"You’re For Me," "Act Naturally," and "Love’s Gonna Live Here" heralded Buck’s new sound – a churning, upbeat 2/4 rhythm that made every Buck Owens record instantly identifiable. Don Rich compared it to a "runaway locomotive"; Buck refers to it as the "freight train" sound. From 1962 to 1968, he would use this sound, rooted in the dance beat of Bob Wills, on all his ballads. Buck explains it this way: "I always had a lot of driving-type music in my bones. I always loved music that had lots of beat. I always wanted to sound like a locomotive comin’ right through the front room. The guitar licks all came from Don and me.

"It was the most exciting period of my life. I found a sound that people really liked…I found this basic concept and all I did was change the lyrics and the melody a little bit. My songs, if you listen to them, they’re quite a lot alike, like Chuck Berry. Chuck found a sound and just kept changin’ the lyrics. Once in awhile I’d throw in a left-field song. But basically, if you listen to ‘I Don’t Care’ and ‘My Heart Skips A Beat’ and ‘Tiger By The Tail,’ I just left it the same and changed the song and the chord progression a little bit and sold it to them over and over again."

To some, this may sound cynical and calculating. But Buck was hardly the first in country music to do it. Jimmy Rodgers’ classic "Blue Yodels" used the same basic structure in the 1920s and the 1930s. Many of Ernest Tubb’s and even Hank Williams’ hits used similar musical structures. The difference was that amid the cosmopolitan country of Eddy Arnold and Jim Reeves, Buck’s records sounded fresh, streamlined, and modern. In the studio, Buck and the Band were rehearsed and ready, and he insisted on getting an acceptable version in just a few takes, the better to preserve a sense of spontaneity.

The records’ unusually bright sound was also by design. Having worked in AM radio, Buck knew its sound properties. He and Ken Nelson mixed his recordings using small speakers to get optimal projection on AM radios and car radios. Those efforts resulted in the clear, distinctive sound on Buck Owens records.

"I cut records for AM radio, and I was always conscious that AM used to have a great big old bottom on it. So I took most of the bass out of the records and put on more high-end – that made ‘em sound cleaner than the others. Ken Nelson agreed. I got a letter one time from a guy in Ohio that had some kind of a radio show, and he said, ‘You know, the records that you guys do there are so crystal-clear. Some people say you’ve got a little black box that you run the tape through.’"

Buck adds that the simplicity of his music and lyrics was also part of the plan. "I tried to play songs that all the bar bands could play. I remembered havin’ been in a bar band and never bein’ able to get any musicians to rehearse. There was no way my sound could change very much, using the same musicians, engineers, studios, and echo, and the same singer. I don’t know how it could have changed very much, and in retrospect, I think it was the right thing for me to do. It was exciting onstage to perform those ‘freight train’ songs.’"


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