The Buckaroos were Buck Owens' band, a streamlined country music juggernaut that backed Owens on countless records, tours and TV shows. Anchored by Telecaster-wielding lead guitarist Don Rich and steel player Tom Brumley, the Buckaroos had a fiercely stripped-down sound, a bouncy, melody-oriented, rock-friendly style that flew in the face of the ornate orchestrations of Nashville and helped define the so-called "Bakersfield Sound" or West Coast country of the late 1950s and early '60s. In addition to all their official work on Owens' albums and the Hee Haw TV show, the Buckaroos released several albums under their own name, although these were basically Owens side-projects. Here's a quick look at Don Rich and the Buckaroos...

Discography - Best-Ofs

The Buckaroos "The Instrumental Hits Of Buck Owens And His Buckaroos" (Sundazed, 1995)
This disc gathers all the material from their first album, along with a couple of tracks the followup, 1966's Buck Owens Songbook. Probably the most noteworthy track on here is the band's theme song, "Buckaroo," which was a chart hit and became one of country music's best-known instrumentals. Beautiful guitar work from Don Rich, with a little bit of picking from Buck as well,

The Buckaroos "Best Of The Buckaroos" (Sundazed, 2007)
For a nice selection of "solo" recordings from the Buckaroos, this is a pretty sweet set. There's overlap with the other Sundazed reissues, but this is a perhaps the most wide-ranging and representative of their work. It kicks off with "Buckaroo," and includes a hefty dose of the best stuff from their various albums. Recommended!

Don Rich & The Buckaroos "Country Pickin'" (Sundazed, 2000)
A nice set culled from the various "band" albums cut by the Buckaroos, putting together an authoritative collection of the best guitar work by the late Don Rich. Rich was the man who sculpted the Buck Owens sound, wielding a bright-toned Telecaster with the same ease as any number of blonde California surfer dudes -- here he even sings on a few songs, but it's mostly an instrumental affair... It helps to be a connoisseur of non-vocal tunes, but any fan of Buck's can find something to be excited about here. Rich died in a 1974 motorcycle accident, causing a loss that Owens and the Bakersfield sound never really recovered from; here you can hear the man in his prime, playing the fiddle and guitar like nobody's business.

Don Rich "...Sings George Jones" (Omnivore, 2013)
A true master of twang, Don Rich was the consummate sideman, but other than the mainly-instrumental albums with the Buckaroos, he never emerged as a solo star. However, he did record one solo album, a George Jones tribute recorded in 1970, though sadly shelved by the label and left in the vaults for several decades. Finally, twangfans and Buckaholics can hear this robust, rootsy outing, where Rich blasts his way through a dozen bouncy old classics from the early Jones canon. As a singer, Rich isn't really on par with Owens, but he's got the same down-home charm and the music will have a familiar irresistible appeal. Good-natured, melodic honky-tonk with a few rough edges -- apparently just enough to scare off the record execs in the countrypolitan era, but definitely the right amount for the hard-country true believers of today. Highly recommended!

Discography - Albums

Buck Owens "The Instrumental Hits Of Buck Owens And His Buckaroos" (Capitol, 1965)
Don Rich and the boys in the band get a chance to stretch out a bit... but don't forget: Buck himself was a session guitarist before he made it big as a singer and songwriter, so he gets in a few tasty licks as well!

Buck Owens "The Buck Owens Songbook: Instrumental Hits Of Owens Favorites" (Capitol, 1965)

The Buckaroos "America's Most Wanted Band" (Capitol, 1967) (LP)

The Buckaroos "The Buck Owens' Buckaroos Strike Again!" (Capitol, 1967) (LP)

The Buckaroos "A Night On The Town With Buck Owens' Buckaroos" (Capitol, 1968) (LP)

Buck Owens "Guitar Player" (Capitol, 1968) (LP)
An all-instrumental album, highlighting Buck as a lead stylist. Kind of disappointing, actually. Buck's a fine guitar player, but this is a very muzak-y album.

The Buckaroos "Meanwhile Back At The Ranch" (Capitol, 1968) (LP)

The Buckaroos "Anywhere, USA" (Capitol, 1969) (LP)

The Buckaroos "Roll Your Own With Buck Owens' Buckaroos" (Capitol, 1969) (LP)

The Buckaroos "Rompin' And Stompin'" (Capitol, 1970) (LP)

The Buckaroos "Boot Hill" (Capitol, 1970) (LP)

The Buckaroos "That Fiddlin' Man" (Capitol, 1971)

The Buckaroos "The Buckaroos Play The Hits" (Capitol, 1971) (LP)

The Buckaroos "Songs Of Merle Haggard Played By The Buckaroos" (Capitol, 1971) (LP)

Related Records

Doyle Holly & The Vanishing Breed "Doyle Holly" (Barnaby, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Ken Mansfield)

Starting out as a rockabilly player, in the early '60s bassist Doyle Holly became a key player in the Bakersfield music scene, and joined the Buckaroos after Merle Haggard left to become a solo star. Holly was in the group from 1963-71, when the band was at its peak... In the early '70s he set out on his own, and had a few reasonably successful singles. This was his first solo album, and includes his version of Shel Silverstein's "Queen Of The Silver Dollar," later covered by Emmylou Harris.

Doyle Holly & The Vanishing Breed "Just Another Cowboy Song" (Barnaby, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Ken Mansfield)

An rather serious, measured, folkie-countrypolitan outing by Buck Owens' erstwhile bass player... This was Holly's second solo album, and while I think it's pretty snoozy, it did have a few middling-sized hits; the lead song, "Lila," even cracked into the Top Twenty. There's a picture of Holly hanging out with Kris Kristofferson on the back cover, but no mention of him in the production credits, nor any of his songs on the disc. There is a Willie Nelson song on here, though: was this supposed to be an "outlaw" album??

Doyle Holly "Together Again" (OMS, 2003)
Holly reunites with a couple of his old Buckaroo buddies -- steel player Tom Brumley and drummer Willy Cantu, along with a slew of country and bluegrass pickers -- for a loping, relaxed tribute to the classic Buck Owens sound. It's not the same as the original recordings, but it's nice to hear the old guys play with such feeling.


Hick Music Index

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