The 18 tracks on Buck Owens’ Honky Tonk Man were culled from the vast trove of material he recorded at his Bakersfield studio for the rural hit comedy TV series Hee Haw in the early ’70s. The set is a concise tutorial on the history of country music — from “In the Jailhouse Now,” a song first popularized by Jimmie Rodgers in 1928, to “Rednecks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer,” a hit for Johnny Russell in 1973. Many of the songs Owens did for Hee Haw were originally recorded by his biggest and earliest influences: Bob Willis & His Texas Playboys’ “Stay a Little Longer”; Hank Williams’ “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It,” “Jambalaya” and “Hey Good Lookin’”; Hank Snow’s “I’m Moving On”; and Jack Guthrie’s “Oklahoma Hills.” Owens also nodded to fellow Bakersfield Sound stalwart Merle Haggard on “Swinging Doors.”
The CD’s title track, “Honky Tonk Man,” is a song first popularized by Johnny Horton in 1956. Thirty years later it became an even bigger hit for Dwight Yoakam, an avowed Bakersfield Sound disciple.