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Buck Owens: The Biography Paperback – July 1, 2012

3.7 out of 5 stars 77 customer reviews

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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


“Sisk captures the real Buck. I knew him. I experienced the weird weaknesses. I witnessed the anger. [Sisk] 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, host of Country Crossroads

"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


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; First Paperback Edition edition (July 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1613743351
  • ISBN-13: 978-1613743355
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,225,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback
I read the first 105 pages of this book and had to stop. This is not a book about Buck Owens. It is a book about those who played in his band or knew him in other aspects of his career....and their opinions and experiences, mostly about themselves. The author's take on Owens is 90% negative. What is actually known about the guy as portrayed in this book is either his recording success or in a sketchy bio piece at the start of the book.....I don't have a stake in whether he is a genius, a nice guy, a rip off artist or a mean SOB.....however this book is like litigation based upon circumstantial evidence....I won't finish it or recommend it....
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Poorly and inaccurately written. I read just a few chapters of this book and had to put it down. The chapter that talked about the 1968 concert at the Fillmore West in San Francisco was a complete fabrication. As an 18 year old Buck Owens fan, I and a few close friends had the good fortune to not only attend both shows but were able to get back stage passes arranged through my friend's music teacher to interact with Buck and the Buckaroos for some conversation and pictures. There was not any pot smoking inside the crowd and there wasn't the smell of marijuana wafting through the air inside the Fillmore West in SF...despite what the author stated in the book. Pure fabrication.

I'm not naive enough to believe that Buck, or Don for that matter, were infallible...they're humans too. But...I've attended many of Buck's concerts and have, on 3 occasions been able to get personal pictures taken at the Circle Star Theatre in San Carlos, CA, meet Buck at the Dream Bowl in Napa, go backstage at the Fillmore West, talk and get pictures. In 1989, at the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco I met Buck Owens for the last time. I brought a few photos from the Fillmore West shows to show Buck and hopefully get another autograph... one particular photo hit close to Buck's heart, a picture of Don Rich with myself, and two best friends backstage at the Fillmore West. I had managed to migrate into the press section at the Victoria Theatre while they were clearing out the fans and managed to get a one on one with Buck for at least 10 minutes. He was touched by the photo with Don and asked if he could have it...of course he could. We chatted for a while and, as usual, Buck was very gracious and humble...
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