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Book Review: ‘Buck ‘Em!: The Autobiography of Buck Owens’ by Buck Owens and Randy Poe

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During the 1990s Buck Owens spent nearly 100 hours recording his life story on cassette tapes. Randy Poe sorted through all those tapes and put the stories in chronological order, but insists that he added very few words to Owens’ story. First of all, I admit that I found it very disconcerting to read an autobiography this conversational in tone from a man who has been dead since 2006, but that did not stop me from enjoying it thoroughly.Certainly, the tone is very consistent and always sounds like the man himself is telling the story.

Owens had a phenomenal memory and here he recounts tales from early childhood moving around with his family as “Okies” during the 1930s. His very poor childhood left his mark and the book makes it clear that Owens always appreciated money and was an astute businessman. But it also makes it clear that money was never more important than the music or the fans. During the 60’s he and his Buckaroos toured constantly and Owens had a string of 20 #1 hits in a row, establishing the “Bakersfield Sound” that has influeced so many country musicians from Merle Haggard to Dwight Yoakum to Brad Paisley. In the 70’s millions of viewers became acquainted with him as the co-host of Hee-Haw, one of the most popular and long-running television variety shows ever.

This book feels as though you are sitting across the table with Owens listening to him tell his stories. He comes across as shrewd, charming, professional, hard-working and likeable even though he is far from perfect. He was a rebel who never played by Nashville’s rules, a man determines to make music for himself and his fans, and a man who made a profound influence on the music forever. This is a great chance to get to know the man he was. What Poe has allowed Owens to do here is to achieve a real sort of immortality, reaching out to old fans and new ones from beyond the grave in a vital and completely engaging way. Buck ‘em is recommended to anyone with an interest in country music or American music history in general.

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About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, and Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.