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Buck Owens: The Biography Paperback – Bargain Price, July 1, 2012

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Paperback, Bargain Price, July 1, 2012
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (July 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1613743351
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,343,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sisk (Honky-Tonks: Guide to Country Dancin' and Romancin') opens with a warm dedication and a note of thanks to the late country star Buck Owens. In the subsequent 56 chapters, however, she paints a picture of Owens as a megalomaniacal, sex-addicted, song-stealing skinflint, likening him at times to a vampire, a man who once belittled a 10-year-old who played guitar for him. Owens was born in Texas in 1929, but made the migration west during the Depression, settling in Bakersfield, Calif., developing a distinct sound with songs like "Act Naturally" that consistently put him atop country music charts in the 1960s. A shrewd businessman, he later became widely known for cohosting the long-running TV show Hee Haw. Owens, who died in 2006, cooperated with Sisk for three years in the late 1990s on an authorized biography before nixing the agreement. The stories of Owens as the Caligula of country music have compelling potential, but Sisk's narrative is plodding. Although the book is billed as a biography of Owens, he is kept at a distance, and the reader learns very little about his music or his side of the story. Sisk instead focuses on what those close to Owens told her about his behavior. Sadly, the Bakersfield sound that made Owens famous and influenced many gets short shrift in this tiresome exposeÌü.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"While Sisk reveals amazing details like the time Owens convinced a sheriff to deputize two of his crew so they could carry guns, and lurid episodes like sharing women with his bandmates, many of these stories are brief and to the point. . . . This is great for hard-core fans. . . . Because Sisk provides a more honest portrait of a country legend, her book is essential for readers interested in cultural musicology."  —Library Journal

"Hold on to your hats, country fans. This well-researched examination of the late 'Hee Haw' co-host and honky-tonk hit maker doesn’t tiptoe around the minefields. If you’re in the mood for an explosive, warts-and-all examination of Owens’ life, loves and career, this wild, eye-opening ride will really blow off your barn doors."  —American Profile

"The impeccable detail and research make [this book] very readable."  —Detroit Metro Times


"Meticulously researched and well-written."  —Sing Out


“Eileen Sisk’s fascinating but unsympathetic bio shreds the veil of secrecy surrounding the brilliant though tormented Owens to reveal a master manipulator with a heart of stone.”  —John Lomax III, author and former manager of Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle

“Buck was one of the kings of country music but also a complicated man. This biography tells why.”  —Michael Streissguth, author, Johnny Cash: The Biography


“Eileen Sisk captures the real Buck. I knew him. I experienced the weird weaknesses. I witnessed the anger. Eileen is a tremendous writer. She has the guts, she has the ‘perfect subject,’ and she’s overstocked with talent. Her book is dynamite--a masterpiece, a sure-fire winner.”  —Bill Mack, “The Satellite Cowboy,” host of Country Crossroads and Grammy Award–winning songwriter


"This biography should be required reading for any serious country music fan. Meticulously researched, it is the revealing saga of one of the genre's most flamboyant stars."  —Patsi Bale Cox, author, The Garth Factor: The Career Behind Country’s Big Boom

More About the Author

Author photos by Anthony Scarlati

Eileen Sisk is the author of "BUCK OWENS: The Biography" (Chicago Review Press, 2010) and "HONKY-TONKS: Guide to Country Dancin' and Romancin'" (HarperCollinsWest, 1995).

Sisk contributed the Bakersfield/Central Valley, CA entry to the Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World and has worked at such newpapers as The Tennessean (2000-2008), The Washington Post (1982-1992), and The Las Vegas Review-Journal (1978-1981). A member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors, her work has appeared in such publications as the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, American Cowboy, and Nevada magazine.

Honors include being a subject of biographical record in Who's Who in the World, 2007-2010; Who's Who in America, 2006-2012; Who's Who of American Women, 2006-07, 2008-09, 2010-11; Who's Who in the South and Southwest, 1997-98 and 1995-96; four awards of excellence from the Society of News Design, 1990 and 1992; and four merit of awards for black and white photography from the Pro Show, Long Beach, Calif., 1978.

A native Nevadan, Sisk grew up in Las Vegas, attended high school in Scottsdale, Arizona, and college in Southern and Northern California. She also has lived in Maryland and Virginia but calls Tennessee home.

Customer Reviews

After reading the sample I had to read the rest of the book.
Ms. Sisk has done a lot of footwork to uncover the true Buck Owens in this biography.
She weaves her own negative comments and negative opinions throughout the book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Carl Eddy on July 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sisk's book is a mostly a tabloid-style recounting of Buck's career, focusing primarily on his tawdry personal behaviors and his ruthless business practices. I'd already heard indirectly that Buck was an SOB while Don Rich was a decent and kind-hearted individual. This biography gives us all the gory details. It's valuable because it draws on first-hand interviews with key figures including Doyle Holly, Tom Brumley, Willie Cantu, other Buckaroos, wives, friends, and folks connected to Buck. Some of what is said is interesting and insightful. Other times it is just a run-on deluge of claims, tall tales, and axes being ground. The reader is left to sort it all out and draw his or her own conclusions.

What this volume really lacks is a solid analysis of the music. Record release dates are mentioned throughout the narrative and a decent discography is included, but there is no insight into what made the music of Buck and the Buckaroos so special. What did they do that influenced so many others, especially the country-rockers like John Fogerty, Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, and Herb Pedersen? I got the sense that Sisk does not have a solid understanding of country music and its history. Anyone who refers to Charley Pride's singing of "Elijah" rather than "Kaw-Liga" just didn't pass Country Music 101. BTW - the "unknown fan" in one of the photographs is Rose Maddox.

This biography provides some insights, but overall it is a rather one-dimensional perspective. To get a more comprehensive and musical view, search out the bits and pieces that can be found in the Rich Kienzle writings for the Bear Family box sets, the articles in Guitar Player and Vintage Guitar magazines, the notes in the Sundazed releases, the CMF's Journal of Country Music, and books such as Nick Dawidoff's In the Country of Country.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Rand Bishop on December 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Eileen Sisk attacks her subject with the ferocity of a truth-seeking investigative journalist. As a result, the Buck Owens she exposes is not pretty. It took years of exhaustive digging and countless hours of interviewing the dozens of satellites in Buck's universe. The man is summed up by a remark spoken on a Bakersfield club stage by a former Buckaroo: "Sorry I'm late, but I was out looking for someone who liked Buck Owens. I couldn't find anybody."

A penny-pinching philanderer, who used women, musicians, family members, and business partners, Owens rose to became one of the most successful and influential country music stars of all time. He clung ferociously to his signature Bakersfield Sound for decades before he finally succumbed to the Nashville studio machine. He claimed the legacy of a child of sharecroppers, a dirt farmer who clawed his way out of poverty to become rich and famous. Sisk's history, however, tells a very different story: of a boy who supported himself with his enormous musical gifts from his early teens in Arizona, and later in California's San Joachin Valley.

Sisk portrays Owens' key players with sympathy. The great Don Rich, who lived an equally debauched and much abbreviated life, gets a great deal of ink, as do several other contributors to Buck's musical legacy. The many put-upon women Owens swept into his vortex give their conflicting accounts, each one believing somehow that she was the one great love of Buck's life. He played them like the strings on his telecaster, somehow giving each of them a share of his sweet, passionate music. And, with all his fame and fortune and his harem of beautiful lovers, he passed on, still adored by some and resented by many, but completely unfulfilled.
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34 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Rick Smith on July 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As a Buck Owens fan fairly familiar with his life story already, I was disappointed in how this book chose to depict Alvis Edgar Owens, Jr.

As an unauthorized biography, it strives to measure up in two ways.

First, it attempts to chronicle Buck's life in a detailed, factual way -- sharing crazy inside stories about the evolution to fame and the long and winding road to get there.

Second, it attempts to deliver never-before-heard, brow-raising claims that define why many people feel unauthorized biographies border on tabloid journalism and are presented for only one reason.

Do I dare say they're setting new lows in trying to turn a Buck on this one?

To begin with, the book has neither a heart nor a soul. It mostly felt like an ax grinding.

Buck's life story is as good as they come -- better than most.

He was known to be a hard-nosed businessman and demanding boss. But he was also a dreamer and it was his heart that relentlessly drove him forward. He knew what he wanted -- and what he didn't want. Buck left a great lesson about getting something in your heart.

Buck also had a tremendous work ethic and an intuitive sense of business that he learned along the way. He did the very best he could with what he had to work with. Another great lesson.

To me the book seemed choppy and helter-skelter. Buck's life story should be a wild roller coaster ride, a beginning to end loop filled with highs and lows, crazy turns and all the emotions that come with the ticket.

Instead, the flow of this story made me feel more like I was in a pinball machine --never quite sure where the story was bouncing next. It's when I started to hear that ax grinding. Tilt.
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