Thursday, August 7, 2008


The world famous Buck Owens Crystal Palace

Article by Hank Ray. Photos of Buck Shot by Hank Ray: Crystal Palace and Buck Owens photos courtesy of Crystal Palace. Buck Shot logo courtesy of Buck Shot. Group photo by Dr. BLT.


All afternoon I have been anticipating the night’s entertainment at the Crystal Palace. I was excited about hearing a new band that has generated more than a little excitement here in Bakersfield.

Buck Owens, the founding father of the Bakersfield sound.

As I pointed out in a recent issue of Bakotopia : “The name of the band is “Buckshot” and they are locked and loaded, fully loaded for Buck. In fact, one of the lead singers is John Owens, son of the late Buck Owens.
John has been a hard working ranch hand and foreman on the Owens’ Horse Ranch for most of his life; and is the quintessential “American cowboy.”

He is a caricature of the West — he speaks in a direct manner, and is reserved with facial expression and tone. When we first met, I couldn’t help reflecting on the Western movie classic, “Tombstone” when the character Mr. Fabian states to Josephine Marcus, “You’ve set your gaze upon the quintessential frontier type. Note the lean silhouette ... eyes closed by the sun, though sharp as a hawk. He’s got the look of both predator and prey.”

Ranch hand turned country singer, John Owens.

John Owens has none of the attributes of a musician, save one: He has a voice bestowed on him by his father.

In addition to John’s extraordinary voice, the band is the perfect mix of talent. Meeting the band was much like the David Allen Coe song, “Desperado’s Waiting on a Train.”

Buckshot is a group of friends who like to hang out together. One day at the beach they discovered John had the “Owens gift.” Rhythm guitarist, David Allen, started his music career when he got out of the Navy. David, like the rest of the band are hardcore Bakersfield born and bred, and most are relatives of country royalty.

David Allen just before the show

David Allen rips it up on stage at the Crystal Palace!

But despite their country roots, all the band members came from an assortment of local heavy metal bands that have been shaking the walls of Bakersfield for the last decade.

When I asked David to describe Buck Shot’s music, he relaxed his arms over his guitar, turned his head toward the band and said, “We got a bunch of rock guys with an old school country guy, so it’s going to have an almost Southern rock edge.”

Simon Faughn, as John Owens points out, is as far from country in appearance as a person could be — shaved head, Mr. Spock side burns, and two sleeve tattoos down his arms. Simon has played in many local metal bands over the years. In fact, he is also concurrently in a popular band called 800 lb. Gorilla. And where does an 800-lb. gorilla sleep? Any where he wants to — even the world famous Buck Owens Ranch!

Simon, relaxes just before the show.

Simon warms up at the Buck Owens Ranch Studio.

Simon went on to describe his musical influences with Buckshot …

“Once we start writing our own music, that’s when our real distinctive sound will emerge, and our roots will shine through. Hank III is my absolute favorite. The influential roots I pull from go way back. I like that old boondocks, hillbilly, redneck sound, I LOVE THAT!”

Mike Martin holds down the lead guitar, backup vocals, and sports a red, white, and blue Fender Telecaster in the tradition of Buck Owens, whose songs they cover so well. Mike screeches and twangs like the old masters, and I am sure Buck would approve. His vocal high notes are reminiscent of Buck’s old partner in rhyme, Don Rich.

Mike Martin shreds the Telecaster as Buck Shot's lead guitarist
Like most of the band, Mike’s family was also involved in the early Bakersfield music scene. His grandfather is the great Lloyd Reading.

The rhythm section of Buckshot is comprised of DD Boutros, bass; and Colby Swank, drums. They too are products of the local metal scene and sharpened their chops in local head banging homeboys, “Myndsick.”

(upper) DD Boutros slaps out the rhythm on bass for Buck Shot at Crystal Palace. (Lower) DD warms up at Buck Owens Ranch Studio.

Colby and DD create a wall of driving sound that sets the canvas for what is sure to be called a “new Bakersfield sound” masterpiece!”(Hank Ray, Aug. 7, 2008; Page 9).

Colby Swank on the Palace stage, pounds out the time

Colby Swank and step father Mark Yeary

Since, I first met the band at the Buck Owens Ranch; Mark Yeary was added on keyboard. Mark has been keyboardist for Merle Haggard for over 20 years and is drummer, Colby’s step father.

Mark Yearly has been keyboardist for Merle Haggard and more for over 20 years

David Allen, rhythm guitarist, whom started his music career when he got out of the Navy, plays a beautiful flamed Fender Telecaster. The Fender Telecaster is the guitar that defined the original “Nashville West” rebellion decades before, note that many “Bakersfield sound” pioneers consider the “N.W.” word a bad thing; “Bakersfield has nothing to do with Nashville” . David, like all the members of the band are hard core Bakersfield born and bred, most are relatives of country royalty but they all kept it pretty close to the vest.

I had been watching the clock when the hands finely landed at on 4:30 P.M; I climbed in the old car and pulled out of the driveway, rolling down the sweltering one hundred degree Bakersfield streets, rolling along with dust and discarded cigarette butts, paper plates and cups passing the very resting place of Buck Owens on Panama Lane and the 99 free way in South West Bakersfield. Once I hit the 99 it was only a matter of minutes until I hit Buck Owens Blvd. , the off ramp leads right into the Crystal Palace. When my wife and adult son pulled up in the rear parking area of the Crystal Palace, between the KUZZ radio station and the actual Palace, there was already a steady stream of patrons heading toward the front entrance of the venue. I leapt from the car and headed for the front door just before I hit the board walk I caught the figure of the band exciting from a rear door. John Owens exited first followed closely by his “country-metal hybrid compadres”. The guys informally gathered around the small lawn just outside the rear of the Palace. I sensed some adrenaline induced tension and perhaps even a little pre-stage apprehension. However, Mike, the lead guitarist, said he had played so many shows with other bands that he was fairly composed. It seemed to that the focus of their conscious minds were on the upcoming task at hand, they probably didn’t even know I was there. Not only was the band playing a world famous venue for the first time, but it was a trial, a test and perhaps even reckoning of sorts. John Owens was, in effect, being handed his father’s sword. In addition it was a trial by fire, it the show is up to the high standard of the Crystal Palace the act will go on to the world famous Buck Owens Birthday Bash next week, and if not the trip is over. This is a lot of pressure by anyone’s standards.

Above; Buck-Shot just before the show, on the back lawn of the Crystal Palace.

I took a couple photos during the pre-show ritual on the back lawn and then the band started heading west, following John like marching soldiers over the wooden planks of the boardwalk, boots clanking like the scene from “High Noon” with Gary Cooper. There is no sound as prepatory for a country music event as workin’ cow boots on the rustic wooden boards of the Palace walk. We walked at a fair gate toward the front door, a quick left turn and the large oak door with crystal glass was being held open by John Owens himself, until we all got inside.

John Owens holds the door open for band members and fans alike.

Once inside the foyer one sees a beautiful lacquered wooden floor, above is a giant mural of the dustbowl migration that fades into the work camp days of the Bakersfield sound and beyond.

The Crystal Palace Mural (above).

To the left of the front entrance is a full length glass case filled with historic memorabilia critiquing the live and amazing career of the father of the Bakersfield sound; Buck Owens. To the right is a full length of the room counter which houses the museum store and cashier. It is reminiscent of the old wooden bars from the old westerns and Bakersfield’s own “Black Board” days.
Walking in the direction of the bar/ concert hall we weaved through the forest- maize of renowned figures, like great pillars in an ancient palace, larger than life bronze statues adorn the front foyer and also into the front section of the concert all the way from Hank Sr. to Elvis. Once inside the wall are cover with well lighted glass museum cases and historic photos and memorabilia all with amazingly detailed western salon architecture, similar to Knott’s Berry Farm or Disneyland. Once inside John quickly turned to enter the back stage area, and poof, my camera flash went off in his face! Not only did he get a bad case of “retinal burn,” but I think I had got on his last nerve, so I backed off a bit.
The rest of the band headed to the back of the theater and took up positions on the rear lower bar. They mounted up on them bar stools like their favorite ponies and ordered a few frosty adult beverages and began the second of the pre-show rituals.

Buck Shot sits at the rear bar at the Palace for a pre-show ritual and strategic talk

A few minutes later they were joined by John. John had been briefed by those in the know and he briefed “da boys” as confidently as a combat officer in the trenches. He said, from here we go upstairs to the “Green Room, where we get ready for the show, looking slightly toward my direction, he said; “band member only!” I took this as my subtle hint to “exit stage right”, so I missed a lot of the pre-show chatter. But that’s show biz!

At this point in time I sat down with my wife and son and ordered my chow, I can’t understand why I don’t weigh over three hundred pounds…I love to eat. I ordered the house salad with honey mustard dressing; my son ordered the barbecue chicken pizza and my wife ordered the “Don Rich” steak with mashed potatoes. We also had the Dwight Yokum biscuits; with biscuits that good, how in the world did Dwight Yokum stay so thin! As always the Crystal Palace food and service was amazingly good.

Hank Ray eating his "Not just another dinner salad" my sons BBQ Pizza and mywifes Don Rich Steak.

As I finished up my last delectable tidbit of salad, the band was walking up onto the stage. They appeared as seasoned veterans and systematically took their perspective places on the platform, the platform that has showcased some of the best country acts in the world for over a decade. John Owens went up to the microphone, but it seemed like it was not yet connected quite yet. No one introduced the band but all of a sudden a country music hurricane came pouring down off the stage in to my face! A hunk of salad still dangling from my joules, I grabbed my camera and headed for the dance floor to obtain some images. I was busily taking photos and listening to the band so I was not positive of the set list, however these are last nights notes on my salad stained napkin; Act Naturally (Buck Owens), Folsom Prison Blues(Johnny Cash), Under Your Spell Again (Buck Owens), The More I Drink (Blake Shelton), Streets of Bakersfield (Buck Owens- Written by Homer Joy) and an encore of the Buck Owens classic, My Heart Skips A Beat. The set was filled with energy and the air was filled with flashing colored lights from above the stage. Mike Martin and David Allen entrenched themselves into a guitar laden duel, like true guitar slingers or battling warriors at the palace walls.
Mike and Dave, guitar slingers

In the fashion of 1970s guitar heroes like Johnny Winter or Ted Nugent they slashed a new path for up and coming country guitar pickers to emulate; Their Telecasters ablaze with blue and red stage lights flashing.

Buck Shot live at the Palace.

Jim Shaw from Buck Owens fame and Mark Yeary from Merle Haggard;giants in country music keyboard.

Buck Shot

After the electrifying performance Colby said that it was a dream realized; He had sat watching his father play on stage with Merle Haggard and giant venues, this was his turn and he and DD both said they had a great stage adrenaline rush.

The performance was a success and Buck Shot goes on to play at the Buck Owens Birthday Bash and on into country music history.

1 comment:

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