Buck Owens, ladies and gentlemen. Give him a big hand.
I have a love/hate relationship with country music. I can't abide the contemporary Nashville variety; aerobics instructors all duded up in Stetson hats, playing arena rock with a twang for all the people who couldn't get enough of .38 Special and REO Speedwagon thirty years ago. But I surely love the classic stuff. Give me George Jones, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline, and Hank Williams, and I'm a very happy man. And yessir, buckaroos, Buck Owens.
Buck came out of Bakersfield, same as Merle, and created the best honky-tonk music on the planet, all weeping pedal steel and rumbling Fender Telecaster. It sounded great pumping out of a truckstop jukebox, and it sounds great fofty-five years down the line. It's unfortunate that Buck is best known as resident buffoon on the long-running cornball variety hour "Hee Haw." He was a country music giant, and he understood, in the same way that the great blues masters understood, that singing about your sorrows can actually make people feel good:
Hello trouble, come on in
You talk about heartaches, where in the world you been?
I ain't had the miseries since you been gone
Hello trouble, trouble, trouble, welcome home.
He had a thousand of 'em like that, cliched little ditties that still struck a nerve because they were funny and wry and true. You can find his best music compiled on the 3-CD The Buck Owens Collection (1959-1990). Some of you will wonder if you actually need 3 CDs of this music. Yes, you do. A one-volume greatest hits collection doesn't get at the breadth and scope of the man's greatness. And make no mistake. He was great for thirty years.