Owens’ Capitol Records singles from the early ’60s to the late ’70s alone offer hours of entertainment for country music fans. They came from an artist more willing to do his own thing in California than play by Music Row’s rules, making him a true outlaw in his time.
Honestly, where these songs rank depends on the listener’s mood or the time of day. They’re among the Owens cuts that should always be in rotation, along with “Under the Influence of Love,” “Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” “Foolin’ Around,” “Above and Beyond,” “Cryin’ Time,” “Made in Japan,” “Down on the Corner of Love,” “Under Your Spell Again,” “Your Tender Loving Care,” “I Don’t Care (Just as Long as You Love Me), “Big in Vegas,” “Kickin’ Our Hearts Around” and other representations of the Bakersfield Sound.
10. “Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass?”
The guitar fuzz on this single is on par with your favorite garage rock nuggets. For other examples of the Buckaroos’ rock ‘n’ roll capabilities, check out “Tall Dark Stranger.” On the less raucous, more folksy end of the spectrum, there’s Owens’ cover of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
9. “Where Does the Good Times Go?”
This often-covered autocorrect nightmare represents how Owens and the band sometimes proved that stories about heartbreak can still be light-hearted.
8. “Sam’s Place”
Owens’ ode to local honky tonks paints a happening place, frequented by colorful characters. Anyone’s who’s got a heartache can enjoy a cold beverage and a warm welcoming from their neighborhood bartender.
7. “Waitin’ in Your Welfare Line”
A song about a desperate man’s emotional struggles doesn’t have to be all “Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me,” like the old Hee Haw skit. Although Owens does pull off sadness quite well with “Close Up the Honky Tonks” and other singles.
6. “My Heart Skips a Beat”
The interchangeable top six begins with one of the most recognizable Bakersfield offerings about puppy love. It’s the a-side for the song that replaced it on the charts, “Together Again.”
5. “Streets of Bakersfield” (With Dwight Yoakam)
Although Owens recorded it earlier in his career, this song didn’t become great until Yoakam used it to make sure that country fans in the ’80s knew the legend as more than just some guy from Hee Haw.
4. “Love’s Gonna Live Here”
Owens’ own version of country sunshine brightened many an album with songs in which being second-fiddle is okay. At least you’re still in the band, right?
3. “Act Naturally”
Buck’s big break came when he cut this Johnny Russell co-write. It crosses country heartbreak with a generation’s fascination with the silver screen.
2. “Together Again”
Tom Brumley’s performance on steel guitar alone makes this 1964 selection a must-hear for fans of any era of country music.
1. “Tiger By the Tail”
This classic gets the top nod because nothing would’ve been more exhilarating at a Buckaroos concert than to hear that opening line: “I’ve got a tiger by the tail, it’s plain to see. I won’t be much when you get through to me!” Well, nothing besides an extended jam of “Johnny B. Goode.”