Correction to This Article
The March 26 obituary of Buck Owens listed an incorrect first name for his first wife, Bonnie Campbell Owens.

Buck Owens; Singer and 'Hee Haw' Star

By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 26, 2006

Buck Owens, 76, one of country music's leading stars and a host of the long-running television variety show "Hee Haw," died March 25 at his home in Bakersfield, Calif.

He died in his sleep, and the cause was not immediately known. He was treated for cancer in 1993 and pneumonia in 1997, but in recent years he had been in good health and performed regularly at his Bakersfield nightclub.

By blending rock-and-roll rhythms with country harmonies, Mr. Owens created the distinctive "Bakersfield sound," which propelled him to enormous success. Between 1959 and 1974, he had 45 songs in the country Top 10 and 20 No. 1 hits, including "Act Naturally" (1963), "Love's Gonna Live Here" (1963), "Together Again" (1964), "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail" (1964) and "Waitin' in Your Welfare Line" (1966).

He was unquestionably the leading country music star of the 1960s, annually selling more than 1 million records. He performed more than 300 nights a year and appeared at Carnegie Hall and the White House. In the mid-1960s, he had 15 consecutive No. 1 country hits. As a patriotic gesture in the late 1960s, he began to perform with a red-white-and-blue guitar, which became a signature.

From 1969 to 1986, Mr. Owens and Roy Clark were the hosts of "Hee Haw," a comedy and country music program that was hugely popular in rural America. He had a syndicated television series, "Buck Owens' Ranch Show," from 1966 to 1972.

Except for his weekly "Hee Haw" appearances, Mr. Owens stopped performing in 1979 to focus on his varied business enterprises, which were concentrated in Bakersfield and Arizona, the state where he spent an impoverished childhood.

His career had a late resurgence after a Bakersfield country star of a younger generation, Dwight Yoakam, walked into Mr. Owens's office on Sept. 23, 1987, and asked him to join him onstage that night at a county fair. The response was enthusiastic, and he collaborated with Yoakam the following year on "Streets of Bakersfield," which became Mr. Owens's 21st No. 1 hit.

He recorded several new albums, his earlier works were reissued and he found fresh acclaim as an elder statesman who refused to compromise the roughhewn roadhouse feel of his music.

"If it's country, I want it honky-tonk," he once said. "I'm a honky-tonker."

Alvis Edgar Owens Jr. was born Aug. 12, 1929, in Sherman, Tex., where his father was a sharecropper. To escape the Dust Bowl, 10 family members piled into a Ford sedan in 1937 and headed west, stopping in Mesa, Ariz., where their car broke down.

Mr. Owens quit school at 13 to work in cotton and potato fields and later was a truck driver and ditch digger.

"That was where my dream began to take hold," he said, "of not having to pick cotton and potatoes and not having to be uncomfortable, too hot or too cold."


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