Buck Owens is synonymous with the Bakersfield sound of country music that also gave rise to the Maddox brothers and Rose, Tommy Collins, Ferlin Husky and in later years Merle Haggard.
Owens’ earliest recordings for independent labels in Southern California — ahead of his lucrative career on Capitol Records in the ’60s and ’70s — have been collected on Buck Owens — Bound for Bakersfield 1953-1956: The Complete Pre-Capitol Collection, scheduled for release on September 27 on RockBeat Records through e0ne Entertainment. The suggested retail price is $14.98.
The 24-song reissue opens with selections from his first known session in 1953 in Hollywood, which produced two singles (“Down on the Corner of Love” b/w “It Don’t Show on Me” and “The House Down the Block” b/w “Right After the Dance”) on Claude Caviness’ Pico Rivera-based Pep Records. It closes with a 1956 Bakersfield session that produced singles on Chesterfield Records and an album on La Brea Records. Included are previously unreleased alternate takes including an overdubbed version of “Hot Dog.”
Liner notes for Bound for Bakersfield were written by Rich Kienzle, a music historian with special expertise in West Coast country. RockBeat VP or A&R James Austin and Jim Shaw of Buck Owens’ Buckaroos compiled the collection.
According to Kienzle’s notes, “Buck Owens was 21 when he rolled into Bakersfield from Phoenix in May, 1951, a part-time musician and laborer who had his eye on a musical career. It would take some time. There were lessons to be learned and dues to be paid. But in the final analysis, the Buck of legend, of the raw honky-tonk vocals, catchy commercial tunes, twangy Fender Telecasters and churning, aggressive ‘freight train’ rhythms was forged in Bakersfield's honky tonks and recording studios there and in L.A. from 1951 to 1957.”
Owens is best known for his later Capitol Records hits like “Tiger by the Tail,” “Foolin’ Around” and “Act Naturally.” But his ’50s pre-Capitol recordings find him working in a honky tonk milieu (except for the rockabilly tracks such as the 1957 single “Hot Dog”). One can hear early flashes of the distinctive sound he'd perfect at Capitol, the sound that made him famous.
With his indie singles earning him both regional recognition and buzz from A&R departments at both Capitol and Columbia Records, Owens passed on New York’s Columbia (whose producer told Owens to “hold on” until he could come to the West Coast) in favor of Hollywood-based Capitol Records, which made him an offer on the spot. Owens was known to Capitol from his work on sessions by one of the originators of the Bakersfield sound, Tommy Collins. Buck’s own first Capitol session in 1957 aimed for a pop-rock audience, trying, as he later said, “to make the biggest hillbilly in Bakersfield into somethin’ he wasn’t.” In 1959, he was recorded as his true, honky-tonking self, with great success.
Kienzle notes, “Buck Owens was always known for his spot-on instincts. Clearly, his expectation that he’d have no recording career beyond Pep and the odd demo or two was a rare miscalculation. These raw, primal performances, blended with hundreds of hours onstage at the Blackboard (club in Bakersfield), were essentially part of a long rehearsal for the fame that came soon enough.”
1. Blue Love (with Studio Chatter) (1953)
2. Down on the Corner of Love (Alternate Take) (1953)
3. Down on the Corner of Love (1953)
4. It Don’t Show On Me (Alternate Take) (1953)
5. It Don’t Show on Me (1953)
6. The House Down the Block (Alternate take) (1953)
7. The House Down the Block (1953)
8. Right After the Dance (Alternate Take) (1953)
9. Right After the Dance (1953)
10. Hot Dog (1955)
11. Hot Dog (Overdubbed Single) (1955)
12. Rhythm & Booze
13. There Goes My Love (Alternate Take) (1956)
14. There Goes My Love (1956)
15. Sweethearts in Heaven (Alternate Take) (1956)
16. Sweethearts in Heaven (1956)
17. Honeysuckle (1956)
18. Country Girl (Leavin’ Dirty Tracks) (1956)
19. You’re Fer Me (1956)
20. Blue Love (1956)
21. Please Don’t Take Her From Me (1956)
22. Three Dimension Love (1956)
23. Why Don’t My Mommy Wanna Stay with Daddy & Me? (1956)
24. I’m Gonna Blow (1956)