Buck Owens, Bonnie Owens, and Merle Haggard continue to be revered for their role in the country music history of Bakersfield, California. This panel discussion—held November 12, 2012, in conjunction with the 2012 – 2014 exhibition “The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country”— explores the personal life and parenting approach of these iconic figures.
Guests include Alan Edgar “Buddy” Owens and Michael Owens (sons of Buck and Bonnie Owens), John Owens (son of Buck Owens and his second wife, Phyllis), and Mel Owens Jr. (Buck Owens’s nephew). They discuss their ancestors’ paths to Bakersfield and how Buck Owens (1929 – 2006) and Bonnie Owens (1929 – 2006) became musical collaborators and romantic partners.
Buddy and Michael Owens say they rarely saw their father as they grew up, due to his constant touring and recording schedule. However, when Buck bought a ranch after significant career success, he became more involved in the lives of his sons and his nephew (who lived at the ranch for a time in his early teenage years). They fondly remember playing football and riding horses with Buck.
The conversation turns to Bonnie Owens, who “always had the best attitude going through life,” Michael says. She married Merle Haggard after divorcing Buck Owens. Buddy recalls that Haggard introduced him to the music of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson. Michael reminisces about how Haggard would keep him out of school to go fishing together.
Later in the program, Buddy, who performs under the name Buddy Alan, explains how he settled on his stage name and describes the performance that made him want to become an entertainer. Buddy adds that he’s still performing fifteen to sixteen weekends a year with the Buckaroos at the Crystal Palace in Bakersfield.
Michael speaks about his father’s diverse business interests, particularly in the radio industry. The panelists also weigh in on the influence of Buck’s sister, Dorothy Owens, on the family’s extensive business portfolio as well as their own career development. Michael takes a moment to reflect on his father’s friendship with Dwight Yoakam, while John Owens talks about the formation of his band, Buck Shot.
The event concludes with a four-song set by Buddy Alan, including “Stop the World” (recorded by Bonnie Owens), “Think of Me” (recorded by Buck Owens), “Love’s Gonna Live Here” (written and recorded by Buck Owens), and “Streets of Bakersfield” (recorded by Buck Owens, and later as a duet with Owens and Dwight Yoakam).
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