country music

Higher than a cat’s back

Music cognoscenti know: Buck Owens was the bee’s knees–in spite of the fact that in his later years, there was a certain clownish aspect to his act. You could make the case that Hee Haw was on the air for a little too long. But in his prime, Buck was one cool country cat.

Here are a couple of clips of the glory years of the Buckaroos, featuring Don Rich, Buck’s guitar man and harmonist (“he sings higher than a cat’s back”). Rich died in a motorcycle crash in 1974, and Buck was never the same.

Rich opened for Elvis at the age of 16, and had a regular gig at Steve’s Gay 90’s Restaurant in South Tacoma when Buck Owens hired him as fiddler. Fender gifted him a Champagne Sparkle Telecaster, and he could really wear a Nudie suit.

That distinctive accent harmony was a defining feature of the Bakersfield Sound. Merle Haggard, who performed in Buck’s band for a while (and who named them the Buckaroos) also made amazing use of it. (Check out the Bonnie Owens part in the studio version of “Today I Started Loving You Again”–alas, I could not find this online.) Merle and Buck had a pretty contentious history together (including sharing a wife, though not simultaneously), so I would not be surprised if they both took credit.

I think of how musically genius these boomtown hicks were, when listening to the New Pornographers’ Adventures in Solitude. That first verse with the spare accent harmonies. Pure Bakersfield.

* While I’m digressing on the subject of criminally overlooked collaborators of the Bakersfield Era, I would recommend a listen to Laura Cantrell’s gorgeous, heartbreaking song about Bonnie Owens:

From the golden age of Nashville sleaze

Conway Twitty, far and away, the biggest horndog country music ever produced. This one is borderline sex offender registry material. But great song, and killer pompadour. Bonus points for the awesome vocal “bum-bum-bums”, and workin’ that salmon leisure suit with white shoes.

RIP Carl Smith, honky tonk hero

RIP Carl Smith, who died Saturday. He wore nice suits, had a killer smile and a gravity-defying pompadour. He played with a first-rate backing band, and his songs had more than a little swagger, sometimes even a smidgen of sleaze. His tuneful voice, in the nasal Hank Williams tradition, could cut through the smoke and noise of any honky-tonk.

He-eey-ey Joe — Come On Let’s Be Buddy Duddies
Show Me You’re My Palsie Walsie
Introduce That Pretty Little Chick To Me
Hey Joe — Quit That Waitin’ Hesitatin’
Let Me At Her What’s The Matter
You’re As Slow As Any Joe Can Be

The Essential Carl Smith would be a perfect choice for a long drive across a flat state, and should feature prominently on the jukebox in the dive bar in heaven.

He was a dude, and he abides.

more about “Carl Smith – 1960’s – Hey Joe“, posted with vodpod
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