In 1972, Buck Owens released “Streets of Bakersfield”. He had a total of 20 number 1 country music hits from 1963 to 1974. It was expected that the first release of “Streets of Bakersfield” would not do well. However, after 16 years, the rising musician Dwight Yoakam got in touch with Buck Owens for the re-recording of the said track. It surged to the top of the Billboard Country Music charts—1st for Yoakam, 21st for Owens.
Buck Owens intended to leave the spotlight when he retired in 1980, but Yoakam was able to spark interest in Buck’s music. Dwight Yoakam was strongly moving forward on the field of country music. His hero was none other than Buck Owens. In interviews and on the concert stage, Yoakam talked about Buck more than himself most of the time. Dwight even dedicated his first album to Owens.
The first time I heard “Streets of Bakersfield” was when you did it as a duet. Did you ever consider including a solo version on this record? I never considered that for a minute. I would never have that song any other way in my life except with him. It’s one of the reasons I never re-recorded any of Buck’s material when he was alive and never thought I would. I felt like Buck’s versions are too good, and I wouldn’t want to touch them. I wouldn’t want to, in any way, disrespect his right to own them completely.
In January of 1988, Owens including Merle Haggard was invited to be part of a Country Music Association’s 20th anniversary television special saluting the Bakersfield sound. When Haggard retired, Owens asked if he could substitute Yoakam and the producers agreed. The CMA requested a kind of song about the town often referred to as “Nashville West.” Buck remembered that he had one, “Streets of Bakersfield”, on his 1973 album. The song perfectly fitted the request.
Homer Joy of Arkansas, an aspiring songwriter, wrote “Streets of Bakersfield” after moving there to do business with Owens. Meanwhile, he composed the song while walking the streets of the city.