Good God, Buck Owens Was An Asshole!

If you read his new biography, you'll think so too.

By Lucy McGuigan
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 42 | Posted Aug. 24, 2010

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Young Buck: Shortly after this photo was taken, Owens slept with four women and stiffed his band.

Oh, yay! It’s another edition of Fake Can Be Just As Good, wherein we read a newly released music bio and give you the highlights so you can fake your way through a conversation about it or impress dinner guests or what have you. This week we’re taking a peek inside Buck Owens: The Biography, by Eileen Sisk, and it’s quite a meaty slab (400 pages), exposing for bare the best-selling, prolific country artist who could never quite overcome the hillbilly bumpkin image he forged on Hee Haw. Buck Owens, while infinitely engaging and smartly articulated, is a juicy tell-all dripping with tabloid-style sensationalism, and peppered with contemporary colloquialisms like “sextracirricular activities.” As a result, it’s cheapened in parts, but there’s no doubt Sisk knows her subject: you damn near need a pen and paper to jot down notes to keep up. She does an excellent job of presenting her subject as a callous asshole, and while such a strategy shows her commitment to honest reporting, it will undoubtedly polarize both her readership and fans of the dearly departed country icon. Here’s the Buck Owens tale of the tape.

*Owens was born Alvis Edgar Owens Jr., weighing five pounds at birth and possessing only one functioning kidney.

*Buck was a nickname Owens adopted for himself when, at the age of 2, he insisted on sharing a moniker with the family mule.

*Buck had “emotional incest” with his mother, according to the national promotion director of Buck Owens Enterprises, and as a child often tried to protect her from the abuse of her husband.

*Owens had “brain fever” (which might have been meningitis) around the age of 10; when he was released from the hospital, he couldn’t remember the ABCs.

*Buck possessed perfect pitch. His mother Macie would play a game that consisted of her playing a note on the piano and Buck identifying it.

*The country singer started smoking and engaging in sexual activity at the age of 13.

*Much of the story of Buck Owens’ early years may have been fabricated. He provided his record label with biographical information that was later discredited by his own mother.

*Buck’s first child was born in 1946, when the musician was only 16.

*Owens married for a second time at age 18, to a yodeler named Bonnie who bore him two children. They divorced a few years after, and then reunited as band mates. Bonnie later married Merle Haggard, who was one of Buck’s major musical rivals.

*Buck started his professional career as a guitarist at The Blackboard in Bakersfield, Calif. The owners of the club either asked or forced him to take over singing when Billy Mize quit the house band, the Orange Blossom Playboys.

*According to Buck’s manager Jack McFadden, Owens was married at least seven times, though Buck himself has only ever verified three of those marriages.

*In 1956, Buck released two songs under the pseudonym Corky Jones. The songs had a rockabilly feel, and Owens didn’t want to risk the repudiation of his country fans.

*After he moved to Washington state, Buck bought one-third of the radio station KAYE, and served as a disc jockey, media buyer and ad salesman.

*In Tacoma, Buck judged two talent contests, both won by Loretta Lynn, who had not yet begun singing professionally.

*Buck’s fiddle player (and later, guitarist) Don Rich joined the band in 1958; the young musician was only 16. He used fake IDs to get into most of the clubs where the band played. At 18, he used his fake to get married.

*When Don and Buck toured as a duo, they paid their backing musicians in bread, bologna and water.

*Dorothy Owens, Buck’s sister and the business manager of Buck Owens Enterprises, is an out-of-the-closet lesbian. Her nickname: “Uncle Dorothy.”

*Following the release of 1963’s “Act Naturally,” Buck had 15 consecutive No. 1 hits on the Billboard country chart.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 42 of 42
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1. Jerry said... on Mar 22, 2011 at 04:15PM

“Jerry:
Looks like Buck was something else.
Bill”

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2. Alex said... on Apr 25, 2011 at 01:34AM

“The book was a true wall thrower, attempts at cornpone down home-isms which rang really hollow. But it is pretty clear Owens was a tool.”

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3. fiddler said... on Dec 11, 2011 at 02:50PM

“I guess you should never find out about your heroes. Very disappointing. One correction on page 223...it's "Kaw-Liga" not "Elijah."”

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4. Anonymous said... on Feb 10, 2012 at 08:50PM

“yea but he wrote and sang 40 years of great music so what about his personal life is yours pure white”

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5. Anonymous said... on Feb 19, 2012 at 05:07PM

“for all the negatives that are out there about the man and I have some things that pissed me off as well, he di do a lot of good in the community, he gave everyone in the band jobs somewhere in his empire when he quite touring, he gave donations to many organizations under different names. The asshole part is also true. He spoke bad about a band I was in playing locally and we were really not his kind of music but his comments were pretty bad. Then he could be the complete opposite. He saw my grandmother outside his window with a flat tire, he came out and changed it for her when he could have had one of his minions do it.”

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6. Anonymous said... on Jun 12, 2012 at 10:22PM

“Biographies can be written about people, but it doesn't mean that everything that is written is gospel. That's why some of the biographies are UNAUTHORIZED, because the subject of the book didn't authorize for the author to write it. I can write bad things about my husband, but it doesn't mean it's true. So before you start burning the man (Buck) at the stake, take what you read with a grain of salt. I myself will continue to think that Buck was a good man with good music that I really enjoyed.”

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7. anonymous said... on Jun 19, 2012 at 07:37PM

“I don't know where the author got her information, but she either had a lot of bad resources or just wanted to fabricate much of the stories for $$$. I am not a country music fan, but I do know that this icon had been blessed with many musical gifts. Let's not always look for the bad in a person, for surely we will find it in all of us.

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8. Katrina said... on Jun 30, 2012 at 03:40PM

“I don't believe any of that hogwash that was written about Buck Owens. I have admired him since I was a kid and a teen in the 90's and now as an adult I admire him even more. Buck wasn't anything like what you wrote! Buck was a good man!”

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9. Carl said... on Jul 8, 2012 at 07:40PM

“You're right Katrina. Buck was a talented entertainer and a good man. Why anyone would write such trash is beyond me.”

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10. strawman said... on Sep 30, 2012 at 11:16PM

“I worked as a carpenter on Jack McFadden's home in Modesto. He told me that Buck was a real hound dog and screwed everything in sight. He was especially fond of the 'mile high club' and would try to screw every 'stewardess' on every flight.... Just sayin”

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11. Anonymous said... on Oct 29, 2012 at 03:42PM

“Do not believe everything you read in this book. I have known the Owens family for almost 40 years and most of this is a lie...not all, but most of it. Eileen S. never even tried to interview anyone other than Buck at his place of business nor any of the current Buckaroos and when she interviewed with Buck, he did not see her as the author of his biography. So I think it is sour grapes on her part as well as sour grapes of most of the people she interviewed since she only interviewed disgruntled people. I know that huge portions of this are flat out lies.”

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12. Sandy said... on Dec 13, 2012 at 12:18AM

“This story is so not true!!!!!!! I met Buck in the 50s and was his friend until the end-He was the sweetest most caring person in the world-I would love to meet this person-Must been someone that wanted Buck and he said no!There were women who would cut his tires because they wanted a date with him-Soooooooooo many stories I could tell you-”

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13. Anonymous said... on Apr 7, 2013 at 12:35PM

“The first rule of research writing - always use footnotes. While Sisk utilizes numerous primary sources throughout her tabloid flavored offering, she does not alway cite her sources. This is most evident as she makes speculations about group orgies and even hints at homosexual relationships among band members based on word-of-mouth, third-hand sources that bare no name. True, there is a bibliography, but it fails to connect actual sources with their direct contributions. It is apparent that Sisk has an axe to grind with Buck Owens, focusing only on the negative aspects of his relationships and career. Revisionist historians love to find threads and pull at them, putting their new-age spin on history without taking the time to properly cite references. It is a contradictory piece of pulp!”

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14. jack mccall said... on Apr 24, 2013 at 06:02PM

“I first met "buck" when he made an appearance at a small club in Bloomfield, New Mexico. The name of the club was the "Somewhere Club". It was located between Bloomfield and Farmington N.M. I was a fan of "Bucks" for a number of years. My friend Kkn & I were

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15. Anonymous said... on May 29, 2013 at 05:17PM

“Don't believe every thing you hear sometimes people say things that are not true to make them selves sound better then the person there talking about.”

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16. Sandy said... on May 29, 2013 at 08:37PM

“Just got done reading the unauthorized book of Buck Owens the bio. because my sister had it and gave it to me, knowing I was a big fan of buck and the Buckaroos. When Don died I was devastated and he was always the favorite to me. I loved him and the close harmony, his smile and hism talent. This book completely destroyed my image of him and I don't care what Buck did....But I am totally devastated of Don's account o
in this book. Wish I hadn't read it.”

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17. Anonymous said... on Jun 17, 2013 at 07:28AM

“Oh for God's sake. As if all of us are perfect. The ONLY thing that should matter is, when this guy stepped up to the microphone, you KNEW you were in for a C O U N T R Y song, sang and played the way it was meant to be.”

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18. Buck Fan said... on Jun 22, 2013 at 02:46PM

“I'm a huge Buck Owen's fan and I read the book.....my opinion is majority of the stuff in the book is not true about Buck! Yes he admitted he was interested in more than one woman on the Bio channel! But what guy isn't? He was just in a position to where he could talk to many woman! Was it wrong? Well Yeah! He admitted it was wrong! Buck was not this mean nasty cheating people kind of guy! He was a great singer, songwriter, musician , and was very loyal to his fans.
He did what he loved most in life and that was to sing and play for his fans. He is my all time favorite country singer! And he is very good looking too!”

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19. Was There said... on Jul 25, 2013 at 01:16PM

“Chances are, this writer never walked the streets of Bakersfield, well this writer has, up close and personal. Yes' Buck was a very independent and shrewd business man. That is one reason he never moved to Nashville.
Yes, call it "nepotism", Buck was protective and took care of his family.
Yes, Buck, like so many performers of his stature, may have had Bi-Polar tendencies and behavior.. Yes, Buck, by his son's own admissions liked the women.
This man Buck, new poverty as a child and said many times, as if it were a post traumatic stress disorder of childhood, "I know I never want to be poor again, Buck wasn't.
But this legend that you disparage, gave back freely to his community. He was not a simple "country bumpkin" reflecting the best kept secret of the successful from Bakersfield, Buck was rather a complicated individual. And God Bless Dwight Yoakam who came up to Buck's place in B town one day and got Buck out of one of his depressive bouts back up on the stage.”

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20. Squadfather said... on Jul 29, 2013 at 06:02PM

“Buck got more tail than a toilet seat.”

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21. Joe Bartram said... on Oct 30, 2013 at 01:37AM

“Why does anyone in Philadelphia Care about Buck Owens. I thought the book was garbage written by someone whose maturity level is still in high school. Maybe she should do Sally Starr next.”

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22. Onthelam said... on Oct 31, 2013 at 07:19PM

“My Grandfather always said "Where there is smoke, there is fire".
Not saying that Buck Owens & The Buckaroos weren't uterly fantastic, but just because they were(and a HUGE thanks to Don for that, btw)does not mean 'ol Buck was.
It is, what it is.”

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23. Buck Owens' Black Son Tyrone said... on Nov 17, 2013 at 08:33PM

“He never paid my moms no support yo.”

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24. JOHN POTTERF said... on Dec 18, 2013 at 08:10PM

“Buck was a great entertainer and what he done in his private life is none of my business. It sad when Don Rich was killed in a motorcycle accident”

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25. Blossom said... on Jan 2, 2014 at 06:46PM

“I'm sure there's a ton of these types of stories about all of the musicians.. I know several 'stars' that would tell you life in the 70s sucked.

I was PR for a few of them, an believe you me, it was a hard row to hoe. But we're all still alive & none of starved to death.

There's dirt on each an every celebrity every where.. no saints can be born of perfection.”

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26. patsy said... on Mar 15, 2014 at 04:47PM

“This writer is nasty and demeaning, i do not believe a word of it.”

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27. Anonymous said... on Apr 7, 2014 at 12:38PM

“I believe that gossip is gossip. Whether written or spoken. Can't the man and his family have some privacy . Nobody's business but theirs .”

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28. Anon said... on Apr 14, 2014 at 05:21PM

“How about the "girlfriend" from Oregon that dumped her husband to go after the old man?”

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29. Anonymous said... on Apr 24, 2014 at 03:37PM

“I think buck Owens was one of the best entainer of his time,don't care if he screwed 15 different women a day u jeolus and if his band members didn't like there pay they could have left, the woman who wrote the book should be ashamed cause he's not here to defend him self what makes her so special.”

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30. An admirer said... on May 9, 2014 at 08:08AM

“Who said "you won't have ol Buck to kick around no more." This so called biography is just some sorry-ass parasite trying to cash in on a dead man's successful career.

Eight women in one night? Buck is my kind of man!”

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31. ken coates said... on May 30, 2014 at 10:42AM

“I am interested in the post from Jack McCall on April 24, 2013 comment number 14 e-mail me the rest.”

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32. Anonymous said... on May 31, 2014 at 03:48AM

“I remember going to The Big Fresno Barn in California and dancing to his music. I'm wondering if that was a one time thing or if he was there several times. Thanks for your input.”

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33. Anonymous said... on Jun 2, 2014 at 09:33AM

“I only watched Buck's shows on TV and I own many of his old LP albums. As one fan said "ain't none of us perfect!!!!!!!!!!!"”

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34. The Big O said... on Jun 25, 2014 at 10:51AM

“Boys & Girls, Along with the Buckaroos and Don Rich (God Rest his Soul) this Gentleman left us with some absolutely fabulous music, that will outlive us all. History cannot be changed but Buck and the Buckaroos' influence on music is unmistakeable and will no doubt outlive all of us. We live in an age that dissects everything (normally for financial gain) drag the carpet back grab the Mrs and swing her around the dancefloor to this music and smile at the memory of the Man behind it.”

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35. Carl said... on Jul 11, 2014 at 11:43PM

“Buck Owens was a great entertainer who worked hard to be a success. Why someone would want to attack his character after he's dead is beyond me. That takes a pretty low grade individual to do something like that.”

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36. Craig said... on Jul 16, 2014 at 12:25PM

“Regarding Buckaroo pay...I love Buck's music but you have to admit that the instrumentals for his songs are SO simple (part of the beauty) - do you really expect to make a million dollars playing the same snare shuffle every night? Just be happy and enjoy the ride.”

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37. Fran Maddera said... on Aug 6, 2014 at 06:56PM

“I have seen Buck 29 times.Went to Bakersfield a year before he passed away. Went back after he died,visited his grave.Buck was a great singer and a guy.He will be missed.”

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38. Bob Haley said... on Aug 23, 2014 at 05:58PM

“People from a sad past upbringing, can result in insecurity, which Buck was burdened with, He put on a smile ,over sadness always looking and never finding..a Happy Life.”

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39. frankie dee said... on Sep 2, 2014 at 12:21PM

“my band worked with just about all the great artist of the 50's 60's and70's...one person we never worked with was buck...i would of played for free just for the honor of being on the same stage with buck....buck will go down in history as one of the best
frankie di nunzio
hershey,pa.”

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40. Anonymous said... on Sep 22, 2014 at 04:59PM

“Yes I just finished reading this biography about Buck Owens' life and I must
say that if what I read was/is true then he was not all that nice. There is lot of
things that were not very flattering. I often heard that He was often rude in his
business dealings and private life. He was not easy to deal with if you had to
work for him and not very considerate financially with his band members.”

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41. Anonymous said... on Sep 23, 2014 at 11:20AM

“Buck Owens really was an asshole. He treated older people with disrespect, pointing them out and saying cruel things to them. My husband used to work at Baldy's Tavern, near Tacoma, WA, when Buck Owens sang there, and heard him many times disrespect the elders.”

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42. Anonymous said... on Sep 24, 2014 at 10:17PM

“I met Buck Owens in Ottawa Canada back in 1964 when I was 20 years old
it was the first time that I ever saw an entertainer in person in my life and he was very nice he shook my hand and gave me his autograph even though
I was so in awe of the man I never said a word he said "shy are we" I just shook my head and he smiled, Hank Williams jr. was on the same show
I liked him but Buck was my favorite even to this day I have a lot of his songs on karaoke which I sing he will always be remembered by me as the
greatest singer songwriter just like Hank Williams sr. I never pay attention to jealous people who write bad things about entertainers because it is usually a load of bull and horse shit they should eat what they shovel nuf said!”

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