Born in 1929 and raised on a Texas farm, Alvis Edgar Owens declared to his family when he was three years old that his name was Buck. Since then, that officially became his name. Before becoming the infamous Buck Owens, the young lad taught himself how to play music and sing songs. This would ultimately lead him to enter the music industry and eventually introduce Buck Owens and the Buckaroos to an audience that would be swept away with a multitude of hit singles that began in the mid-1950s.
At eight years old, Buck Owens and his family moved to Mesa, Arizona, where he discovered classrooms weren’t nearly as interesting as performing in plays and singing music. It already seemed the destiny of Buck Owens was shaping up to see the young man become one of the most beloved entertainers fans and critics of the music industry has ever known.
Before becoming a top-rated country star, Owens performed at local venues, and also worked as a truck driver. While on the road, he discovered he had a real liking for Bakersfield, which became the home he shared with wife at the time in 1951. Bakersfield has been featured in a number of songs performed by Buck Owens throughout his musical career.
In 1958, he met with Don Rich, who became an instrumental figure in his life, both personally and professionally, as his best friend. When he was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1974, Owens felt like he lost his own brother. The devastation was severe enough that he never truly recovered from the experience emotionally.
However, life had to go on, which Buck Owens did what only Buck Owens could do, which is write songs about it. So influential was his music that scores of musical artists covered his material in their own recordings. When he was diagnosed with oral cancer in the 1990s, this served as a blow to him and his fans. Although he did recover from that, he continued to be plagued with one health issue after another. It finally seemed to take enough toll on Buck Owens as he passed away at his Bakersfield ranch on March 25, 2006, just a few short hours after what became his final club performance.
Starting from 1956, Buck Owens has recorded and released a total of thirty-six studio albums, seventeen compilation albums, nine live albums, five collaborative albums, and two Christmas albums. He also has ninety-seven singles to his credit where twenty-one of them have been number one hits.
Top 10 Buck Owens Songs
#10 – Big in Vegas
This daring to dream big country classic, “Big in Vegas,” was a number one hit on RPM Canada’s Country Singles chart and a number five hit on the US Billboard Country Songs chart in 1969. Despite his mother’s pleas for him to stay home, the narrative behind Buck Owens’ vocals featured a young man struggling to make a big name for himself in Las Vegas, Nevada.
#9 – Hot Dog
In 1956, before Buck Owens became a big name on the music scene, he recorded and released the single, “Hot Dog.” However, he released it under the pseudonym of Corky Jones. Written and performed like a rockabilly song, Owens stretched his musical talent, tapping into genres outside his normal comfort zone of country music. The single was released through an independent label and performed extremely well on the local music scene. The single was re-released in 1988, Hot Dog was re-recorded and released by Capitol Records, which then became a number forty-six hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
#8 – Made in Japan
In 1972, “Made in Japan” became yet another number one hit for Buck Owens as it reached number one on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and RPM Canada’s Country Singles chart. It also peaked as high as number seventeen on Australia’s Kent Music Report. For Owens, this would be the final number-one single to his credit as a solo artist, but he made it count with a great mix of Oriental influence meeting country music in a manner only Buck Owens could pull off.
#7 – Together Again
Buck Owens was credited for having the best steel guitar solo performances, which contributed to the popularity behind the single, “Together Again.” It was featured on the B-side of his 1964 recording, which featured My Heart Skips a Beat on its A-side. These two songs competed against each other for seven weeks as the number one song charted on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Jerry Garcia of Grateful Dead fame, directly credited Buck Owens, his guitar play, and this song for inspiring him to learn the instrument. He, along with a multitude of other artists over the years, have their own cover versions to Together Again that still remain as a favorite track to this day.
#6 – My Heart Skips a Beat
In 1964, on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, “My Heart Skips a Beat” becomes the third straight occasion Buck Owens would realize a number one country music hit. It was also the first time he would see a crossover hit appear within the US Billboard Hot 100 as it charted at number ninety-four. Of the seven weeks it spent at the top of the chart, it was competing for that spot with another one of Buck Owens’ singles, Together Again, which was featured on the B-side of the record this single was recorded on.
#5 – Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass
1969’s single, “Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass,” was a number one hit single on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for Buck Owens. The fuzzy, growly country classic featured Owens reminding his love interest of all the favors he does for her as the man in her life and doing so without complaint. Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass was also a number one hit on the RPM Canada Country Singles chart.
#4 – I Don’t Care (Just as Long as You Love Me)
The fourth number one hit in a row for Buck Owens was “I Don’t Care (Just as Long as You Love Me),” which was released in 1964 as a country single. While it topped the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for the fourth consecutive time, it was the first time it realized chart success on RPM Canada’s Country Singles chart, which also saw its peak at number one. I Don’t Care also became the second crossover hit for Buck Owens on the US Billboard Hot 100 when it charted at number ninety-two. The carefree attitude of this poppy country classic, from start to finish, made it an easy favorite, both for music fans and the critics.
#3 – Streets of Bakersfield (featuring Dwight Yoakam)
In 1988, Dwight Yoakam teamed up with Buck Owens to record and release “Streets of Bakersfield,” which became a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and RPM Canada’s Country Singles chart. The original song actually came from Buck Owens and the Buckaroos when it was recorded in 1972. The narrative revolved around an incident that occurred in Bakersfield, California that served as an inspiration to write this country blues song and have it recorded. Sixteen years later, Dwight Yoakam teamed with Buck Owens for the two to perform the single together, which ironically, became the first number one hit credited to Owens since 1972.
#2 – Act Naturally
The first number one hit for Buck Owens was “Act Naturally,” which earned that honor on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Originally, the song came from Johnny Russell in 1961, which Owens first made famous in 1963 with his recording. For Russell, his attempt to have the song recorded was turned down repeatedly until handing over the publishing rights of the song to Buck Owens. Russell was told the song wasn’t hit material, which Owens managed to prove wrong, much to Russell’s delight. The Beatles recorded the song and released it on there album Help in 1965. Ringo Starr sang lead vocals on the song.
“Act Naturally,” became a hit the second time in 1989 when Buck Owens and Ringo Starr sang it together as a duet. This time, the song reached number twenty-seven on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and number fifty on RPM Canada’s Country Singles chart.
#1 – I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail
In December 1964, “I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail” was released as a single that would become the signature song for Buck Owens. The inspiration behind the song came while at an Esso gas station when the company’s slogan was “Put a tiger in your tank.” On the Billboard Hot 100, this quippy single became a number twenty-five hit, which was the first and only occasion he realized a top forty hit on that chart. As for the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail became the fifth straight occasion to become a chart-topper. On the Canadian RPM Top Singles chart, the single peaked as high as number twelve.
Top 10 Buck Owens Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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