The early days of California Country are compiled by Omnivore Recordings on a double-disc release of Buck Owens, The Complete Capitol Singles: 1957 – 1966. When Buck was signed to Capitol Records in 1957 he and The Buckaroos had logged over a decade playing bars and honky tonks in Bakersfield, California and beyond. Like musicians down through recorded music history, Buck Owens first reaction was ‘man, this is it! After all these years workin’ my ass off in all those dark, smoky clubs and taverns, I’ve finally got it made’. The reality was a lot different. The first few singles did not even make the charts, Buck Owens aware that the production of his music did not matching the live sound of The Buckaroos. He recalled in his autobiography that ‘on those early records, the producer had insisted on including all these damn background vocals…lots of guys and gals singing oohs and aahs under my stone Country vocals. It sounded ridiculous. As a matter of fact, it came out sounding a whole lot like the kind of stuff they were recording in Nashville back in those days, and the last thing I wanted was for my records to sound like those Pop-Country things they were doing down there’. Buck Owens and the Buckaroos saw a glimmer when they released the single “Second Fiddle”. Though not a huge hit, the tune rose enough to get some love for the California band and their next single release, “Under Your Spell Again” caught air, landing at number five on the music charts and jumpstarting the career of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos.
The music of Buck Owens conquered the world, his music influencing artists from The Beatles, who recorded the group’s 1963 hit “Act Naturally”, included on the Omnivore release, to Dwight Yoakam, who claims that ‘there have been four, maybe five, other artists in the history of the entire Country music genre who have left as indelible a sonic imprint’. One of the reasons that the songs collected on The Complete Capital Singles: 1957-1966 still sound as crisp as their original recordings was the care and consideration that Buck Owens put into the production. His goal was defined, Buck knowing what would work as he went into the studio, claiming that ‘the reason my Capitol records sounded the way they did—real heavy on the treble—was because I knew most people were going to be listening to ’em on their AM car radios. At the time, nobody else was doing anything like that, but it just seemed like common sense to me. And it was one more reason that you knew it was a Buck Owens record as soon as it came on the radio—because it just didn’t sound like those other records.’ The Complete Capitol Singles: 1957-1966 dials in twang with “Before You Go”, “(I Want) No One but You”, “Gonna Have Love” and revisits attacks on the heart with ballads that slowly turn around the honky tonk dance floors on “Only You (Can Break My Heart” and “In the Palm of Your Hand”. Buck Owens and the Buckaroos partner with Rose Maddox on vocals (“We’re the Talk of the Town”, “Sweethearts in Heaven”) as the Complete Capitol Singles 1957-1966 includes chartoppers such as “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail” and a cover of the Ray Charles classic “Cryin’ Time”.