A Buck Owens & His Band’s Signature Song

Released on December 28, 1964, “I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail” was recorded and made popular by Buck Owens and The Buckaroos. Owens co-wrote it with country music songwriter Harlan Howard while Ken Nelson produced it for Capitol Records. This two-minute song showcases of the Bakersfield sound, a genre of country music developed in the 1950s around Bakersfield, California. In addition, the song became known as one of Buck Owens’ signature songs along with “Crying Time,” “Together Again,” and “Streets of Bakersfield.”

Furthermore, “I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail” was a top hit for Owens and his band. It placed no. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles while no. 25 on the Hot 100 chart in 1965. The song became their sixth no. 1 hit entering on the Billboard country charts. Additionally, “I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail” also penetrated the Canadian charts. To note, it went to the no. 12 spot on the RPM Top Singles.

The Story Behind the Song

Many fans would wonder how Owens and his fellow songwriter, Harlan Howard, came up with such song. In the liner notes of Owens entitled The Buck Owens Collection: 1959-1990, he revealed the reason behind writing it. As he and Howard met up together to pen songs, Owens realized that things have been going slowly. All of a sudden, he sighted an Esso gas station sign with its slogan that reads,

“Put a tiger in your tank.”

And, that’s where he got the idea. Since a tiger is a fast land animal and he feels that everything that they do is going slowly, he incorporated the animal in the song.

Also, the phrase I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail is actually an idiom in the English language that means:

“to have become associated with something powerful and potentially dangerous; to have a very difficult problem to solve.”

(As defined by The Free Dictionary by Farlex)

For most of his performances, Owens always sang this song with Don Rich, the leader of the Buckaroos. As a matter of fact, Rich is regarded to be the most loyal member of the band. Likened as a hand and glove, the two shared much of the stage. They were an amazing duo and have amazed their audiences. In an interview, Owens recalled that their voices, combined together, make more than the sum of their parts. Unfortunately, he passed away at an early age, 32, from a motor accident.

WATCH: Buck Owens and The Buckaroos perform “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail” at the Ranch Show on March 15, 1966.

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