Did you know that Buck Owens and his family moved to Mesa, Arizona,in 1937 during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Around 1945 16-year-old Buck teamed up with 19-year-old guitarist Theryl Ray Britten and the two landed a fifteen minute show at KTYL in Mesa, Arizona called “Buck and Britt“(For which they weren’t paid).
The KTYL studio had a 30-foot-long glass window facing its parking lot, and the singers often had a drive-in studio audience for their shows. They also played at any local honky-tonk whose bartenders let them pass the hat (in their case a soup bowl.) Eventually they took up residence at a Phoenix honky-tonk known as the Romo Buffet and added a trumpeter named Kelly, who was stationed at a nearby Air Force base. They got 10% of the take, which was usually around $100 regardless of the size of the crowd, and split $10 three ways.
Buck also branched out as a musician. When Buck got an electric steel guitar, Alvis Owens adapted an old radio into an amplifier so his son could teach himself to play it. His early guitar idols included Jimmy Wyble, the country jazz guitarist of Bob Wills’ 1944-1945 Texas Playboys. Later, he became a fan of Merle Travis’ playing.
Alvis and Maicie Owens had major misgivings about their son’s vocation, particularly since he was underage. “My mother and dad objected strenuously to me playing in the honky-tonks and they never thought I’d amount to anything,” says Buck. “They never realized – and I didn’t either, at the time – what a wonderful opportunity was presented to me to be able to make a living and pay my bills while I’m learning my trade. But those were their feelings about playing music where people were drinkin’.”