Country Throwback: Dwight Yoakam, Buck Owens Perform ‘Streets of Bakersfield’ at 1988 ACM Awards

by Joe Rutland
(Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for CORE Gala)

Dwight Yoakam never made it a secret about his respect for country music legend Buck Owens. In 1988, he got a chance to sing with him.

Yoakam and Owens, who is a Country Music Hall of Famer, got together at the Academy for Country Music Awards on March 28, 1988. Introduced by Reba McEntire and Hank Williams Jr., they performed “Streets of Bakersfield.”

How did their friendship become forged between fan and legend? In September 1987, Yoakam walked, unannounced, into Owens’ Bakersfield office with an offer to join the young artist onstage that night at a local fair.

In January 1988, when Merle Haggard bowed out of a salute to Bakersfield as part of the CMA’s 30th anniversary TV special, Owens picked Yoakam as a replacement and chose for them a song he had first recorded in 1972, “Streets of Bakersfield.”

Initially released on Owens’ 1973 LP “Ain’t It Amazing, Gracie” (as a solo effort), that cut of the song, penned by Arkansas writer Homer Joy, was the result of Joy’s own perseverance in getting Owens to listen to his material.

After more than a week of trying to get past Owens’ secretary with his songs, he composed the tune while, as the lyrics go, walking holes in his shoes as he ambled down the concrete sidewalks of the California city.

Listen to these two country music stars collaborate on this classic song.

Dwight Yoakam And The Story Behind ‘Guitars, Cadillacs’

There was a time when record companies shunned traditional country music. Yoakam didn’t care.

The 1980s saw country charts filled with more mellow songs. Record companies didn’t want to have people like George Jones or Merle Haggard among their hitmakers.

Those two names are tied forever with country music, the type of music people either dance to or drown their tears in beers.

But Yoakam didn’t follow the trend of crossover commercial country music one bit. In fact, his album “Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.” was hell-bent on keeping that well-known country sound alive. Yoakam infused Owens’ Bakersfield sound (named for Owens’ hometown of Bakersfield, Calif.) into his own music.

One song that stands out from that era is “Guitars, Cadillacs.”

Yoakam wrote the song himself. Pete Anderson, who played on and helped Dwight Yoakam construct his debut album, recalls meeting up with the young singer-songwriter.

“I was a guitar player for hire in the early ’80s in Los Angeles, and I played mostly country music,” Anderson said. “I played some blues gigs and kind of roots rock Americana gigs. He needed a guitar player to play a gig, and we played together. He was playing some of his original songs and I got to hear the songs and said, ‘Man, these are really good songs.’”

Well, Anderson and Yoakam not only worked on “Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.” but continue to work together all these years later.

H/T: Rolling Stone

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