While watching the Ken Burns documentary about Country Music last week on PBS I was very interested in the segment they did on Buck Owens because it reminded of my old band days brought back a lot of memories.
Back in the ’60s, before I got into radio, I used to play in a band called The Jury. We had a few records out and because of that, we played all over Manitoba and in the northern States but sometimes getting home from some of these gigs necessitated driving all night. Those long hauls were killer, and I needed the radio to help keep me awake but Unfortunately, the only music you could get overnight on the radio was Country and except for Buck Owens, I didn’t like it much. Hell, and the only reason I even liked Buck, I think, was because his guitars rocked.
Anyway, fast forward about twenty years to California where I’m now a radio consultant and on this particular evening as I headed home, for a change of pace I dialed up KSON. As I left the beautiful hills of La Jolla behind, I had no idea that I’d soon be on the streets of Bakersfield.
It was a beautiful night and as I drove south on I 5 to my home in Coronado, all of a sudden, Dwight Yoakam’s “Guitars and Cadillacs came on the radio and I couldn’t help but sing along. I really like all of Dwight’s songs and I think it’s because it reminds me a lot of Buck Owens.
As Dwight’s tune faded away, the Dee-Jay says, “Hey, I bet Dwight will be singing that one when he takes the stage at the Convention Center in a few minutes. At that very moment, my headlights hit the Convention Center exit sign and even though I had an early morning flight to Nashville the next day, I thought, “What the hell.”
After buying a ticket, I headed inside and discover that the opening act wasn’t very good so I decided to leave. However, as I was walking out, I noticed that they had a bar so I decided to have a couple of Canadian Clubs, just so my whole night wouldn’t be a waste. As I stood at the bar drinking, all of a sudden, on came Dwight.
Talk about electric, when he hit that stage, he was just rockin’, and the ladies were howlin’. He had his cowboy hat pulled way down low as he strutted and pranced around the stage in his skin-tight jeans which had the ladies all heated up. What a great concert and I’m so glad that I didn’t leave.
The next day after I was standing at the gate in Dallas where I was connecting to my Nashville flight when I thought that I recognized RC Bradly up at the ticket counter. RC was the Sales Manager of KZBS in Oklahoma City when I was their consultant, so I took a chance and called out his name. Sure enough, it was him, and when he came over to say hi, and I asked him what he was doing now, he said, “I’m managing a hillbilly by the name of Dwight Yoakam.” When I told him that I’d seen Dwight’s concert last night in San Diego, he said, “Do I have this right, are you saying that George Johns, one of America’s most respected consultants in the Adult Contemporary world, spends his downtime going to cowboy concerts?”
After catching up for a while, he asked if I wanted to meet Dwight and when I told him that I would love to, he went to get him. A few minutes later he was back with two guys who were both wearing ten-gallon hats and very cool looking trail coats made out of Indian blankets.
After RC introduced me to Dwight, he then said, “And this George, is the legendary Buck Owens,” all I could think was, “You’re sh*ting me, how f#%king cool is this?”
They were headed to Nashville to tape an awards show, and when they finally called our flight, luckily I had used my reward miles so I got to sit up front with them. Once we were in the air and settled in, Dwight and Buck got their guitars down from the overhead and we got to hear Buck teach Dwight the song that they were going to do on the TV special together. None of us had any idea though that we were also witnessing the birth of Dwight’s first #1 record “The Streets Of Bakersfield.”