Country-music innovator Buck Owens, who sold more than 16 million albums and popularized country entertainment on television as host of "Hee Haw," died on Saturday at age 76.
Owens died of heart failure at his home near Bakersfield, a California city he helped put on the country-music map, his keyboard player Jim Shaw said. Owens performed the night before at his club, "Buck Owens' Crystal Palace" for about 90 minutes, Shaw said.
"He was one of the true innovators; he did it his own way, an outside gunslinger type who used his own band and made music in Hollywood rather than Nashville. That free spirit made him important to a lot of people," Shaw said.
My brother just sent me "The Buck Owens Pledge, which appeared as a paid ad in Music City News back in March, 1965:
I Shall Sing No Song That Is Not A Country Song.
I Shall Make No Record That Is Not A Country Record.
I Refuse To be Known As Anything But A Country Singer.
I Am Proud To be Associated With Country Music.
Country Music And Country Music Fans Made Me What I Am Today.
And I Shall Not Forget It.
Buck will get a proper tribute from me next Friday on the Santa Fe Opry.
God, I loved his music!
Here's my review last year of The Buck Owens Ranch Show DVDs
UPDATE: (Sunday morning) This piece by Peter Cooper of The Tennessean is a much better tribute to Buck. I'm glad I'm not the only one who was pissed off by all the headlines that emphasized Buck's role in Hee Haw.
ONE MORE UPDATE: (Later Sunday Morning) Here's a good radio tribute to Buck on NPR's Sunday Weekend Edition. I like how Buck describes "The Bakersfield Sound" as "A mix of Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys and Little Richard."