Buck Owens intended to give up the performing life altogether when he retired in 1980. However, Yoakam ignited an interest in Buck’s music. Yoakam was making strong headway on the country music scene. And, his hero was none other than Buck Owens. In interviews and on the concert stage, Yoakam spent more time talking about Buck than he did about himself. Dwight even dedicated his first album to Owens.
In 1987, Yoakam appeared unannounced at Owen’s office in Bakersfield, California and persuaded Owens to perform with him onstage. In Owens’ long career, he never joined anyone, nor ever been accompanied on stage by any other singers. However, it was different in Yoakam’s case. Owens felt very comfortable with him.
In January 1988, Owens (along with Merle Haggard) was invited to be part of a Country Music Association 20th anniversary television special saluting the Bakersfield sound. When Haggard bowed out, Owens asked if he could substitute Yoakam and the producers agreed. The CMA requested some sort of song about the town often referred to as “Nashville West.” Buck remembered an old track called “Streets Of Bakersfield” from a 1973 album of his. The song fits the bill perfectly.
Story of the song
Homer Joy, an aspiring songwriter from Arkansas, wrote “Streets Of Bakersfield” after heading out there to directly pitch songs to Owens. It took Joy ten days just to get past the secretary. In the interim, he composed the song while walking the city’s streets.
After performing it on the CMA show, Yoakam and Owens sang “Streets Of Bakersfield” again at the Academy of Country Music Awards telecast. Several prominent deejays around the country taped the performance and began playing the cut on their radio stations. As a result, Dwight and Buck recorded a studio version of the tune, which was placed on Yoakam’s “Buenas Noches From A Lonely Room” album. Later released as a single, “Streets of Bakersfield” debuted on Billboard’s country chart July 16, 1988, and reached #1 on October 15th, racking up Owens’ twenty-first chart-topper and Yoakam’s first.