Dwight Yoakam: Firsts to Know

by Jim Casey

Put Dwight Yoakam on a stage in a pair of skin-tight Levi 517 jeans, give him a guitar, cap him with a Stetson, and watch him work.

For the last 40 years, Dwight, 64, has been one of the most entertaining forces in music, movies, and on-stage moves. The singer/songwriter/musician/actor recently added “husband” and “father” to his Hall of Fame-worthy resume (he’s not in yet, but it’s only a matter of time).

Let’s take a look at 5 Firsts to Know about the honky-tonk hero who was born in Kentucky, raised in Ohio, and perfected in California.

1. First Album

The first album teenage Dwight Yoakam purchased was Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Cosmo’s Factory in 1970. More than 40 years later, Dwight released a cover of the album’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain” in 2014, after his character, Lyle Chumley, sang a clip on the CBS drama, Under the Dome.

2. First Cadillac

Dwight released his debut album, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., in 1986. The album reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and has been certified by the RIAA as 2X Platinum. The album featured two Top 5 singles, “Honky Tonk Man” (No. 3) and “Guitars, Cadillacs” (No. 4).

3. First No. 1 Hit

Dwight released his third album, Buenas Noches From a Lonely Room, in 1988. The album’s lead single, “Streets of Bakersfield,” which featured Buck Owens, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in October 1988. Buck originally recorded the tune on his 1973 album, Ain’t It Amazing Gracie.

4. First Cash

Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line” was the first tune 8-year-old Dwight Yoakam learned to play on the guitar. Dwight revealed it was the first song “where I could change from chord to chord while not losing the meter” in a 2001 interview with Country Weekly.

Years later during a 2002 interview on Larry King Live, Johnny Cash noted that Dwight Yoakam is “my favorite male artist.” Watch Dwight’s impression of Cash—and a cover of his “Home of the Blues”—during a 1988 performance on Austin City Limits.

5. First Sling

Dwight has had some pretty memorable film roles, including Pastor Phil in Four Christmases and Raoul in Panic Room. However, nothing compares to his turn as abusive boyfriend Doyle Hargraves in 1996’s Sling Blade. Doyle’s drunken rampage—where he kicks his own band out of Linda’s house—is Yoakam at his finest as an actor, which is ironic since he’s playing one of the worst humans in cinema. Of course (spoiler alert), Doyle takes two wacks to the head from a lawnmower blade, courtesy of Billy Bob Thornton’s Karl Childers.

Bonus Dwight

Dwight married his longtime girlfriend, Emily Joyce, in March 2020. Country music’s most famous bachelor was finally off the market after 63 years. Dwight and Emily welcomed their first child, a boy named Dalton Loren Yoakam, in August 2020.