Buck Owens, Ukulele Player


I kid you not.  Early in his career the late, great Buck Owens not only fronted his own band, but was a regular “go-to” studio musician for the producers at Capitol Records in Los Angeles.  In 1958 he was working the sessions for country and western star Enos William “Skeets” McDonald for what was released as McDonald’s album “Goin’ Steady with the Blues.”

One of the songs recorded for the album was McDonald’s own “Hawaiian Sea Breeze.”  (“Hawaiian sea breeze, blow my hula baby back to me.”)  Buck was asked by the producer if he could play the ‘uke.  A good studio musician knows never to say “no,” no matter what the assignment.  So Buck ran down the street to a music shop, bought a ukulele, ran back to the studio, and recorded the track.

I would never have known, had I not recently bought the book “Buck ‘Em,” by Randy Poe (Backbeat Books, November 2013).  It’s literally a posthumous autobiography, as Poe edited and assembled Owens’ own words from hundreds of hours of cassette tapes that Owens had recorded.  Reading the book, it’s as if Owens is right there in the room (or at the bar, or in the studio) with the reader.  It’s a wonderful adventure.  (Available wherever fine books like the ones Backbeat publishes are sold.)

By the way, Owens’ ukulele adventure is described in his own words on page 60 of the book.  Sadly, I don’t recall the ukulele ever making another appearance on The Buck Owens Ranch Show, Hee-Haw, the Grand Ol’ Opry, Owens’ Bakersfield Chrystal Palace, Carnegie Hall, or any of the other places he and his Buckaroos performed.  Too bad.  Imagine what Owens’ long-time Telecaster whiz, Don Rich, could have done with a ‘uke!