Friday, August 13, 2010

Review: New Buck biography nothing but a hatchet job

Following is a response to a review the Bakersfield paper did on my new book. I decided to post here under the same title as the review because it seems to be the only way to keep other websites from picking it up and repeating the same errors:

Dear Editor:

I am writing to correct several errors in the Bakersfield Californian's review on Aug. 6 of BUCK OWENS: The Biography (Chicago Review Press, 2010).

To clarify, I paid 100 percent of my expenses to meet with Buck Owens. This is how professional journalists operate.

In addition, I listed people at the beginning of the book who would and would not go on the record. I also named those who could not be reached because they were either dead or had common names. That list ended up getting cut for space reasons. Bonnie Owens was set to talk with me years ago but backed out because she was afraid of Buck and feared he would disinherit their sons. In fact, Bonnie's divorce complaint cited "extreme cruelty" as among her reasons for leaving Buck. Joe "Red" Simpson was another who agreed to be interviewed, but when I called him at the appointed time back in 1999, he said he had changed his mind. I applaud all those who had the courage to be interviewed for the book; they deserve praise, not ridicule.

I wrote certified letters in March 2008 to the Owens boys and Mel Owens Jr. asking for their input, but they ignored my requests. I also wrote to Jim Shaw in March 1999 telling him that it was in Buck's best interest not to silence people who might have flattering things to say. It seems to me that the Owens organization went out of its way to ensure the book would be unbalanced, which I tried very hard not to do. If family members are unhappy with the final product, they have no one to blame but themselves.

Your paper cited several quotations by sources as coming from my mouth. For example, the "howler" about "emotional incest" was made by Buck's former lover and national promotion director, Kris Black, not myself.

Phyllis Owens's friends all knew Buck had broken her jaw. They also told me about of the many times they saw her beat up and with black eyes. What her friends doubted was that she had ever an affair with one of the Buckaroos, which is why there was a comma before the clause "which her friends say was untrue."

Trust me, Buck found time to bed many women. He himself told me that to be with only one woman would be "boring." He told me of lovers he juggled in Ohio and various cities as well as a paternity suit. Consider the number of years he toured and that he was on the road 300-plus days a year then do the math. Doyle Holly even likened it to a "cattle call."


Eileen Sisk


  1. It means everything to me as a fan that Don Rich's widow approves of the book. As a writer I look up to you. Here's to you for having the courage to tell the truth and the foresight to finance the investigation.

  2. Great book, loaded with insights & revelations.

    Yes, there are tough stories in the Buck book, like the one I just read about the keyboardist for the Tourists, the harrowing section on when the Tourists had the car accident in the snow. and the amazing number of songs Buck appropriated without giving proper credit to the writers, but that's the way it happened, and I must say it reads better than any fiction I've seen in a while.

  3. Thanks for the vote of support initforthekills and Will. I had to shorten the letter and had to cut the part about Don's widow liking the finished product, but she has been very supportive.

  4. You know you're the best at what you do and you did it right, you simply told the truth ! Anything else is irrelevant ! I'm proud of you !

  5. I gotta read this book. I thought it was going to be about some hillbilly that finally makes it out the mountains and does good. Seen it, read it, no thank you.

    But if there's sex, drugs, abuse and domestic violence ----- I'm there baby.

  6. Hi Eileen I want to think you for making the book about my grandfather. How did you find out about Marjorie from Placerville, did you do a interview with my grandma marjorie or buck, if you have any more info about them can you please email me back.

    thank you

    mark carlile

  7. Mark, a good journalist never reveals her sources, but I've always been a digger, and when it came to Marjorie, dig I did. I will be talking with you. Take good care and nice to meet you.