Alvis Edgar "Buck" Owens Jr.

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Alvis Edgar Owens, Jr.

Also Known As: "Buck"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Sherman, Grayson County, TX, United States
Death: Died in Bakersfield, Kern County, CA, United States
Cause of death: heart attack
Place of Burial: Greenlawn Southwest Mortuary and Cemetery , Bakersfield, Kern County, CA, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Alvis Edgar Owens Sr. and Maicie Azel (Ellington) Owens
Ex-husband of Bonnie Owens; Phyllis Irene (Wall) Owens; Janna Jae (Greif) Owens and Jennifer (Smith) Owens
Father of <private> Owens; <private> Owens and <private> Owens
Brother of Mary (McKinney) Owens; Melvin L. Owens; Dorothy Owens and <private> Owens

Occupation: Singer-Songwriter
Managed by: Kenneth Kwame Welsh
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Alvis Edgar "Buck" Owens Jr.

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Alvis Edgar "Buck" Owens Jr.'s Timeline

1929
August 12, 1929
Sherman, Grayson County, TX, United States

Buck Owens website
http://www.buckowens.com/aboutbuck1.html

Alvis Edgar Owens Sr., a native of Texas, and his wife, Arkansas native Maicie Azel Owens, tilled the land at their farm outside Sherman. The Owenses were sharecroppers, trying to make a living to support their children. Mary, the first, was born in 1927. On August 12, 1929, Alvis Edgar Owens, Jr. was born. Two other children would follow, Melvin in 1931, and Dorothy in 1934.

At times Alvis Sr. worked at a dairy farm in Garland, Texas, near Dallas. That life, his eldest son remembers, was difficult. “You get up about 2-3 o’clock in the morning and get through about 7 or 8 and 12 hours later you start all over. That’s the worst kind of work a person can do. You have to do these two shifts to get one day.”

“Buck” was a mule on the Owens farm. When Alvis Jr. was three or four years old, he walked into the house and announced that his name was also Buck. That was fine with the family; the boy was Buck from then on. Music was an integral part of the Owens family. Maicie Owens played the piano and exposed her children to gospel music through visits to a number of churches before joining a Southern Baptist Church. The eldest Owens children worked in the fields as soon as they were old enough.

August 12, 1929
Grayson County, TX, United States

Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997
Name: Alvis Edgar Jr. Owens
Date of Birth: 12 Aug 1929
Gender: Male
Birth County: Grayson
Father's Name: Alvis Edgar Owens Sr.
Mother's Name: Maicie Azel Ellington
Roll Number: 1929_0006

1930
1930

Ancestry of Buck Owens:
http://www.wargs.com/other/owens.html
(5/20/2010)

1937
1937
Age 7
Phoenix, AZ, United States

Buck Owens website
http://www.buckowens.com/aboutbuck2.html

America’s Great Depression wreaked havoc on most parts of the nation. In rural Texas and Oklahoma, impoverished to begin with, the effects were even more devastating. In response to the Depression and crippling dust storms that destroyed countless farms, thousands of Texans and Oklahomans, faced with starvation, uprooted and moved west. That event inspired John Steinbeck’s classic American novel The Grapes of Wrath.

Young Buck Owens saw no romance in the sharecropper’s life. “We were sharecroppers…we were a little bit of everything. We farmed and tried to make something. The landowner furnished seed and the land we furnished the labor. And you got a share of it, usually a 50-50 basis on the profit, and sometimes there wasn’t a lot of profit. In the ‘30’s, it wasn’t the desired thing. And along comes The Grapes of Wrath syndrome and blows everybody out.”

In November of 1937, when Buck was eight, the Owenses decided that their future also lay to the west. Alvis Owens built a trailer to hold the family’s belongings. He, his wife, and children, Buck’s Uncle Vernon and Aunt Lucille, their infant son Jimmy and Maicie Owens’ mother, Mary Myrtle – a total of ten people – piled into a 1933 Ford sedan and headed west. They only stopped to cook and sleep along the way.

The trailer hitch broke in Phoenix. Since they had relatives in Mesa, a Phoenix suburb, the family settled there, doing farm work as they had in Texas. They worked at Arizona dairy and fruit farms and occasionally traveled to the rich farming regions of California’s San Joaquin valley, harvesting vegetables around Tracy and peaches near Modesto, carrots in Porterville, cotton and potatoes in Bakersfield. Alvis Owens occasionally drove trucks and dug ditches, too.

1942
August 1942
Age 12
Mesa, AZ, United States

Buck Owens website
http://www.buckowens.com/aboutbuck4.html

Buck Owens turned 13. Having completed the eighth grade, he looked for work during his summer vacation and had no trouble finding it. So many men were in uniform during World War II that labor shortages plagued the nation; since Buck was six feet tall, he could do a man’s work for a man’s pay. He saved his money, but a couple of months after he began ninth grade that fall, his savings were gone. He decided to quit school, go back to work and earn some more money. Though he persuaded his mother to let him quit school by promising to return to school, he never went back. He was a Western Union messenger boy, washed and polished cars, and loaded and unloaded fruit.

Music became an even greater part of his life in Mesa. Alvis Owens played harmonica and two of Buck’s uncles played guitar. He heard bluegrass and string band music beamed into the U.S. on the megawatt radio “X” stations just across the Mexican Border, stations that boomed in on the family’s battery radio. Buck’s younger sister, Dorothy Owens, also recalls her brother listening to the music of Bob Wills, T. Texas Tyler, Moon Mullican, and Ted Daffan.

That Christmas, Buck received a mandolin as a present from his parents. His dad later gave him a Regal guitar.

According to Dorothy, Buck taught himself to play. “Music was always his interest,” she says. “Mother showed him a couple of chords on the guitar and he taught himself the rest. When he was 16 or 17 years old, he would have these musicians come to the house and play. He played with them, but he watched them. He was like a sponge. He absorbed from everybody, whether it was records, radio or whatever. “


1948
January 13, 1948
Age 18
Mesa, AZ, United States

Buck Owens website:
http://www.buckowens.com/aboutbuck6.html

After a time, Buck met Mac MacAtee, a Mesa gas station owner who played country records for an hour each afternoon over a PA system; the music was broadcast simultaneously over local radio. MacAtee organized a live band, Mac’s Skillet Lickers, to perform at the station. Buck played steel guitar and eventually met Bonnie Campbell, an aspiring singer who became part of the Skillet Lickers. At the time they were married, on January 13, 1948, she was four months pregnant with their first son. Alan Edgar Owens, better known as “Buddy,” was born on May 22, 1948. Michael Lynn Owens, their second son, was born on March 8, 1950.

1951
May 1951
Age 21
Bakersfield, Kern County, CA, United States

Buck Owens website
http://www.buckowens.com/aboutbuck7.html

By May 1951, Buck and Bonnie decided they’d gone as far as they could in Phoenix, and moved to Bakersfield, California, a city 100 miles north of Los Angeles. Its oil industry and farmlands, much like Texas and Oklahoma made it a haven for Dust Bowl refugees in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s. Buck’s parents moved there later in 1951. Bakersfield also boasted a robust country music scene.

1953
1953
Age 23

Buck Owens website:
http://www.buckowens.com/aboutbuck9.html

By 1951 it became evident that the marriage wasn't working. Bonnie and the two boys left for Bakersfield, moving in with Buck's favorite aunt and uncle, Vernon and Lucille Ellington. Buck arrived soon afterward, closely followed by his parents.

Buck Owens and Bonnie (Campbell) Owens separated in the early fifties but couldn't afford a divorce so they continued to perform together in honky tonks and truck stops (divorced in 1953).