Monday marks the seventh anniversary of the death of country music legend Buck Owens. The singer and his band the Buckaroos toured the world sharing what became known as the Bakersfield Sound.
Owens is best known for his rock-influenced honky tonk twang that lead him to 25 chart-topping hits. He helped put our city on the country music map.
"Music made by machines, I don't like it and I ain't going to like it tomorrow," said Owens in 1989.
In 1929, Alvis Edgar Owens Jr. was born in Texas to a life of poverty. Owens re-named himself Buck and worked his way up the country music ladder.
Those who knew him say Owens didn't like the Nashville scene and that's why he moved to Bakersfield in 1951 and started playing local honky tonks. In 1960, Owens met up with Don Rich, the cornerstone of the Buck Owens sound and soon after formed the Buckaroos, and who can forget Owens's show Hee Haw.
"He proved to the world you don't have to be part of the Nashville machine to be a country western superstar," said Rick Davis.
Owens was famous for writing and producing songs that didn't go over the head of the average listener. "I think the music spoke to people at their level. Buck wrote great songs about everyday occurences we could all relate to," continued Davis.
Every weekend, the dance floor was packed with fans, as he played his trademark red white and blue guitar at the Crystal Palace.
"As we were on stage Friday and Saturday nights, we asked how many people were there out of town, and it was about 1/3 of the crowds," said Jim Shaw, Buck Owens Productions.
Owens played at the Crystal Palace until the night before he died. He wasn't feeling well that night, but still took the stage to play his famous tunes.
"He went out the employees door and right about that time this couple came around the corner from Oregon and saw him and and got all excited and said oh Buck the last time we came here, you were sick, so we're so excited you're here tonight," explained Shaw.
"So, he said oh okay and he turned away and went back into the palace, walked onstage and proceeded to do that show," said Owens.
Seven years later, Owens's legacy lives on at the Crystal Palace and with KUZZ radio. You will find both, next to the landmark Bakersfield sign Owens saved and refurbished in 1996. The sign is a testament to the singer's love for his hometown and a reminder of Owens's contributions to country music and Bakersfield.
Apart from his music, Owens was a giving man too. He also supported dozens of non-profits over the years, from celebrity-studded golf tournaments in the 1970's to a more behind the scenes style of philanthropy in his later years. Owens was passionate about supporting local causes because his money stayed in Kern County.
"He decided he wanted the money to stay in town and he was going to stop giving it to the American Cancer Society and leave it in town and build facilities here," explained Shaw.
"I kind of saw a shift in Buck at that time. I really think he started doing his giving more privately. He gave a lot to the SPCA and he's always been a huge supporter of Bakersfield College," he continued.