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Sins of Omission

The Okie From Oildale

A boyhood pastime when I was growing up was building radios.  We did it in Cub Scouts and again, at a more sophisticated level, in Boy Scouts.  Various kits were available, but we all started with a simple crystal set.  It seemed almost magical that with a few components, essentially wire and a crystal, and no power source, you could receive radio transmissions.  We moved on to a more complex kit that utilized the power of batteries or an electrical outlet to amplify sound.  I also quickly learned that the more antennas, the better.  I strung wire antennas all over our roof.  By the time I was 12 I had built a multiband radio that enabled me to tune in to transmissions from all sorts of sources.  At night I’d listen to pilots, HAMs, and radio stations from distant towns.  It was an adventure.

One of the stations I pulled in at night played what was then termed Country & Western.  By the early 60’s I was regularly hearing a singer from Bakersfield named Buck Owens.  While Nashville was generally recording a less raw and more mellow country sound in an attempt to broaden the appeal of the genre, Owens cut records in a Bakersfield studio that harkened back to the rockabilly sound that helped give birth to rock ’n’ roll.

Early in 1963 I heard what would become a chart-topping hit for Owens, “Act Naturally.”  A Johnny Russell composition,...

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