Country Music Hall of Fame member Buck Owens helped shape the sound of country music. The long string of chart-topping Buck Owens songs epitomizes the Bakersfield sound, providing a stand-in to the flourishing, string-heavy sound that once heavily influenced Nashville.
Of course, he led the genre’s way to TV on the long-running Hee Haw, which led viewers through a medley of country music and hayseed humor for nearly two decades.
Today, we’re going to remember Buck Owens‘ legacy with these facts you might not have known yet.
1. He’s a native of Sherman, Texas, United States.
Born Alvis Edgar Owens Jr. on August 12, 1929, the country legend spent his early childhood years picking cotton.
2. He named himself Buck at age three.
One day, Owens announced to his family that his name was Buck. He became Buck from then on! Buck was actually a donkey on the Owens farm.
3. He’s a self-taught musician.
When Owens got his first electric steel guitar, he learned to play it by himself with the help of his father’s old radio adapted into an amplifier. Eventually, he added mandolin, horns, and drums to his repertoire.
4. He started his career in radio at a young age.
When he was 14, Owens co-hosted a radio show with Theryl Ray Britten called Buck and Britt. The duo would play at local bars until they later became the resident musicians at a Phoenix bar called the Romo Buffet.
5. He became a truck driver.
In the late 1940s, Owen worked as a truck driver, and his job took him through the San Joaquin Valley of California, where the town of Bakersfield, California, caught his attention and affection.
6. He got married at the young age of 19.
In 1948, Owens married his first wife, Bonnie Campbell, and settled in Bakersfield, California, with their two sons. However, their marriage ended up in a divorce just a few years later. Owens married three more times throughout his career, but all marriages also led to separation. One of his three sons, Buddy Alan, followed in his footsteps and had a few country-music hits in the 1970s.
7. He’s a savvy investor.
Owens saw his fortune grow – thanks to real estate and a radio station he had acquired throughout the years. In 1966, he also opened Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace, a restaurant and concert venue that later became a landmark in Bakersfield.
8. He died in his sleep.
On March 25, 2006, country fans mourned the death of Owens, who died in his sleep from a heart attack. He had been slated to perform at the Crystal Palace earlier that night but decided to cancel after feeling unwell. However, he met some fans on his way out, who said they drove all the way from Oregon just to see him perform that night. Owens swiftly returned to do the show.
Truly, there are only a few who can match Buck Owens. His career was one of the most astounding in the genre.