A Look at Buck Owens’ Greatest Hits

Classic Recordings Influenced Beatles, Ray Charles and Emmylou Harris, Among Others

It was a remarkable career filled with some of the greatest, most magical music ever made.

Buck Owens first hit the country charts in 1959 with “Second Fiddle,” a Capitol Records single that peaked at No. 24. By his last visit to the Billboard chart in 1989 with a remake of his 1965 hit, “Gonna Have Love,” he had charted a total of 90 country singles.

Owens, who died Saturday (March 25) of an apparent heart attack at his home in Bakersfield, Calif., was at his creative peak in the mid-’60s while he was making records and touring with the classic lineup of his band, the Buckaroos, with lead guitarist Don Rich, steel guitarist Tom Brumley, bassist Doyle Holly and drummer Willie Cantu. According to a point system devised by music chart historian Joel Whitburn in his book, Top Country Songs (1944 to 2005), Owens was the top artist of the decade — ahead of George Jones, Johnny Cash, Roger Miller and Loretta Lynn, among others.

Owens’ music influenced artists of all genres and nationalities. One of the first indications occurred on a Sunday night in 1965 during one of the Beatles’ appearances on Ed Sullivan’s TV variety show when George Harrison suddenly provided the guitar intro to “Act Naturally,” Owens’ first No. 1 hit from two years earlier. Ringo Starr sang lead vocals on the version that soon showed up as the flip side of “Yesterday.” Starr later teamed with Owens in 1989 to record yet another version of the song written by Johnny Russell and Voni Morrison.

“Act Naturally” was one of Owens’ few hits he didn’t have a hand in writing, and at least two of his songs became major hits for other artists. Ray Charles scored a No. 6 pop hit in 1966 with “Crying Time.” Charles’ version of the song resulted in two Grammys — for best R&B recording and best R&B solo vocal performance by a male.

And although Emmylou Harris had already broken into the country Top 10 with her version of the Louvin Brothers’ “If I Could Only Win Your Love,” she enjoyed her first No. 1 with her 1976 recording of “Together Again.”

Owens wrote or co-wrote 15 of the 21 singles he took to the top of the country chart. In addition to “Act Naturally,” the exceptions are “Think of Me,” “Made in Japan,” “Streets of Bakersfield,” Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and the signature instrumental, “Buckaroo.”

Here’s a list of Owens’ No. 1 singles:

“Act Naturally” — 1963 (four weeks)
“Love’s Gonna Live Here” — 1963 (16 weeks)
“My Heart Skips a Beat” — 1964 (seven weeks)
“Together Again” — 1964 (two weeks)
“I Don’t Care (Just as Long as You Love Me)” — 1964 (six weeks)
“I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail” — 1965 (five weeks)
“Before You Go” — 1965 (six weeks)
“Only You (Can Break My Heart)” — 1965
“Buckaroo” — 1965 (two weeks)
“Waitin’ in Your Welfare Line” — 1966 (seven weeks)
“Think of Me” — 1966 (six weeks)
“Open Up Your Heart” — 1966 (four weeks)
“Where Does the Good Times Go” — 1967 (four weeks)
“Sam’s Place” — 1967 (three weeks)
“Your Tender Loving Care”– 1967
“How Long Will My Baby Be Gone” — 1968
“Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass” — 1969 (two weeks)
“Johnny B. Goode” — 1969 (two weeks)
“Tall Dark Stranger” — 1969

“Made in Japan” — 1972
“Streets of Bakersfield” — 1988
(With Dwight Yoakam)

Calvin Gilbert has served as CMT.com’s managing editor since 2002. His background includes stints at the Nashville Banner, Radio & Records and Westwood One.