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Before Hee Haw, Buck Owens was the man from Bakersfield.

Music Review: Buck Owens – Bound For Bakersfield 1953-1956: The Complete Pre-Capital Collection

Many people today remember Buck Owens as the co-host and star of the long running television show Hee Haw, which ran from 1969-1992, although he left the series during 1986 after 18 seasons with the show.

During the 1960s, while signed to the Capital label, he was one of the superstars of country music. He had 20 number one singles, including 14 in a row for the label, and 12 albums that reached the top of the country charts.

Buck Owens, 1929-2006, moved to Bakersfield, California, at the age of 21 after spending his formative years growing up in Texas and Arizona. Bakersfield had been a hotbed of west coast country music during the 1940s but the sound would eventually become associated with Owens. While he used traditional country instruments, such as a fiddle and pedal steel guitar, and sang with a twang, he also incorporated elements of rock ‘n’ roll into his music, creating a fusion that was unique at the time and influential in the evolution of country music.

Bound For Bakersfield 1953-1956: The Complete Pre-Capital Collection is, as the title suggests, a collection of his early career tracks from his pre-superstardom years. Much of the material had been released in the past on the 2001 album, Young Buck: The Pre-Capital Recordings. If you don’t have that release and are a Buck Owens and/or country fan, then this latest release would be a good and interesting purchase.

As with many famous music artists, Owens began his career recording for a number of small labels. His releases on the Pep, Chesterfield, and La Brea labels were raw, sparse, loud, short, and interesting, and after receiving little commercial success, they quickly disappeared. Now these singles, alternate takes, and tracks from his album The Fabulous Country Sound Of Buck Owens are waiting to be re-discovered.

His first solo recording from 1953, the demo of “Blue Love,” is included. He explored rockabilly with the driving “Hot Dog” and the quirky “Rhythm and Booze.” The first was a little too close to a rock sound, so to mislead his small but growing fan base, he released the song under the pseudonym “Corky Jones.”

His album for the La Brea label showed that his music was evolving. The rhythms contained on “Honeysuckle” would form the basis of many of his future songs. “Country Girl (Leaving Dirty Tracks)” and “Why Don’t My Mommy Stay With My Daddy” were ballads that would have fit in fine with his later work.

Today, Buck Owens is safely enshrined in the Country Music Hall Of Fame. During his career he produced dozens of albums and almost 100 singles. While the music contained on Bound For Bakersfield 1953-1956 may not have the polish or sophistication of his later output, they still are very listenable for any fan of country music as they catch one of country music’s superstars in the formative stages of his career.

About David Bowling

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