat as introduced by Jimmy Dean.
Don Rich passed away in 1974 in an auto accident and the Buckeroos were never the same. Our Song of the Week is one of the last song's Rich ever recorded with the Buckeroos. The song, written by Homer Joy in 1972 is about life in the dirty cattle and oil town of Bakersfield California. The Song is The Streets of Bakersfield. In it Rich beautifully compliments Owens' vocals with pitch-perfect harmonies. The pianist lays down a great bass-heavy backbone to the song (listen at 1:27 as the piano moves to the fore) and Brumley decorates the song with beautiful fills. But the real beauty of the song is Rich's Spanish influenced guitar riff (doubled by Brumley) which gives the song it's distinctive, south of the border feel. I hope you enjoy Buck Owens and the Buckeroo's Streets of Bakersfield. If you like it, there are about 50 more of their songs that you will like just as much.