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Buck Owens, RIP

By the time I came along, Buck Owens was primarily known as the grinning hayseed with the red-white-and-blue guitar who told corny jokes on Hee Haw. When I was growing up, my family dismissed him as an untalented joke, so I never really bothered to investigate his earlier music career.

It was only years later, through the music of the people he inspired, like Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakam, and Ringo Starr, that I took a fresh look at Buck Owens. His "Bakersfield sound," characterized by distinctive harmonies and twanging steel guitars, was instantly familiar to me. It had always been there in the background, part of the soundtrack to the very earliest years of my life, even though I'd never been able to put a name to it.

I've got a few Buck Owens CDs on my shelf, and I'll give 'em a spin maybe once a year or so. While he may not rank among the highest deities of my musical pantheon, it's always a bummer to see yet another piece of one's childhood slip away.

For those unfamiliar with Buck's music, I can't really think of a better introduction than his 1988 duet with Dwight Yoakam, "The Streets of Bakersfield."