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Doyle Holly and the Buckaroos are together again

By Jon Johnson, June 2003

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Released in early May by OMS Records, "Together Again" is a fine blend of bluegrass and Bakersfield featuring ' fel low ex-Buckaroos Brumley and Cantu as part of the core band, as well as Owens himself on two duets with Holly; "Foolin' Around" and "Love's Gonna Live Here." Also appearing as duet partners are Bobby Osborne and Jeannie Seely.

Perhaps surprisingly, Holly doesn't play bass on the new album, explaining, "It's because I haven't done it for a while, although I do still have one. And we had Mike Bub, Del McCoury's bass player. I was busy doing vocals, so I never did give it much thought."

The only member of the classic Buckaroos lineup absent from "Together Again" is guitarist Don Rich, who died during the summer of 1974 in a motorcycle accident at the age of 32. Rich's death was devastating to Owens; both personally and in terms of his career.

Holly still clearly misses Rich as well.

"Don was just a great big old teddy bear who'd set the world for you," says Holly. "I remember an incident where somebody called up Don about two or three o'clock in the morning and said, 'My battery's dead. You've got to give me a jump.' And (this person) figured Don knew who he was talking to. So he said, 'Yeah, I'll be there in a minute. Tell me where you're at.' He gave him the directions where he was at, and Don got up to get ready and said, 'By the way, who is this?'"

Although Holly's new album marks the only occasion on which the four surviving members of the classic Buckaroos lineup have recorded together since 1967, he says that RCA Records had approached him about recording a Buckaroos reunion album in the early '90s. Though the project never got past the planning stages, the idea had been to reunite the group's famed '64-'67 lineup, as well as bringing in other ex-members.

"They wanted me to get all the original Buckaroos, plus a few other musicians who'd worked with Buck. As a matter of fact, one of the ideas was to make 'Together Again' an instrumental with Tom Brumley, Ralph Mooney and Jay Dee Manness," the last two of whom had also played on Owens' '60s recordings.

"Probably it didn't happen fast enough for RCA," says Holly when asked why the project never saw the light of day. "Somebody was probably dragging their feet. I was probably one of the guiltiest. I know there was a problem with using the Buckaroos name. Buck had a patent on the Buckaroos name, and he had a project going where he couldn't release permission to use the name."

During the group's mid-'60s peak, it seemed like everyone was a Buckaroos fan; none more so than the Beatles, who covered Owens' 1963 hit "Act Naturally" (the Buckaroos returned the compliment with a spirited cover of "Twist and Shout" on 1966's "Carnegie Hall Concert" while wearing Beatles wigs) and who, it is said, had a standing order for all new Buck Owens records to be forwarded to them in England.

"We went to a brunch with Ringo and John in Liverpool. I didn't stay very long because I wanted to ride a steam locomotive. Don was a big Beatles fan. I was a fan, too, but not as big as Don. If I had to do it over, I would have stayed there and eaten with them."

Asked to name his favorite Buckaroos album today, Holly says, "Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the Carnegie Hall album. The album is still selling very well. The shows were oversold. The people came to Carnegie Hall in their tuxedos and evening gowns, and they had to sit in the aisles."

"Carnegie Hall Concert," in some respects, represented the high water mark for Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. Owens and his crew were only the second country band to record a live album there (following Flatt & Scruggs' lead in 1962, and the album captures a flawless performance from the group.

Although Holly says - perhaps surprisingly - that the album is a little more laid back than a typical Buckaroos show of that era, he says that the group pulled back a bit on the reins for the Carnegie Hall shows since they knew that the performances were being taped.

"We were nervous about being recorded," says Holly. "When you're doing a tape, you don't want to make any mistakes. We were probably more concerned with making the record than with entertaining the audience. I asked Buck if he wanted to do comedy and he said, 'No, just play everything straight.' Then it got back into the groove of a regular show, and we started doing the comedy and the impressions."

Today Holly appears to have a good life. He sold off the music store not too long ago and now regards himself as "semi-retired," playing a handful of live dates per year (in fact, he had just returned from opening two shows in Canada for Steve Earle the day before this interview was conducted).

And Holly takes some pride in the fact that the records he played on have had such a lasting influence on later performers including The Eagles, the Desert Rose Band and The Derailers.

"You bet. We weren't really country, although we thought we were. I would [say] that we were a bunch of bluegrass musicians with electric guitars. Don was so versatile. He dug the Beatles. He dug The Band...in fact we recorded three or four songs by The Band."

"If we heard a good song, we'd record it."

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