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'Hee Haw' Co-Host Buck Owens


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'Hee Haw' Co-Host Buck Owens

by Greg Risling

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Buck Owens

LOS ANGELES, California - Singer Buck Owens, the flashy rhinestone cowboy who shaped the sound of country music with hits like "Act Naturally" and brought the genre to TV on the long-running "Hee Haw," died on Saturday, March 25. He was 76.

Owens died at his home, said family spokesman Jim Shaw. The cause of death was not immediately known. Owens had undergone throat cancer surgery in 1993 and was hospitalized with pneumonia in 1997.

His career was one of the most phenomenal in country music, with a string of more than 20 No. 1 records, most released from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. They were recorded with a honky-tonk twang that came to be known throughout California as the "Bakersfield Sound," named for the town 100 miles north of Los Angeles that Owens called home.

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Buck Owens and the Buckaroos

"I think the reason he was so well known and respected by a younger generation of country musicians was because he was an innovator and rebel," said Shaw, who played keyboards in Owens' band, the Buckaroos. "He did it out of the Nashville establishment. He had a raw edge."

Owens was modest when describing his aspirations. "I'd like to be remembered as a guy that came along and did his music, did his best and showed up on time, clean and ready to do the job, wrote a few songs and had a hell of a time," he said in 1992.

An indefatigable performer, Owens played a red, white and blue guitar with fireball fervor. He and the Buckaroos wore flashy rhinestone suits in an era when flash was as important to country music as fiddles. Among his biggest hits were "Together Again," also recorded by Emmylous Harris, "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail," "Love's Gonna Live Here," "My Heart Skips a Beat" and "Waitin' in Your Welfare Line."

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Country icon Buck Owens, front left, performs on the set of 'Hee

Haw' with co-host Roy Clark, right.

And he was the answer to this music trivia question: What country star had a hit record that was later done by the Beatles? "Those guys were phenomenal," Owens once said. Ringo Starr recorded "Act Naturally" twice, singing lead on the Beatles' 1965 version and recording it as a duet with Owens in 1989.

In addition to music, Owens had a highly visible TV career as co-host of "Hee Haw" from 1969 to 1986. With guitarist Roy Clark, he led viewers through a potpourri of country music and hayseed humor. "It's an honest show," Owens told The Associated Press in 1995. "There's no social message

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