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Bonnie Maureen Owens (Campbell)

Birthplace: Blanchard, OK, United States
Death: Died in Bakersfield, Kern County, CA, United States
Cause of death: Alzheimer's Disease
Place of Burial: CA, United States
Immediate Family:

Ex-wife of Alvis Edgar "Buck" Owens Jr.; Merle Haggard and <private> McQuillen
Mother of <private> Owens and <private> Owens

Managed by: Kenneth Kwame Welsh, (C)
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Bonnie Owens

Apart from her solo career, singer Bonnie Owens is well known for the work she did with her former husbands, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. Born Bonnie Campbell on October 1, 1932, in Oklahoma City to a pair of sharecroppers and one of eight children, she first met Buck in the mid-'40s when he had a local daily 15-minute radio show. Once Buck discovered that Bonnie could sing, he helped her get a job with him on another radio show in 1947. The following January, Buck and Bonnie married, but the union was short-lived. By 1951, after giving birth to two sons, the marriage was over. Since neither could afford a divorce, they stayed legally married, but separated, for several years. Bonnie and the two boys left for Bakersfield, where she worked as a cocktail waitress. It was during this period that Bonnie met Fuzzy Owen and guitarist Roy Nichols, who would be instrumental in the career of Haggard.

By the late '50s Bonnie was recording on the Mar-Vel label with Fuzzy and his band, the Sun Valley Playboys. She cut a well-received duet album with Fuzzy, her sometime boyfriend, on Tally Records, which would later be re-released on Capitol Records as "Just Between the Two of Us." In 1961, Bonnie saw Haggard singing for the first time at a Lefty Frizzell concert. At the time, Haggard was just a few months out of San Quentin prison for breaking and entering. By 1964 Fuzzy was managing Haggard and suggested that Bonnie and Haggard re-record "Just Between the Two of Us." Taking Fuzzy's advice paid off; the song hit the top of the country charts but not for long. It was replaced by "(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers," Haggard's breakthrough single.

In 1965 Haggard signed with Capitol Records, married Bonnie, and signed the Strangers (including Bonnie) with a booking agency owned in part by Buck. Bonnie's marriage to Haggard lasted until 1978, but the two had already separated in 1975. Eventually Bonnie resumed touring with the Strangers in the late '70s and remarried for the final time to Fred McMillenher. She continued to tour regularly with Haggard and the Strangers. While Bonnie released half a dozen albums and numerous singles on Capitol Records in the mid- to late '60s, she remained satisfied singing backup as a member of the Strangers.

Ref. Al Campbell, All Music Guide

Bonnie Owens (October 1, 1929 – April 24, 2006), born Bonnie Campbell, was an American country music singer who was married to Buck Owens and later Merle Haggard.


Bonnie Campbell (no relation to Glen), born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, met Buck Owens when she was only 15. They played in a band in Mesa, Arizona and then later were married in 1951 and moved to Bakersfield, California. They eventually divorced but moving to Bakersfield jumpstarted both their careers in music.

Her first recording was a duet with Fuzzy Owen called "A Dear John Letter" and was on Mar-Vel Records #MV-102 and dates about 1950. Side B contained a song titled “Wonderful World”. Bonnie and Fuzzy’s “A Dear John Letter” was not a remake of the 1953 Jean Shepard/Ferlin Husky version as some believe, as theirs predated Shepard/Husky by 3 years.

Owens recorded on numerous labels during the 1950s and early 1960s including Merle Haggard’s and Fuzzy Owens own Tally label, all of which were singles. Her first album titled “Don’t Take Advantage Of Me” came in 1965 on Capitol Records # ST-2403.

Owens was named “Female Vocalist Of The Year” in 1965 by the Academy Of Country Music and she and Haggard were married that same year. From that point on Bonnie dedicated her time to Haggard’s children and his career, touring with Merle’s band The Strangers as a backup vocalist. During the early stages of Bonnie and Merle’s careers together, Bonnie was the headliner, and Merle, the up and coming (and underlining) new star.

Owens and Haggard divorced in 1978, and after a brief hiatus, she continued touring with him

She had hits on the country charts in the early 1960s with the songs "Why Don't Daddy Live Here Anymore?" and "Don't Take Advantage Of Me". In 1965 Haggard and Owens recorded the song called "Just Between the Two of Us", a duet hit and probably Owens' best known hit. It was also the title song to their 1966 duet album on Capitol Records #ST-2453.

In 2006, Owens died in a hospital, not even a month after her first husband Buck Owens had died. She was 76 years old.

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Bonnie Owens's Timeline

October 1, 1932
Blanchard, OK, United States
January 13, 1948
Age 15
Mesa, AZ, United States

Buck Owens website:

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.

May 1951
Age 18
Bakersfield, Kern County, CA, United States

Buck Owens website

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.

Age 20

Buck Owens website:

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).

January 28, 1968
Age 35
Minden, Douglas County, NV, United States

Nevada Marriage Index, 1956-2005
Name: Merle R Haggard
Gender: Male
Residence State: California
Spouse: Bonnie Maureen Owens
Spouse residence state: California
Marriage Date: 28 Jan 1968
Marriage City: Minden
Officiant type: Religious celebrant
Recorded Date: 15 Feb 1968
Recorded county: Douglas

September 27, 1978
Age 45
Kern County, CA, United States

California Divorce Index, 1966-1984
Preliminary Dissolution Filed
Name: Merle R Haggard
Spouse Name: Bonnie M Campbell
Location: Kern
Date: Nov 1976

California Divorce Index, 1966-1984
Divorce Granted
Name: Merle R Haggard
Spouse Name: Bonnie M
Location: Kern
Date: 27 Sep 1978

Age 47

Bonnie Owens married Fred McMillen in the early '80s and moved to Missouri but continued touring with Haggard and his band, the Strangers, until 1991. She resumed touring with him in 1994 and continued her roadwork with him until the late '90s. She moved back to Bakersfield ago after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

April 24, 2006
Age 73
Bakersfield, Kern County, CA, United States