Country artists continue to recognize the music that shaped their lives with CMT All-Time Top 40: Artist’s Choice . One by one, the countdown of influential artists will be revealed each week on CMT Hot 20 Countdown , starting with No. 40 and concluding with No. 1 in December.
Each influential musician or band is ranked based on an artist poll conducted by CMT among the biggest stars in country music. The ballot isn’t limited to just country artists, so over the course of 2014, CMT All-Time Top 40 will highlight artists from all genres that influence country’s biggest names.
Arriving at No. 39 on the list is Buck Owens.
“He was a great stylist, a great songwriter, great singer and a guy who did what he did,” Benson said. “No matter what the public was doing, no matter what the trends were, he did Buck Owens. And the Bakersfield sound was so unique and cool.”
“Buck was a real innovator,” Dunn agreed. “He took the [Fender] Telecaster and Nudie suits at the time — while [clothier] Manuel was still working in the back room — and took on a real progressive country thing.”
For Rucker, the Bakersfield sound itself was exhilarating.
“Buck Owens was huge for me when I was a kid because he came out of the radio so different than anybody else,” he said. “He was so much brighter. And when a Buck Owens song came on the radio, I just felt like I had to turn it down ’cause it was too loud and mama’s going to come make me turn the radio off.”
One of Owens’ close friends, Yoakam was fortunate enough to spend private time with the man. He described a history lesson about Nashville country vs. West Coast country.
“He said, ’Dwight, do you know the difference?'” Yoakam recalled. “I said, ’Well, I probably have an opinion on what the difference is, but I would like to hear yours.’ And he says, ’It’s because country music in Nashville came from the churches, and country music on the West coast came out of the honky-tonks and bars.”
Likewise, Bare had a personal connection with the king of Bakersfield, Calif.
“Buck played rhythm guitar on my very first session,” he recalled. “He played rhythm, and I recorded a song that he wrote called ’Down on the Corner of Love,’ and Buck and I have been friends ever since. And the last time I saw Buck, he was super rich and had built a big club in Bakersfield.”
Owens passed away in 2006.
Tune in to CMT Hot 20 Countdown to check out the rest of the list as country stars count down the CMT All-Time Top 40: Artist’s Choice.