In the '50s throughout the '70s,The San Joaquin Valley city with a population of just over 300,000 served as the Western counterpart to Nashville.
This little city produced such stars as Buck Owens & The Buckaroos, Merle Haggard, and the Maddox Brothers & Rose. Owens and Haggard both topped the country charts for decades while still holding on to their Central California roots.
Omnivore recently started digging a little deeper and found two unreleased albums from the Buckaroos camp: Buck Owens’ Honky Tonk Man and Don Rich Sings George Jones. Both CDs are set for release January 23, 2013.
Buck Owens' rare 18 track Honky Tonk Man, is made up of material that he recorded at his Bakersfield studio for the rural hit comedy TV series Hee Haw in the early '70s. This album is a tutorial on the history of country music, from “In the Jailhouse Now,” a song first popularized by Jimmie Rodgers in 1928, to “Rednecks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer,” a hit for Johnny Russell in 1973.
The CD’s title track, “Honky Tonk Man,” is a song that was first popularized by Johnny Horton in 1956. Dwight Yoakam, an avowed Bakersfield Sound disciple, picked it up thirty years later and made it even a bigger hit.
Most of the songs Owens did for Hee Haw were originall recorded by his biggest influences: Bob Willis & His Texas Playboys’ “Stay a Little Longer”; Hank Williams’ “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It,” “Jambalaya” and “Hey Good Lookin’”; Hank Snow’s “I’m Moving On”; and Jack Guthrie’s “Oklahoma Hills.” Owens also nodded to fellow Bakersfield Sound stalwart Merle Haggard on “Swinging Doors.”
Don Rich was a guitarist, fiddler, and vocalist that appeared on nearly all Buck Owens' records. Don Rich Sings George Jones is one of the most rare country music discoveries in decades.
It is the only solo album ever recorded by Don Rich and it has been sitting in Owens’ tape vault — unreleased and long forgotten — until now.
Fellow Buckaroo Jim Shaw recalls, “Buck went to Don and said, ‘Why don’t you do an album of George Jones covers?’ I suspect Buck thought, ‘That’s a good commercial way to go. George Jones has a huge pile of hits to choose from.’”
As to why the album languished in the tape vault for over 40 years, since Owens and Rich are both gone (Rich died in a 1974 motorcycle accident while leaving the Bakersfield studio), there’s no one to provide the answer. But Jim Shaw points out that Rich wouldn’t have bothered to remind anybody about the recording: “Don didn’t have a lot of ambition to be a solo artist. He just wanted to read books about military airplanes and ride his motorcycle.”
The album features such Jones hits as “A Girl I Used To Know,” “White Lightning” and the fittingly Bakersfield-esque “The Race Is On.” In addition are four never-before-released George Jones covers by Buck himself: “The Race is On,” “Four-O-Thirty Three,” “Root Beer” and “Too Much Water.”
For more information visit Omnivore Recordings