The first of many for the kid from Sherman, Texas.
Born on August 12th, 1929, Alvis Edgar “Buck” Owens Jrwent on to defy his time’s country sound and helped bring the Bakersfield Sound into the mainstream.
Buck had quite the career, being a named a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, performing for President Lyndon B Johnson at the White House, hosting an extremely popular TV Variety Show called Hee Haw, and tallying 21 number ones, his first and most popular being the 1963 hit, “Act Naturally.”
Released as a non-album single in March of 1963, it climbed the charts for awhile before peaking at number one on June 15th, maintaining the top spot for an impressive 4 total non-consecutive weeks.
The song is about a man who’s down in the dumps, by no stretch a rare theme in country music, but the way it’s written is so unique it deserves to be talked about long into the future.
Written by Johnny Russel and Voni Morrison, it’s a man saying he’s going to make it big and be a star on the silver screen because there’s a role available that he’d be a natural for: A man that is extremely sad and lonely.
It’s sonically upbeat and at the start you get the idea life is going well for the guy, but that quickly changes when the last line twists the idea upside-down.
“They’re gonna put me in the movies They’re gonna make a big star out of me We’ll make a film about a man that’s sad and lonely And all I got to do is act naturally”
What a great bait and switch. Not only is the song so catchy, but it’s cleverly written and showcases Buck’s one of a kind, choppy singing style.
The song went on to be covered by The Beatles, one of Ringo Starr’s few moments as lead singer. When one of, if not the, most popular band of all time covers your song, it’s a safe bet to say you’ve got a good one…
Songs and styles like this not only defined that era of country music, but inspired tons of artists who pushed the genre in their own way, like Dwight Yoakam to name a big one.