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RIP Buck Owens, Cindy Walker

Country Standard Time Editorial, May 2006

The music world is mourning the loss of two influential Country Music Hall of Fame members - Buck Owens and Cynthia Walker.

Neither would unfortunately be all that well known to recent converts to country, but both certainly made their mark over many years.

Buck Owens was the father of the Bakersfield Sound. He had a lot of twang in his guitar amidst simple arrangements and some pop influences, while utilizing an excellent backing band, The Buckaroos. His best-known song was "Act Naturally," which The Beatles covered among many others. He had a bunch of hits ranging from "Second Fiddle" in 1959 to his last number 1, "Streets of Bakersfield," recorded with Dwight Yoakam in 1988.

Buck's heyday on the charts lasted until 1974, but he was co-host of "Hee-Haw" on television from 1969-86 where he also made a name for himself on the corny country variety show.

Owens later spent much of his time in Bakersfield, Cal., where he owned a radio station and the Crystal Palace country music club where many national acts would play, in part, to pay homage to Buck Owens.

Unfortunately, many music fans today never had the chance to know the music of Buck Owens & The Buckaroos.

Fortunately, many of Owens' recordings remain available with recent reissues. For example, Owens put on a classic show at New York City's Carnegie Hall. Owens, 75 when he passed away in March, finally received his due by becoming a member of the Hall of Fame in 1996.

He will be missed for the joy he brought to country and the influence he had on many artists.

Cindy Walker will be remembered for her songwriting abilities. She was a performer as well, but the Texas native who passed away in late March at 87 was known as a songwriter.

Writing more than 500 songs, many became hits for Bob Wills, Gene Autry and Roy Orbison. Among her best known songs were "Cherokee Maiden" and "Bubbles in My Beer," both recorded by Wills.

Orbison scored a big hit with "Dream Baby." Autry recorded "Blue Canadian Rockies," as did Gram Parsons as a member of The Byrds showing that her songs spoke to multiple generations.

Songwriters certainly don't get the same attention given to performers, but to her credit, Walker was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997. Walker received more attention earlier this year with Willie Nelson's fine tribute album.

Walker and Owens are gone, but will not be forgotten as their legacies will continue both through their formidable achievements as well as future musicians who will carry on their flames through recording their songs and being influenced by their musical style.

RIP Buck Owens and Cindy Walker.