Buck's Send Off
By Mayf Nutter, April 4, 2006 - The Buck Owens funeral was at my church here in Bakersfield, Valley Baptist Church, where Buck
has been a member for many years.
It has grown into a large church yet the attendance is even larger, making two separate
services necessary on Sundays to hold everyone who loves to worship God there. We are blessed
with wonderful musicians for a full orchestra with violins, horns and the works. Our choir
sometimes has 150 singers praising God and giving thanks for his divine favor and mercy in
Like Disneyland, Valley Baptist Church has shuttles to bring worshipers from the far reaches
of the sprawling parking lots.
Please consider this my personal invitation for you to join us for Sunday worship when
you visit Bakersfield.
The funeral service for Buck Owens was scheduled for two o'clock in the afternoon on April
second, 2006. The rain which had been falling steadily throughout the week stopped, as of
on cue, to present a glorious sunny day with gorgeous puffy clouds and a clear blue sky.
My beloved Sierra Mountains were clearly visible to the East and the stellar Tehachapi
Mountains to the South.
It was a beautiful, spectacular, and very emotional send-off for my much loved friend and mentor.
Herb Pedersen and Chris Hillman opened the service singing "TURN, TURN, TURN" accompanying
themselves on mandolin and acoustic guitar. Beautiful.
Our pastor, Roger Spradlin, gave the opening prayer followed by the Eulogy by Larry
Daniels who was Bucks trusted man at his Phoenix radio station.
Buck's recording of "DUST ON MOTHER'S BIBLE" set the tone for the celebration of Buck's
spiritual life as a Born Again Christian, inspired and guided by his loving Mother who
attended our church when it was a very small gathering of a dozen or so loyal souls.
Now, Valley Baptist has the largest facility in Bakersfield with several additional two
story buildings for Sunday School classes, activities and offices.
Brad Paisley had flown to Bakersfield from Memphis where he performed last night, arriving
just in time to join us at the church. He was the first entertainer to sing during the funeral
service, after giving a wonderful heart-felt testimony to Bucks influence and friendship to
him. He sang using only his guitar for backing and was his usual personification of a
Country singer pouring his song directly from his soul without pretense, flash or flourish.
I am especially proud of Brad's success and the kind of man he has become. A fellow West
Virginian, at our first meeting he told me his Mother had taken him to see a Mayf Nutter
Show when he was around eight years old. Brad said he remembered that I had made it
look like so much fun that he thought he would like to do that too. He also proudly
told me that he had learned to play guitar, taking lessons from my guitar player,
Roger Hoard, back in West Virginia.
Buck's nephew, Mel Owens, Jr. has been an integral part of management with Buck Owens
Enterprises for many years. He shared some memorable moments about his famous uncle.
A perfect song choice for those of us who have been deeply grieving was, "BLESSED ASSURANCE".
John Berry blessed us all with an amazing vocal performance without musical accompaniment.
Splendidly done, faultless, very moving.
Buck's youngest son, Johnny was a gangly Junior High kid when Buck brought me to live
in Bakersfield. Johnny is a handsome young man now who lives at Buck's ranch. He is the
ramrod there, loving it all.
He told us about Buck's last day Friday, March 24th, 2006. Buck spent the day driving around
inspecting the ranch he loved. Then Buck had Johnny drive him, along his musical instruments
which he would use for that night's show, to the Crystal Palace. Johnny said Buck decided to
go to the Palace unusually early on Friday, around 4 o'clock.
Buck played his instruments in his backstage office while enjoying a small order of French
Fries which he said are "the best in the world" at the Crystal Palace.
Buck always wanted the fans to get their money's worth and more, whether it was food from
the kitchen of his restaurant or the shows he and others did on stage. During our touring
days together, he was always thinking of better ways to present the show to our audiences
no matter if the venue was the Queen Elizabeth Theater in Vancouver, Canada or an old dusty
gymnasium in a little town in Kentucky.
Later in the afternoon on Friday,while still playing his instruments in preparation for his
show at the Crystal Palace, he ordered a chicken fried steak dinner. Buck said he had
eaten chicken fried steak all around the world and that "the Crystal Palace makes it the best
in the world".
It was an especially difficult challenge for Johnny, speaking at the podium with his Dad's open casket in front of him.
We all just wanted to hug him.
Trace Adkins was next to honor Buck. He said that Buck told him, "Always throw in that low note. That's about all
you've got going for ya." The crowd laughed appreciatively with Trace.
Then Trace sang with just his guitar, "WAYFARING STRANGER". He made appropriate use of his deep voice and that deep low
note, just for Buck.
Buck's sons, Michael Owens Buddy Alan Owens, gave touching remembrances of their Dad too. They spoke of his wisdom,
and firm fatherly guidance, their love for him and how much they will miss him every day.
Buddy Owens reminded us all of Buck. He resembles his Daddy the most of all Buck's children. Buddy told of Buck's
encouragement in his musical career and the priceless education he received by following Buck's lead in business too.
Dwight Yoakum was next to honor Buck. He came up on stage from the front pew carrying his hat and wearing his guitar.
He apologized to his Mother who, he said, would not have approved of singing with a musical instrument in church and ask
the forgiveness of those in attendance for putting on his hat to sing, in honor of Buck. He told the story of the time
Buck told him, "You look good in that hat, Dwight. You oughta keep in on more."
We all laughed along with Dwight, who then respectfully put on his classic Cowboy hat and sang a touching rendition
of "IN THE GARDEN". More tears came our eyes.
I must express my personal admiration for all those who sang under such emotional stress. Singing the last songs to
Slim Pickens at his funeral was the most difficult performance task of my life. The next most difficult time for
me would have been coming on stage at the Crystal Palace, after Buck's funeral at the request of Buddy Alan, to
perform with my longtime friends, The Buckaroos.
Our pastor, Roger Spradlin, delivered the message of the hope and the promise that we all have through Jesus Christ.
He also said that Buck, always seeking a deeper understanding of God's Word, would often call him at home late at night
and ask questions about something he had read in the Bible. Few knew that about Buck.
Pastor Roger told the story of a day, some years ago, when he was at the bedside of Buck's mother, Maicie in the
hospital. Buck arrived to visit with her. Maicie was a leader in the Christians Women's Group.
Pastor said that Buck's Mother whispered in Buck's ear, but pastor could hear the conversation.
Maicie whispered, "The church needs a van." Some of the elderly ladies had trouble getting to church
because they were too old to drive and there was a fund raiser in progress to buy a van.
Buck turned to Roger and asked, "How much would a van cost?"
Pastor Roger said, "We have been looking at a used one that has a lot of seats in it for twelve thousand dollars."
Maicie motioned for her son to come closer and whispered in Buck's ear again, "We don't want a used van."
The congregation laughed out loud at this.
Pastor Roger said that Buck didn't comment, but stayed a long while to visit with is Mother.
Pastor told us, "The next day, the church had a brand new van."
Lulu Roman, the Hee Haw's funny "big ole girl" shared her story of how Buck had taken her from a grungy nightclub
in Texas and put her in front of the world on Television's most popular show. She is now an ordained minister,
still full of fun and laughter with a new Gospel CD.
Lulu closed the wonderful service with a beautifully sung interpretation of "AMAZING GRACE".
Then the family had provided security and limousines to drive us friends of Buck to a private celebration of
Buck's life at the Crystal Palace.
The Buckaroos, Buddy Allan, Brad Paisley, Dwight Yoakum and I sang and spoke about Buck. Also Lulu Roman,
and Susan Raye sang for us.
Buck's farewell party offered all the great food and drink that the Crystal Palace is famous for and of course it
was "All You Can Eat and Free of Charge".
There were lots of laughs and great music and lots of hugs and exchanging of current phone numbers,
but the air of frivolity still had a strange feeling about it that I cannot find the words to describe or explain.
Since I first got the news that Buck has gone, I am still feeling out of balance and mentally dull, as if I haven't
finished sleeping, but I am lying here thinking of getting up and moving along with life...with not my usual enthusiasm.
I'm sure many are still feeling like Mike Owens told me he felt, "It's like I'm dreaming, Mayf.
I keep hoping any minute now I'll wake up and find out its not really happening."
Lots of hugs were shared among longtime friends. There was lots of needed healing in those hugs.
But no one gave a hug like Buck Owens.
I love you, Buck.
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