Buck Owens was born Alvis Edgar Owens, Jr. to Alvis Edgar and Macie Owens in Sherman, Texas in 1929. He is said to have given himself the nickname of Buck after his favorite mule (alternately said to be a donkey or a horse in different accounts) when he was young. His father, Alvis Edgar, Sr., was a sharecropping farmer in Grayson County, Texas. In 1937, the family moved west to Arizona. The family legend is that their trailer broke down near Phoenix, Arizona where they had other relatives, so they elected to settle there. Similar to the stories of many other musical artists, Buck’s mother sang and played the piano at their home and in church. Buck learned to play the guitar, mandolin and other instruments when he was a youth. He dropped out of school at age thirteen to help the family survive and did all sorts of jobs to raise money. As a young man, Buck began performing in honky-tonks to earn his living. When he was about twenty, he married his first wife, the former Bonnie Campbell, a singer in a band both she and Buck played in called Mac and the Skillet Lickers. Buck and Bonnie eventually moved to Bakersfield, California where Buck began to play around town and in the surrounding area. Buck and Bonnie would remain married for about five years. He was married three more times.
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The actress Irene Ryan was born Jesse Irene Noblitt on October 17, 1902 to James Merritt and Catherine J. McSharry Noblitt while her family was living in El Paso, Texas. James was stationed at Fort Bliss and the family did not remain in Texas long, but El Paso has always claimed Irene. The Noblitts lived off the base on Franklin Street near downtown. Irene recounted that she was born at home. James was a sergeant in the United States Army and soon after she was born, they moved to California. Irene began entertaining when she was a teenager and recalled winning a talent contest when she was eleven years old. When she was nineteen, she married actor Tim Ryan. The couple appeared as Ryan and Noblette in vaudeville until that venue declined. After this, the couple appeared on radio as Tim and Irene. Ryan was a character actor who appeared in many films over the years, including From Here to Eternity (1953). The couple was married for about 16 years, and had no children. Ryan died in 1956 of a heart attack.
(Image credit: Associated Press)
Jimmy Ray Dean was born August 10, 1928 to George Otto and Ruth Taylor Dean in Seth Ward, Hale, Texas which lies just outside of Plainview. At that time, the family was to be operating a farm. Ruth was Otto’s second wife, but by the time Jimmy was 11 or 12, Ruth was listed as a single parent, working as a seamstress out of her home in Seth Ward. From that point on, the family consisted of Ruth, her sons Jimmy and Don. Ruth later is said to have become a barber to support her family. At an early age, Jimmy learned to play the piano, accordion, harmonica and guitar as he worked around the family farm. He was active in the local Baptist church there in Seth Ward and attributed his interest in music to his mother and the music in church.
Ann Miller was the stage name of Johnnie Lucille Collier, born April 12, 1923 in Chireno, Nacogdoches County, Texas. Her father was John A. Collier, a criminal defense lawyer known for representing clients such as Baby Face Nelson, Machine Gun Kelly and the Barrow Gang. Her mother was the former Clara Emma Birdwell. As a young girl, Johnnie suffered from rickets and took dance classes to help strengthen her legs. She also studied piano and violin. The family moved to Houston, Texas where she lived until she was nine years old. Eventually her parents divorced and she moved with her mother to Los Angeles.
(Image credit: FreddyFender.com)
Freddy Fender was born Baldemar Garcia Huerta in San Benito, Cameron County, Texas on June 4, 1937. His parents were Serapio and Margarita Garcia Huerta, who were migrant farm workers. Huerta was the oldest of four children and was raised around music, including lively “conjunto,” a traditional style of music that includes a blend of Tejano and references to German polka, including the use of an accordion. He performed as early as the age of ten on a Harlingen, Texas radio station. He dropped out of high school and lied about his age to join the United States Marine Corps. He served from 1954 to 1956. Huerta married in 1957 as he began to perform as “El Be-Bop Kid” and other stage names, doing covers of popular American hits of artists like Elvis Presley but singing them in Spanish. He and his wife Evangelina had five children. They divorced and remarried at one point, but otherwise were married for about forty-five years.
Buddy Holly was born Charles Hardin Holley to Lawrence Odell and Ella Pauline Drake Holley on September 7, 1939 in Lubbock, Texas. He began to perform in the country music genre in Lubbock at high school dances. He had won a singing contest at age five but got his first guitar when he was fourteen. Buddy and a former junior high school friend named Bob Montgomery formed a duo they called Buddy and Bob and played anywhere they could get a foothold. They also were the opening act when other artists would tour the area and two different times, they opened for Elvis Presley in 1955 and one time the same year for Bill Haley and the Comets (“Rock Around the Clock”). Buddy and some high school friends then formed a group they called Buddy Holly and the Crickets and were known around Lubbock for playing dances and also spots on local radio. The Crickets were Jerry Allison on drums, Joe Mauldin and Nicky Sullivan on guitars. Buddy did the lead singing.
(Image credit: Country Music Hall of Fame)
Born outside Perryville, Texas on January 12, 1926, Ray Price became one of the best known country singers of his era. His parents were Walter Clifton and Clara Mae Bradley Price. There were no other known children born to this union. His parents divorced when he was only three years old, with his father remaining on the Wood County farm and his mother moving to Dallas and remarrying Dominic Cimini. Ray spent time with both families at various times, mostly in Dallas where he graduated from Dallas Adamson. Until World War II, Price attended North Texas Agricultural College (NTAC), formerly known as Arlington College and now known as University of Texas at Arlington. He lied about his age and at 17, one year early, Ray enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1944, serving served in the Pacific until 1946.