Bakersfield Buck

While Buck Owens didn’t invent the “Bakersfield sound,” the Texas-born guitar-picker took the twang of California’s Central Valley out into the country-music repertoire. He didn’t like to talk about his personal life, and there’s some discrepancy as to how many times he was married. It was certainly more than the American average, because he liked women. Bunches of ’em. His fear of poverty led him to invest in radio stations and real estate, and darned if he didn’t wind up rich. He wasn’t a nice man, but he had a profound effect on country music, whether it was with his Buckaroos or as Roy Clark’s grinning sidekick on Hee Haw. Eileen Sisk’s biography is technically “unauthorized”—after cooperating at first, Owens backed out, apparently worried that he wouldn’t look good. Sisk has details—sometimes overwhelming—that tell us how he went from Texas transplant to Bakersfield’s favorite son.