Buck Owens & The Buckaroos – First of 3 Remastered Reissues // Sweet Rosie Jones / I’ve Got You On My Mind Again / Tall Dark Stranger
What we have here is a country-western artist in the tradition of Sonny James, Marty Robbins, & not Tex Ritter. Yes, a veteran of Hee-Haw (co-hosted with guitar/banjo expert Roy Clark 1966-86) that was country music’s answer to the highly successful Laugh-In comedy series. And though he didn’t write his hit song “Act Naturally,” it must have been the Buck Owens’ hit version (#1 – 1963) The Beatles heard & gave to Ringo — & had a hit as well. So much for country music being hokey when The Beatles cover you. (Right, Buddy Rich)?
The late Buck Owens (Alvis Edgar Owens, Jr.) was Sherman, Texas-born, Bakersfield, CA raised. A genuine country singer (scored 21 #1 Country Hits in a 61-year career). Comfortable with outlaws like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, & Merle Haggard but was wholly his own man. He wasn’t as highly polished & sophisticated as the late Jim Reeves but then, no one was. But I feel it was Buck Owens who was the shining tempered steel link between Reeves & the Outlaw country singers that followed.
Buck did earn his spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996 & The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He was country music royalty.
This 1st of 3 reissues of 9 remastered CDs from the original analog tapes are scheduled to drop Aug 6 (Omnivore) beginning with the 1968 12-cut, 29-minute Sweet Rosie Jones.
Buck Owens was a superb singer-songwriter/musician with an exquisite band that made music that was always well-produced & most importantly consistent. His 3rd Capitol LP produced originally by Ken Nelson charted #2 with Buck (vocals/guitar), Don Rich (guitar/fiddle/harmony), Doyle Holly (guitar), Tom Brumley (steel guitar/dobro), Bob Morris (bass), Jerry Wiggins (drums/tambourine), & Willie Cantu (drums/tambourine). With additional guitars by Jelly Sanders, Jimmy Bryant, Wayne Wilson & piano by Earl Poole Ball, bass by Bert Dodson. The Jordanaires (from Elvis) & Anita Kerr Singers also contribute.
This first reissue opens with a rocking piano & sturdy crisp drums on “Hello Happiness, Goodbye Loneliness.” You hear the enthusiasm instantly by this “new” singer who was embraced by the country establishment. “If I Had Three Wishes,” is a little more novelty-oriented but it’s attractive with solid playing by the Buckaroos. These are not hayseeds. A good arrangement & unique vocalizing by Buck (a little more country-Southern accentuations) is applied to “How Long Will My Baby Be Gone.” A Spanish-flavored melody imbued with percussive handclapping.
“Leave Me Something To Remember You By,” is a beautiful sincere country ballad. “The Girl On Sugar Pie Lane,” continues with an “Act Naturally,” melodic drive. This is delightful with no socially redeeming value except that it makes listeners feel good. And that’s what country music is about. After listening to these songs, Buck’s tonality & phrasing, I came away feeling the late singer-songwriters Townes van Zandt & Gram Parsons would’ve sung well with Buck Owens. It’s a shame they never met. https://omnivorerecordings.com/shop/sweet-rosie-jones/
Later in ‘68, Ken Nelson produced the 29-minute I’ve Got You On My Mind Again. This charted #5, with 12-cuts that included original songs & 2 duets with Buck’s son Buddy Alan (guitar). Same musicians as Sweet Rosie with the addition of Red Wooten (bass), Walter Rowe (cello), Hyman Davidson (viola), Billy Armstrong, Chuck Adnell & Hixon Boranian (violins), & Kate Warren, Billy Wright (fiddles).
Track 3 “Don’t Let True Love Slip Away,” “I Want To Be Wild & Free,” is so Gram Parsons in spirit with the acoustic guitar picking I strongly believe Gram was influenced stylistically by songs like this. In an assessment of records Parsons held in high regard Buck Owens’ Greatest Hits Vol 1 & 2 were indeed among them. These would’ve been great songs for Parsons & Owens to have sung together.
“Alabama, Louisiana, Or Maybe Tennessee” rocks on this LP. It’s sturdy, with zeal & ambitiously performed – these are exceptional country pickers & piano thumpers who have mastered their craft. I was never a country music aficionado in the late 60s but that’s only because as a kid I never heard Buck Owens do songs like this. This bursts with classy country potency. Could even kick today’s country music’s ass & covered in 2005 by The Supersuckers.
Finally, “I Ain’t Gonna Be Treated This A Way,” is another aggressive well-written contemporary tune for its era. Owens knew what he was doing. It’s possible his constant appearances on Hee- Haw may have diminished his reputation among more serious country fans who didn’t understand his correlation between good time country music versus the high quality of his albums. What’s funny too is that on the cover of this LP Owens appeared more businessman-like in a suit & tie.
In Sept. ‘69 another Nelson produced 29-minute LP Tall Dark Stranger charted #2. Same musicians with the addition of Susan Raye (duet vocal), Jim Hager (backing vocals), & Al Bruneau (guitar).
Curiously, the last song is the wonderful Mike Settle song “But You Know I Love You.” Recorded the same year by Kenny Rogers & the First Edition. Years later (1980) Dolly Parton did it again. http://omnivorerecordings.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Owens-Tall-Dark-Stranger-OV-435-600×600.jpg
“Across This Town and Gone,” is short & sweet. This has stylistic range, expressive lyrics, vivid drums, well-articulated singing, & spare strings that kept it from becoming too buttery. This is what excellent country music sounds like.
“…so, I’ll just hit the road a-crying low, I’ll walk so fast you’ll never know,
I’m cryin’ and dyin’ – before one teardrop hits the ground — I’ll be halfway across this town and gone.”
I wish Elvis had covered this fine Buck Owns masterpiece. This LP is filled with memorable tunes. “Maybe If I Close My Eyes (It Will Go Away).” Owens vocals are pristine. Never too much corn pone or silliness. Maybe that’s what made Owens the legend he was without being part of The Outlaws (Cash, Nelson, Jennings & Kristofferson). He didn’t need it. “Sing That Kind of Song,” is another jewel. This is so good it could’ve been rearranged into a jazz standard.
Maybe the late sax legend Charlie Parker knew something other jazz musicians didn’t when he went off alone to listen to country songs. This song is more evidence of the versatile purity of country music in the hands of a master – Buck Owens.
The songs on the newly issued Omnivore CDs are remastered & will sound far superior to the samples posted here. There are 2 more 3-CD sets to be reissued with the next Aug. 27th – 3 CDs from 1970. The reissue CDs were produced by Cheryl Pawelski. Available @ http://omnivorerecordings.com/buck-owens/
Color photo of Buck (2005) courtesy of Sandra Romanini Tilbury / Buck Owens Production Co., Inc. B&W Photo of Buck Owens live courtesy of Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.