BUCK OWENS > Act Naturally: The Buck Owens Recordings 1953-1964

In 1964, Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, along with tour mates Jan and Harlan Howard, rolled through the plains of West Texas in search of a song. Buck and Harlan co-wrote while Jan drove, but they couldn’t get anything to stick-until Buck spotted an Esso Gas Station slogan: “Put a Tiger In Your Tank.”Label: Bear Family
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In 1964, Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, along with tour mates Jan and Harlan Howard, rolled through the plains of West Texas in search of a song. Buck and Harlan co-wrote while Jan drove, but they couldn’t get anything to stick-until Buck spotted an Esso Gas Station slogan: “Put a Tiger In Your Tank.”
That had already inspired a Willie Dixon song that Muddy Waters recorded four years earlier, so Buck submitted “Tiger By the Tail” to Harlan. “I was up front strummin’ the guitar and Jan was drivin’,” Buck recalled in the mini-biography that comes with this extensive 5-CD box set. “Harlan, sittin’ in the back, tosses over this piece of paper and he had 12 lines of ‘Tiger By the Tail.’ I looked at it, started singing it, and we never changed a note. A lot of people thought it was a great album song-didn’t think it was any good for a single. I decided to bring it out for a single and the rest of it’s history…”

That history began a decade earlier, when fellow Bakersfield/California country artist Wynn Stewart introduced Buck to Harlan in 1954. They would prove to be natural writing duo, penning ringers like “Foolin’ Around,” “The One You Slip Around With” and “Let’s Agree to Disagree.” From the very early, pre-Capitol Records years (indie labels Starday and Pep cut early Buck sides), we’re reminded that Buck was primarily a solo songwriter-and a good one at that-trying to find his voice both vocally and writing-wise. His best and most consistent material during this period was either written by Buck solo, Buck/Harlan or Harlan solo.

Though his initial breakthrough came as a scratch telecaster session guitar-slinger (from ‘54 to ‘57 he played on records by Wynn Stewart, Tommy Collins, Faron Young, Bud Hobbes, Tommy Sands, Wanda Jackson and more), Buck’s oft-overlooked songwriting chops were fueled by the Bakersfield-based creative circle of friends he ran with; in addition to Stewart, Collins and Howard of course, Bobby Bare, Bonnie Owens (wife), Don Rich and Merle Haggard sparked a range of collaboration and musical brotherhood during this period. (Merle was actually one of the early bass players in Buck’s band, and he was the one who named the group “The Buckaroos”).

Within this Bear Family Records (known for their deluxe packaging and thoroughness) box set are demos, complete LPs, alternate versions of singles, unreleased songs-a whopping total of 159 tracks-and a spellbinding 84-page, hardbound liner notes. All tracks have been meticulously remastered, and like the Johnny Cash Sun Records albums reissued by Varese Sarabande several years ago, the updated sound quality will knock you to the ground-no doubt. For complete track listings, purchasing info and more details, please visit www.bear-family.de.


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