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Dwight Yoakam

With his stripped-down approach to traditional honky tonk and Bakersfield country, Dwight Yoakam helped return country music to its roots in the late '80s. Like his idols Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams, Yoakam never played by Nashville's rules; consequently, he never dominated the charts like his contemporary Randy Travis. Then again, Travis never played around with the sound and style of country music like Yoakam. On each of his records, he twists around the form enough to make it seem like he doesn't respect all of country's traditions. Appropriately, his core audience was composed mainly of roots rock and rock & roll fans, not the mainstream country audience. Nevertheless, he was frequently able to chart in the country Top Ten, and he remained one of the most respected and adventurous recording country artists well into the '90s.

Born in Kentucky but raised in Ohio, Yoakam learned how to play guitar at the age of six. As a child, he listened to his mother's record collection, honing in on the traditional country of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, as well as the Bakersfield honky tonk of Buck Owens. When he was in high school, Yoakam played with a variety of bands, playing everything from country to rock & roll. After completing high school, Yoakam briefly attended Ohio State University, but he dropped out and moved to Nashville in the late '70s with the intent of becoming a recording artist.

At the time he moved to Nashville, the town was in the throes of the pop-oriented urban cowboy movement and had no interest in his updated honky tonk. While in Nashville, he met guitarist Pete Anderson, who shared a similar taste in music. The pair moved out to Los Angeles, where they found a more appreciative audience than they did in Nashville. In L.A., Yoakam and Anderson didn't just play country clubs, they played the same nightclubs that punk and post-punk rock bands like X, the Dead Kennedys, Los Lobos, the Blasters, and the Butthole Surfers did. What Yoakam had in common with rock bands like X, the Blasters, and Los Angeles was similar musical influences; they all drew from '50s rock & roll and country. In comparison to the polished music coming out of Nashville, Yoakam's stripped-down, direct revivalism seemed radical. The cowpunks, as they were called, that attended Yoakam's shows provided an invaluable support for his fledgling career.

Yoakam released an independent EP, A Town South of Bakersfield, in 1984, which received substantial airplay on Los Angeles college and alternative radio stations. The EP also helped him land a record contract with Reprise Records. Dwight's full-length debut album, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., was released in 1986 and was an instant sensation. Rock and country critics praised it and it earned airplay on college stations across America. More importantly, it was a hit on the country charts, as its first single, a cover of Johnny Horton's "Honky Tonk Man," climbed to number three in the spring, followed by the number four "Guitars, Cadillacs" in the summer. The album would eventually go platinum.

Hillbilly Deluxe, Dwight's 1987 follow-up, was equally successful, spawning four Top Ten hits: "Little Sister," "Little Ways," "Please, Please Baby," and "Always Late with Your Kisses." In 1988, Yoakam had his first number one hit with "Streets of Bakersfield," a cover of a Buck Owens song recorded with Owens himself. It was the first single off his third album, Buenos Noches from a Lonely Room, which continued his streak of Top Ten hits. "I Sang Dixie," the album's second single, went to number one, and "I Got You" reached number five. In 1989, Yoakam released a compilation album, Just Lookin' for a Hit, which went gold. "Long White Cadillac," taken from the collection, stalled at number 35 in the fall of 1989.

Although his 1990 album If There Was a Way didn't have as many Top Ten hits, it was a major success; it was his first album since his debut to go platinum. This Time, released in the spring of 1993, was an even bigger hit, spawning three number two singles -- "Ain't That Lonely Yet," "A Thousand Miles from Nowhere," and "Fast as You" -- and going platinum. After its release, Yoakam was silent for two years, returning in the summer of 1995 with Dwight Live, which didn't set the charts on fire. In the fall of that year, he released his sixth album, Gone, which went gold by the spring of 1996, although it didn't produce any major country hits. After 1997's Under the Covers, a collection of cover songs, Yoakam returned with the all-new A Long Way Home in 1998. Another compilation, Last Chance for a Thousand Years: Greatest Hits from the '90s, was released in 1999; its newly recorded version of Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" became Yoakam's biggest hit in six years, even hitting the lower reaches of the pop charts thanks to its exposure in a khakis commercial. Two albums followed in 2000:, a bare-bones, all-acoustic revisitation of Yoakam's back catalog; and the more standard studio project Tomorrow's Sounds Today, which featured further collaborations with Buck Owens and a cover of Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me."

In 2001, Yoakam debuted as a writer and director, also issuing the soundtrack South of Heaven, West of Hell to accompany it. Two years later, he debuted on a new label (Audium) with Population Me, while Reprise issued the compilation In Others' Words to compete with it. In 2004 he released Dwight's Used Records, a 14-track anthology of duets that appeared on other artists' albums, unreleased covers, and cuts Yoakam contributed to various tribute compilations. An album of all new material, the self-produced Blame the Vain, followed in 2005 along with the live album Live from Austin, TX. An album of Buck Owens covers, Dwight Sings Buck, appeared in 2007. 2012's 3 Pears, Yoakam's first album since returning to Warner Bros. Records after a trio of releases for New West Records, and his first album of original material since 2005's Blame the Vain, featured a pair of Beck productions, "A Heart Like Mine" and "Missing Heart," recorded at Beck's home studio in California. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography


This article lists Buck Owens and all the others as big influences on Dwight's music, but nowhere does it mention Gram Parsons!?!? I mean, Dwight has personally named him as a huge influence before, just don't think Gram's impact should be overlooked either...
I had the please to meet him back in the 80's when he was playing L.A. bars. We knew then that he was going to make it big. A real artist
I agree, a great singer and a good picker too. Type-cast in the movies maybe?
He's a great singer and all but boy is he a dick in all the movies he's in
Doyle Hargraves finally made it big!
Dwight Yoakam and Pete Anderson--wh a t a team!
peggyjean100 3

I just wrote the last comment, not kdkathyd216.
I am such a huge fan...Dwight has been my #1 man since I first saw his cover picture on Guitars, Cadillacs... i n a Country magazine & took a chance & bought his cassette. To me he looked like the James Dean of Country ...I love to listen to his lyrics...nev e r get tired of listening to him. I first saw him in Enumclaw, WA, then Bumbershoot back to back with KD Lang years ago. Since then, I've seen him in concert twice. I love the song Fair to Midland that I recently heard for the first time.
Jake - I have have seen him six times in various cities over the years- every show was great and his appeal was wide - young and old, male and female!
I've seen him in concert 2 times and he was great in both of them! Not to mention those tight leather pants! He is a very unique artist.
His concerts are the best.
I saw him in concert and it was amazing. He was really great. It was so much fun!
Guitars, Cadillac s. OOPs. Dwight YOU SEXY THING. Still very sexy and still looking good in those tight jeans. OWW TURN AROUND DWIGHT!! HAHA
Hillbilly Music. Dwight YOU SEXY THING
He is mainstream though. I mean he's credited with kickin off the neo-trad movement.
Not a bad actor either.
they didn't mention in the pocket of a clown. 0ne of my faves
Oh yeah, NO ONE wears a pair of Wranglers like DY! Save a Horse...
Country music played in my home ever since I can remember. As I became a young adult and came into my own DY was and remains one of my faves. So good live. 1,000 miles from nowhere! Love his Elvis cover, " little sister( don't you do what your big sister does)"
No body sounds like or boot scoots like Dwight! Whoot!
I have always loved Dwight. His cover of Ring of Fire on the 3 Pears album is killer! Love it!!
Don't read this because it actually works.You will be kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of your life.Tomorro w will be the best day if your life.However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days.Now you've started reading so don't stop.This so scary put this on least 5 songs in 143 minutes.When done press f6 and your lover's name will come on the screen in big letters.This is so scary because it actually works.
No one's as fast as me
Not sure who wrote Dwight's Bio but they are full of s**t.I am main stream country and I have always loved his music and sound. The Bakersfield connection is just killer.
I Love me some dwight-going to go see him on the 21st!!!
One of the best country-rock songs out of the '90's
James bruce
A great singer/songw r i t e r / g u i t a r player with excellent taste in music and in the music he chooses to cover. Dig him a lot. Great band too!
A Thousand Miles From Nowhere...Cl a s s y song...excel l e n t video..One of my all time favorites
OUTSTANDING album. Outlaw/rocke r / o l d doesn't matter what you call it...this album is better n''s like Frosted Flakes...GRE A T .
Well I liked him whan I was a bady
He sets a pont her
Well sence I was a baby I liked him
His a great singer I want to mary him
I really hated country music, until i heard this guy wail it. Damn, and I have been cooler ever since. Thanks Dwight.
Don't look now Dwight, but bbysmael is sweet on you!
Better than Elvis' version anyday!
Absolutely thee everything he sings
Dwight is the best! He's awesome live, I have seen him 6 times in concert!
I love old time country music. Not a fan of much modern country music.
Dwight sings the country music I love and he has such great vocals.
janiceleftwi c h
Love Dwight Yoakam!
I love country and rock and roll and Dwight 's music is some of my all time favorites. Love Him!!
Amen James! I grew up on his songs! Reading and Writing and Route 23 surely rang a bell for me. And don't forget She Wore Read Dresses. Weired, but I think of trout fishing every time I here him.
A legend in his own time! The man is in a class all his own! No one touches Dwight! Awesome music, lyrics, style, mood and originality! ! ! Enough said...
I have to disagree with the write up saying every album disrespects the country tradition, as I have just about every one he's done, and have seen him live. it is correct to say it's not the polished Nashville type, such as Glenn Campbell, but Dwight covers a lot of the old-school country, and it sounds more hill-billy-c o u n t r y then the original artist, he can even countrify rock classics by groups like Queen and Cheap Trick, and you'd swear it was written back in the hills when you hear it.
Saw him in concert a few years ago, will never forget it! Excellent musician!
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