There is no denying that Dwight Yoakam is one of those few country music artists who has clung to the original roots of country and the traditional honky tonk sound. In the 1980s, as his contemporaries dominated the charts with their country-pop music, Yoakam stuck with his original sound.
Back in his time, Nashville has become predominantly oriented toward “urban pop cowboy.” Yoakam’s brand of hip honky tonk music, however, was never considered marketable. Despite this, he pushed through with his style and continued to polish and stay true to all of country music’s traditions. Soon enough, he emerged victoriously and was eventually accepted by country music audience.
The “Honky Tonk Man” Is Born
Born on October 23, 1956, in Kentucky, Dwight David Yoakam spent his childhood in the state of Ohio. At the age of six, he learned how to play the guitar. Also, he used to listen to his mother’s record collection. This molded his interest in the traditional country of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. In addition, he got interested in the Bakersfield honky tonk of Buck Owens.
In high school, Yoakam joined various bands where he played everything including country and rock & roll music. After high school, he attended Ohio State University but decided to drop out. With hopes of pursuing a good career in music, he then moved to Nashville in the late ‘70s.
Yoakam’s Music Career
By the time he stepped foot in Nashville, the place was filled with the popularity of the pop-oriented urban cowboy movement. Hence, there was then no interest in Yoakam’s updated honky tonk sound.
While he was on the verge of losing his hope of gaining back people’s interest in his music, he met Pete Anderson. Interestingly, Anderson shared a similar taste in music with him. The two then collaborated and moved out to Los Angeles, where they had a more appreciative audience than they did have in Nashville.
While in L.A., Yoakam and Anderson did not just play in country clubs, but also in nightclubs where punk and rock bands play. What Yoakam noticed was the similar musical influences with the rock bands he encountered.
His Movement of Going Back to the Original Country Sound
Yoakam has been very vocal of his distaste to the polished music coming out of Nashville. Rather, his stripped-down and direct revivalism seemed radical to many. However, the “cowpunks” that attended Yoakam’s shows extended their full support for his budding career.
In 1984, Yoakam released an independent EP called A Town South of Bakersfield. Interestingly, it received substantial airplay in Los Angeles. This led and helped him have a contract with Reprise Records.
Two years later, he released his full-length debut album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. It received a massive success and became an instant sensation. Many music critics praised it, earning an opportunity to have airplay on college stations across America.
His first single on the album, “Honky Tonk Man,” was a cover from Johnny Horton’s hit. Eventually, it clinched the third spot while his other single, “Guitars, Cadillacs,” took the fourth spot.
Check out Dwight Yoakam’s “Honky Tonk Man”
and his “Guitars, Cadillacs:”
With success he earned from his debut album and his songs, country music fans finally turned their ears to him. His music has revived the true honky tonk and traditional country sound with a modern twist on it. Whatever Dwight Yoakam sings, he will always be a true icon and a legend of country music.
Dwight Yoakam, Guitars Cadillacs, honky-tonk man