Christmas with Buck Owens

When I was a kid, I loved watching “Hee Haw”. I came for the cornball jokes and skits, but I stayed for the music, especially the gospel quartet at the end. (I’m still looking for a decent version of them performing, without a load of studio overdubs, by the way.) Buck Owens and Roy Clark were the centerpieces of the show, so I’ve always had a soft spot for them in my heart. I suppose then, it was only a matter of time before my interest in collecting Christmas music would lead me to a Buck Owens Christmas platter.

I picked this one because it was his first. It did not disappoint. Released in 1965 at the start of the “Bakersfield Sound” style in country-western music, this disc has 12 great tracks, half of them upbeat holiday tunes and the other half tear-in-the-beer lonely heart songs. I loved ’em all. It opens with “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy”, which is by now a Christmas standard – this is where it got its start. After that, Buck asks, “Pardon me, but do you have any… Bluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuue Christmas Liiiiiights…” Oh yes, we got us a cryin’ song, and it’s a good one. If you suffer from holiday depression, these are perfect songs for commiseration. Honestly, if you’re feeling the blues, you need to hear someone singing the blues to put your life in perspective, to where you can get back on the right track. As I said, about half the album is for cryin’ and the other half is for smilin’. All the songs have a stripped-down Bakersfield feel, with that ticka-tack drum line and the picked Fender guitars.

The only exception is “Jingle Bells”, which plays properly Bakersfield except for the drummer. The guy sounds like a refugee from a surf music band. I’m telling you, it’s a Stan Freberg send-up just waiting to happen. It’s a fun song, though, so what the heck, right? It doesn’t ruin the tune, and the drumming makes sense on every other track, so I’m fine with it. Overall, this is a great collection and I’m glad I got it.

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