DIARY - 29 APRIL 2006 - BONNIE OWENS OBITUARY
OWENS RIP @ 76
REUNION WITH BUCK
BONNIE MAUREEN CAMPBELL
BLANCHARD, OKLAHOMA - OCTOBER 1, 1932
DIED BAKERSFIELD, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 25, 2006.
FROM CRYSTAL PALACE TO MYER MUSIC BOWL
Bakersfield balladeer Bonnie Owens toured Australia in 1996 with her
second singing spouse Merle Haggard she had no trouble with her lyrics.
Bonnie was an integral figure with Merle and his star-studded support
cast at the Myer Music Bowl concert in the shadows of a latter day
fire zone on Kings Domain.
Merle performed his smoke and mirrors magic show on a memorable train
trip that embraced several states and left promoter Wally Bishop working
for a Chinese circus.
But at a
gig a few years ago with Bonnie's first husband Buck at his famed Crystal
Palace nightclub her memory failed her.
Alzheimer's disease had taken its toll on the singer who made her radio
debut in the forties and appeared in the 1968 movie Killers Three
with Haggard and Dick Clark.
Ironically, Bonnie, who died at the same age of 76, was probably unaware
Buck had pre-deceased her by 30 days.
She was coaxed on stage for a duet with Buck at a birthday bash earlier
"It was then that Buck realized that what was happening to her was
for real," long time Buckaroos keyboard player Jim Shaw said of her
"She got up there and didn't know the words to her own songs. She
had the same radiant smile, the same sparkling eyes - she looked just
like the Bonnie we'd all known but Buck was devastated."
When Bonnie died she was separated from third husband Fred McQuillen with
whom she moved to Missouri in the eighties.
She returned to Bakersfield alone about three years ago.
According to Shaw, she belted out country songs even when living in a
"I love to perform," she told an interviewer in 2000. "I'm
Owens died in a Bakersfield hospice and was cremated after a memorial
service on April 28 at Greenlawn Southwest Mortuary.
ARIZONA TO CALIFORNIA
of eight children of a share cropping family, moved to Arizona at 12 and
met Buck, then an orange picker, part time singer and DJ, at a roller
The yodelling belle was just 15 when she first appeared on his radio show
in the mid-forties with a group called Mac MacAtee and the Skillet Lickers.
Buck helped Bonnie later obtain exposure on KTYL in Mesa, Arizona in 1947.
Bonnie and Buck wed a year later when she was 18 and they had two sons
- latter day Capitol Records singer Buddy Allan and Michael.
By 1951, they had settled in Bakersfield, but music triumphed over marriage.
They separated in the early fifties but couldn't afford a divorce so they
continued to perform together in honky tonks and truck stops.
"We had one good thing in common," Bonnie told Bakersfield Californian
"That was Buddy and Mike. We both wanted to make sure they had adjusted
minds. It was a friendly parting."
worked as a cocktail waitress at the famed Blackboard music bar and
wrote song lyrics on drink coasters and napkins.
It was during this period that Bonnie met Fuzzy Owen and guitarist
Roy Nichols - subject of her final recording in 1997.
Roy and Fuzzy introduced Bonnie to latter day country legend Merle
Haggard in 1961.
At the time she was singing with Fuzzy and his band, the Sun Valley
It was Owen who suggested that she record a duet with Merle.
in 1964, their collaboration on Just Between the Two of Us spent
six months on the country chart, peaking at #28.
After Capitol Records acquired their recording contracts, she had minor
success as a solo artist.
Three of her Capitol singles charted from 1965 until 1969, and her career
included six solo albums and two albums of duets with Haggard and the
tribute disc to The Hag's late guitarist Nichols.
Bonnie is listed as Haggard's co-writer on Today I Started Loving You
But she later claimed her only contribution to the song involved urging
him to delete an extra verse he'd written.
- BRIDE AND BRIDESMAID
also wed former convict Merle, seven years her junior, in 1965 in
a Mexican ceremony.
Although they divorced in 1978 they continued touring together until
She also served as a bridesmaid at his next wedding to fellow country
singer Leona Williams.
Bonnie continued working with Merle & the Strangers until 1991.
She resumed touring with him in 1994 and continued her roadwork
with him until the late '90s.
a 1999 interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Haggard praised her
as performer and person.
got a real unusual voice," he said.
"Once you hear her talk, you'd know her in the dark 300 years from
Haggard said his former wife "sort of dropped the torch of her own
career to stoke mine."
just 15 when she joined Buck as a member of Mac & the Skillet Lickers,
a band that performed on radio station KTYL in Mesa, Arizona.
In 1951, the couple moved to Bakersfield, where she began singing on Herb
Henson's local TV show, Cousin Herb's Trading Post Gang, in 1953.
The show's band included Fuzzy Owen and Lewis Tally, who would later establish
Tally Records, the label that released Haggard's first singles.
Bonnie Owens' first recording was a duet with Fuzzy Owen, A Dear John
Letter, for Mar-Vel Records.
Their collaboration did not hit the charts, but Jean Shepard and Ferlin
Husky's version of the song spent six weeks at No. 1 in 1953.
Another single for Delphi Records also failed to chart.
But her first Tally Records single - Why Don't Daddy Live Here Anymore
- hit #25 in 1963.
NICHOLS TRIBUTE DISC
last commercial recording was her 1997 tribute disc to Nichols.
It included a brace of her original tunes she penned with Buck and
They included Number One Heel - penned with Buck - Turn
Me On and Today I Started Loving You Again (with Merle)
and No Tomorrow with Melba Ellington.
cut her own compositions I'm Glad You're Coming Home, That's A Big
10-4 and Too Bad Charlie, Buck's tune I'll Take A Chance
and the Merle-Little Jimmy Dickens classic Shopping For Dresses.
well-known session serfs who have helped keep the Bakersfield sound alive.
They included drummer Don Heffington, bassist Paul Marshall, steel guitarist
Doug Livingston, guitarists Jerry Donahue and Albert Lee, Skip Edwards,
piano, accordion, and B-3 organ.
Others were James Intveld - acoustic guitar and vocals, Joe Manuel, guitar,
David Vaught bass, Tommy Spurlock, guitar, Jim Goodall, drums, Jeff Ross,
guitar, Brian Hofeldt, guitar, vocals Vic Gerrard, bass, Terry Kirkendall
- drums, Chris Gaffney, piano and vocals, Rosie Flores, Annie Harvey and
Kathy Robertson on vocals.
Advantage Of Me - 1965
All Of Me Belongs To You - 1967
Somewhere Between - 1968
Lead Me On - 1969
A Hi-Fi To Cry By -1969
Mothers Favourite Hymns - 1970
Country Classics Vol. 1 - 1998
DISCS WITH MERLE HAGGARD
The Two Of Us - 1966
That Makes Two Of Us - 1968
To Roy Nichols With Love - Cowgirl Records 1997
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