I was on an L.A. label at the time. Both “Goodbye Sunshine” and “Lonely Much To Long” had recently made Billboard. One of the labels executives, suggested I might want to visit Buck Owens studio in Bakersfield, while in the area. “They were getting some fantastic sounds on their cuts”. (Whether he owned all, or part of the studio, I never learned. Anyway, everyone referred it to as “Bucks”.} After receiving the name and number of the studio manager, Jack McFadden, I made the appointment.
My first surprise upon entering the outskirts of Bakersfield was that it geographically did not appear to be the Garden of Eden, with flowers and palm trees, as I had imagined. It was flat and dry.
I found the studio address and met Jack in his office. An affable man, who after a brief chat, opened the studio door, and we stepped out into Bakersfield history.
California has always been different. However, after the first step into the studio, I stopped in my tracks and simply stared at the ceiling. Jack caught my gaze, and a knowing smile crossed his face. Big, really big, beach umbrellas of red, yellow, blue, orange, & purple hung from the studio ceiling.
My thoughts instantly flew back to my childhood memory of, “Alice In Wonderland”, where chairs were placed on the ceiling.
Then Jack, smiling at my puzzled expression, pointed to the umbrellas overhead and said “ceiling acoustics”! So that was it! By judging from all the hits that were recorded there, it apparently worked, ever so well! In addition, it gave the studio an added carnival like upbeat attitude. Looked like a fun place to record!
After the studio tour, as Jack was walking me to the exit, I heard two men talking in a small office just ahead and to my right. One of the men had his right leg crossed over his left knee, and just the bottom half of his right boot was visible through the small office open door. Wow! I thought to myself….that’s the best-looking boot I’ve ever seen. Still wondering about the owner of the boot, Jack said, “by the way”, while you’re here, would you like to say hi to Buck!
In about two seconds, out of the office stepped the owner of the boots, Buck Owens, and immediately we shook hands. Now everyone has had handshakes that were for appearance sake only, insincere, and etcetera. This was not the case with Buck. He shook hands like he meant it.
Upon rare occasions, actually exceedingly rare, you meet someone you feel you know right away, and this was one of those occasions with Buck. We instantly got along, and enjoyed a warm and friendly conversation. It was a fun visit! I don’t remember what we talked about, but I do remember it was pleasant, and most of all…..he was for real! After awhile, we shook hands and bid each other goodbye, and on the way out, I had the feeling I had been privileged to spend some precious time, with a very special man.
Bucks song, “Together Again”, was one of the best love songs ever written. We always played it at the various venues where we appeared, and when playing in clubs, the dance floor filled every time we started to play the song.
For some while I had it in mind to pay a tribute to Buck, and record “Together Again” . The “Transitions” album was the perfect chance. When we assembled in the studio to lay down the tracks, it was agreed that we would try to come up with an interpretation of the song that would be different from any that had been done before. All the players had the deepest respect for Buck, and the song, so we decided to give it our best shot.
Walt Cunningham on keyboard said he thought he’d try a light, almost semi classical piano intro. No one we knew of had ever tried that. Joe Spivey, a stunning fiddle player, said he had something in mind he thought would fit right in, guitarist,
Dug Grieves, said he would use an acoustic on his part of the lead. We had never heard of anyone using those two instruments in the lead slot either. To boot, we even added a cello for counter melody. It was a great adventure!
Buck died on March 25, 2006. I read in Wikipedia that on Saturday night he had a chicken fried steak at the local club, Crystal Palace, where he regularly played, he mentioned it was his favorite meal, but thought he would be going home, as he didn’t feel well. Some fans had just arrived from Oregon, especially to hear him play. Not to disappoint them, in true Buck Owens fashion, he turned around and went on stage, and performed for the last time. He passed away that night in his sleep.
Buck Owens wrote one of the most touching love songs of all time. Through his music and television appearances, he left millions of happy tracks, and did his part to make this a better world. It was an honor to have met him!