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Yoakam, Dwight

Dwight Yoakam

Singer, songwriter

Arguably the finest artist to emerge from country music's neo-traditionalist movement during the mid-1980s, Dwight Yoakam skillfully blended a collector's taste for traditional country and rockabilly into a series of now classic recordings. The swivel-kneed singer/songwriter has continued to prove himself as a recording artist, and has also made a name for himself in films as an actor. When not recording, he has earned positive reviews for his roles in such films as the 1996 Academy Award-winning Sling Blade and the 2005 hit comedy Wedding Crashers.

Started in Cowpunk

Yoakam was born on October 23, 1956, in Pikeville, Kentucky, but the family moved to Columbus, Ohio, when Dwight was very young. Yoakam first showed an interest in playing the guitar at the age of two, and quickly taught himself to play along with Hank Williams's records. He composed his first song at the age of eight. A devotee of vintage recordings by Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, Elvis Presley, Hank Locklin, and particularly Buck Owens and his Buckaroos, the youngster started a rockabilly band while still in high school. He worked as a singer in nightclubs while attending Ohio State University, but after two years he left for Nashville in search of a career in country music. Unable to get his career started while living in Nashville, Yoakam decided to try his luck in Los Angeles, where he moved in 1978.

In Los Angeles, Yoakam worked as a truck driver and on a loading dock while struggling to find his musical niche. Latching onto a secure spot in the San Fernando Valley cowpunk scene, the singer eventually began sharing a bill with such emerging local acts as Los Lobos, the Blasters, and Lone Justice. He worked with lead guitarist and roots music visionary Pete Anderson, and the two produced A Town South of Bakersfield, a six-song EP for the independent Oak Records label. Hailed as a return to country's true roots, the smart-selling disc paved the way for Yoakam's major label deal with the Warner Brothers' subsidiary Reprise.

A Major Country Hitmaker

Yoakam's 1986 debut album, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc., was well-received by critics and country music fans alike, and spawned a hit remake of Johnny Horton's "Honky Tonk Man" and the singer's own composition "Guitars, Cadillacs, and Hillbilly Music." This first album quickly went platinum, and the next four went gold; Dwight Yoakam had clearly become a major country music star.

Yoakam released four more albums in the next four years—1987's Hillbilly Deluxe, 1988's Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room, 1989's Just Lookin' for a Hit, and 1990's If There Was a Way—and managed to keep his loyal traditional country music fans satisfied. During this early peak, he was able to briefly revitalize the careers of two of his country idols. He enticed Buck Owens out of semi-retirement to record one of the legendary singer-songwriter's early tunes, "Streets of Bakersfield." Not only did their recording hit number one on the country charts, but Yoakam and Owens toured together with great success. In 1992 Yoakam convinced Roger Miller, one of country and pop's cleverest tunesmiths, to write a song with him. The result was the number seven charting "It Only Hurts When I Cry," a final triumph for Miller, who died of cancer a short time later.

Despite this solidification of his country stardom, there were fans and critics who expressed a desire for the singer to expand his musical horizons, abandon his characteristic honky-tonk, rural sound, and adopt a more sophisticated rock-driven contemporary country music sound. Yoakam's response was the 1993 album This Time, and he succeeded, according to Entertainment Weekly's Alanna Nash, in "pull[ing] off a near miracle: Staying stone country for his core following, and turning progressive enough for radio, without alienating either audience." Songs such as "A Thousand Miles from Nowhere" and "King of Fools" were especially lauded, and Yoakam himself, in an article by People contributor Tony Scherman, characterized the type of music he played as "country rock," but asserted: "I'll never quit playing country music, or at least acknowledging it, always, as the cornerstone of what I am." In a review in Maclean's, Nicholas Jennings declared that Yoakam's "songwriting … ranks among the best in country music."

Despite his busy schedule as an actor on stage and screen, in 1995 Yoakam managed to release Dwight Live, which consisted of versions of songs that were recorded live during concert performances, and Gone, which continued the trend Yoakam had started with This Time. Both albums were well regarded by critics and popular with fans. Tony Scherman, writing in Entertainment Weekly, called Dwight Live a "most satisfying country record." Guitar Player's Art Thompson also offered a glowing review of the live album, and advised his readers that this was "the music of dented pickup trucks and funky bars, not the silly tight-Wranglers scene that dominates today's 'young country.'" Reviews of Gone were largely positive, but some critics asserted, as did Alanna Nash in her Entertainment Weekly review, that "he's so busy getting the synthesis right that he forgot the soul."

For the Record …

Born October 23, 1956, in Pikeville, KY; son of David (a gas station owner) and Ruth (a keypunch operator) Yoakam. Education: Attended Ohio State University.

Singer and songwriter, 1974–; performer in West Coast night clubs and bars, c. 1970–78; worked as a truck driver, 1978; recording artist with Reprise, 1986–; has appeared as actor in films, including Red Rock West, 1992, Roswell, 1994, The Little Death, 1995, Painted Hero, 1996, Sling Blade, 1996, The Newton Boys, 1998 Don't Look Back, 1996, South of Heaven, West of Hell, 2000, Wedding Crashers, 2005, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, 2005, and Crank, 2006; appeared as guest star on various television programs; appeared as actor on stage in Southern Rapture, MET Theatre, Los Angeles, 1993; wrote and directed independent feature films; toured with The Babylonian Cowboys (his backup band); appeared with singer and musician Buck Owens; recorded for Audium and New West labels, 2003–2006.

Awards: American Academy of Country Music Award, Best New Male Vocalist, 1987; Grammy Award, Best Country Vocal Performance, male, 1993, for "Ain't That Lonely Yet"; Premiere Performance Award (for outstanding breakthrough performances in film) for portrayal of Doyle Hargraves in Sling Blade, 1996; Screen Actors Guild Award, Outstanding Performance by a Cast for Sling Blade, 1996; Grammy Award, Best Country Collaboration with Vocals, for "Same Old Train," 1998; Voted Country Artist of the Year by Amazon.com, 2000; Western Heritage Awards, Bronze Wrangler, for Outstanding Theatrical Motion Picture, for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, 2005.

Addresses: Record company—New West, 9125 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212, website: http://www.newwestrecords.com. Website—Official Dwight Yoakam website: http://www.dwightyoakam.com.

Branched Out into Films

Yoakam, a country heart-throb whose knee-swiveling on stage antics drew appreciative screams from female fans, had been dabbling in films since his first roles, in 1993's Red Rock West and 1994's Roswell, His first starring role came as a rodeo clown in the 1994 action feature Painted Hero. In 1996 Yoakam earned rave reviews for his portrayal of the abusive, alcoholic Doyle in the film Sling Blade. He received Premiere magazine's Premiere Performance Award in recognition of his "breakthrough performance" in the film.

Following his performance in Sling Blade, Yoakam received offers to appear in many more films, but shied away from mainstream features in favor of grittier independent films such as 2000's South of Heaven, West of Hell, which he directed and starred in, 2002's Waking Up in Reno, which he also produced, and 2005's critically acclaimed The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.

Further, Yoakam used his multimedia fame to branch out into the prepackaged food business by signing a deal with Modern Foods to manufacture such faux southern-flavored edibles as Dwight Yoakam's Chicken Lickin's and Boom Boom Shrimp.

On the musical front, Yoakam's 1997 release of his eighth album, Under the Covers, featured cover versions of songs originally recorded by such diverse artists as The Clash and Johnny Horton, and drew praise from critics who expressed appreciation for the singer's artistic inventiveness and mastery of a wide range of musical styles. Critical response to the album was mixed, with some critics praising Yoakam's creativity and range, while others characterized the work as overdone. People's Amy Linden, who while admitting that initially the new versions were interesting and enjoyable to listen to, remarked that "eventually the production razzle-dazzle and sudden leaps of genre get tiresome." Entertainment Weekly's Jeremy Helligar, however, was enthusiastic about Under the Covers and concluded that Yoakam's performance on the album was "inspired as hell and absolutely out of control."

Returned to Independent Labels

Yoakam's status as a hit recording artist slipped during the late 1990s, although he consistently drew large concert crowds. By 2001 he and Reprise/Warner Bros. had parted company, and the singer-songwriter signed with the hot independent Audium label. Right out of the box, Yoakam proved that his creative fires were undiminished. Aided by longtime producer/guitarist Pete Anderson, 2003's Population Me continued to revel in the Buck Owens-inspired Bakersfield sound and self-deprecating Johnny Horton honky-tonk, while embracing guest star Timothy B. Schmidt's connection to the folk-rock sounds of the Eagles.

The alliance with Audium was short-lived. The label folded and Yoakam leased his next efforts to the independent New West label. Blame the Vain (2005) was recorded without longtime partner Pete Anderson, who had left to concentrate on his own Lucky Dog label. Yoakam still enjoys a devoted fan base, even when modern radio playlists ignore his works. Robert Loy of Country Standard Time expressed it best in his review of Blame the Vain: "It's just that radio no longer bends enough to accommodate the always eclectic (sometimes too retro, sometimes too progressive) Mr. Yoakam. And there's probably not anything on his 18th album to make them alter that policy."

Selected Discography

Singles

"Honky Tonk Man," Reprise, 1986.
"Guitars, Cadillacs," Reprise, 1986.
"It Won't Hurt," Reprise, 1986.
"Little Sister," Reprise, 1987.
"Little Ways," Reprise, 1987.
"Please, Please Baby," Reprise, 1987.
"Always Late With Your Kisses," Reprise, 1988.
"Streets of Bakersfield," (With Buck Owens) Reprise, 1988.
"I Sang Dixie," Reprise, 1988.
"I Got You," Reprise, 1989.
"Long White Cadillac," Reprise, 1989.
"Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose," Reprise 1989.
"You're the One," Reprise, 1991.
"Nothing's Changed Here," Reprise, 1991.
"It Only Hurts When I Cry," Reprise, 1992.
"The Heart That You Own," Reprise, 1992.
"Suspicious Minds," Reprise, 1992.
"Ain't That Lonely Yet," Reprise, 1993.
"A Thousand Miles from Nowhere," Reprise, 1993.
"Fast As You," Reprise, 1993.
"Try Not to Look So Pretty," Reprise, 1994.
"Nothing," Reprise, 1995.
"Things Change," Reprise, 1998.
"Crazy Little Thing Called Love," Reprise, 1999.
"What Do You Know About Love," Warner Bros., 2000.

Albums

Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc., Reprise, 1986.
Hillbilly Deluxe, Reprise, 1987.
Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room, Reprise, 1988.
Just Lookin' for a Hit, Reprise, 1989.
If There Was A Way, Reprise, 1990.
This Time, Reprise, 1993.
Dwight Live, Reprise, 1995.
Gone, Reprise, 1995.
Under the Covers, Reprise, 1997.
Come On Christmas, Reprise, 1997.
Long Way Home, Reprise, 1998. La Croix d'Amour, WEA International, 1999.
Last Chance for a Thousand Years: Greatest Hits from the 90's, Reprise, 1999.
Tomorrow's Sounds Today, Warner Bros., 2000.
South of Heaven, West of Hell, (Original soundtrack recording) Warner Bros., 2001.
Reprise Please Baby: The Warner Bros. Years (4 CD boxed set), Rhino, 2002.
In Others' Words, Reprise, 2003.
Population Me, Audium, 2003.
Dwight's Used Records, Koch, 2004.
The Very Best of Dwight Yoakam, Rhino, 2004.
Blame the Vain, New West, 2005.
Live from Austin, New West, 2005.
The Essentials, WEA International, 2005.
Platinum Collection, Warner Bros., 2006.

Videos/DVDs

Just Lookin' for a Hit, Warner/Reprise, 1989.
Pieces of Time, Warner Bros., 1994.
Live from Austin, New West, 2005.
Dwight Yoakam, St. Clair Vision, 2006.

Sources

Books

McCloud, Barry, Definitive Country: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Country Music and Its Performers, Perigree, 1995.

Stambler, Irwin & Grelun Landon, Country Music: The Encyclopedia, St. Martin's Griffin, 1997.

Periodicals

Country Standard Time, July 2003.

Entertainment Weekly, April 2, 1993, p. 51; May 26, 1995, p. 86; November 3, 1995, p. 66; December 6, 1996, p. 48; July 25, 1997.

Guitar Player, September 1995, p. 119.

Los Angeles Magazine, May 1993, p. 165.

Maclean's, April 26, 1993, p. 44.

People, March 29, 1993, p. 19; April 26, 1993, p. 46; November 27, 1995, p. 22; August 4, 1997, p. 23.

Online

"Dwight Yoakam," All Movie Guide Guide, http://www.allmovie.com. (October 25, 2006).

"Dwight Yoakam," All Music Guide, (October 25, 2006).

"Dwight Yoakam," Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com. (October 25, 2006).

George Graham Weekly Album Review, broadcast August 6, 1997, on WVIA-FM, http://www.george.scranton.com/yoakam.html.

The Official Dwight Yoakam Website, http://www.dwightyoakam.com. (October 25, 2006).

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Yoakam, Dwight

Dwight Yoakam

Singer, songwriter

For the Record

He Can Really Sing

Selected discography

Sources

Critically and popularly acclaimed country singer Dwight Yoakam has not only continued to prove himself as a recording artist, he has also made a name for himself as an actor, earning rave reviews for his roles in such films as the Academy Award-winning Sling Blade, released in 1996. Upon receiving Premiere magazines Premiere Performance Award (in recognition of his breakthrough performance in Sling Blade) in October 1996, Yoakam remarked: Acting is a different form of creative expression for me than performing music. In acting, Im able to actually escape myself using the character as a vehicle for exploring emotions I might not otherwise confront, whereas with music, I feel as though I go deeper inside myself in articulating emotions that are almost exclusively an outgrowth of my personal experiences. Yoakams 1997 release of his eighth album, Under the Covers, which features cover versions of songs originally recorded by such diverse artists as The Clash and Johnny Horton, drew praise from critics who expressed appreciation for the singers artistic inventiveness and mastery of a wide range of musical styles.

Yoakam was born on October 23, 1956, in Pikeville, Kentucky, but the family moved to Columbus, Ohio, when Dwight was very young. Yoakam first showed an interest in playing the guitar at the age of two, and quickly taught himself to play along with Hank Williams records. He composed his first song at the age of eight, but, as he told Peoples Pam Lambert, because he didnt think [he] was doing it right, because it came so easily, Yoakam did not write another song until much later. He worked as a singer in night clubs while attending Ohio State University, but after two years he left for Nashville, Tennessee, in search of a career in country music. Unable to get his career started while living in Nashville, Yoakam decided to try his luck in Los Angeles, where he moved in 1978. In Los Angeles, Yoakam worked as a truck driver and on a loading dock while struggling to find a niche for himself among the popular country music artists of the time. These artists had a modern sound that was a far cry from his traditional, down-home variety of country music. Finally in 1986 he landed a recording contract with Reprise and released his debut album, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc., which was well-received by critics and country music fans alike.

After making a splash with Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc., Yoakam released four more albums in the next four years1987s Hillbilly Deluxe, 1988s Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room, 1989s Just Lookin for a Hit, and 1990s If There Was a Way and managed to keep his loyal fans of his traditional country music satisfied. His first album quickly went platinum, and the next four

For the Record

Born October 23, 1956, in Pikeville, KY; son of David (a gas station owner) and Ruth (a keypunch operator) Yoakam. Education: Attended Ohio State University.

Singer and songwriter, 1974. Performer in West Coast night clubs and bars, c. 1970-78; worked as a truck driver, beginning in 1978; recording artist with Reprise, 1986; has appeared as an actor in films, including Red Rock West, 1992, The Little Death, 1995, Painted Hero, 1996, Sling Blade, 1996, and The Newton Boys, 1998; actor in television programs, including the movies Roswell, 1994, and Dont Look Back, 1996, and as a guest star on the series Ellen, 1997; has appeared as an actor on stage, in Southern Rapture, MET Theatre, Los Angeles, 1993; has toured with The Babylonian Cowboys (a backup band), and has appeared with singer and musician Buck Owens.

Awards: American Academy of Country Music Award, best new male vocalist, 1987; Grammy Award, best country vocal performance, male, 1993, for Aint That Lonely Yet; Premiere Performance Award (for outstanding breakthrough performances in film), 1996, for portrayal of Doyle Hargraves in Sling Blade; has received numerous Grammy Award nominations.

Addresses: Record company Reprise, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.

went gold; Dwight Yoakam was clearly a major country music star. Still, there were fans and critics who expressed a desire for the singer to expand his musical horizons, abandon his characteristic honky-tonk, rural sound, and adopt a more sophisticated, rock-driven, contemporary country music sound. Yoakams response to this request was his 1993 album, This Time, with which he succeeded, according to Entertainment Weeklys Alanna Nash, in pull[ing] off a near miracle: Staying stone country for his core following, and turning progressive enough for radio, without alienating either audience.

This Time received high praise from critics, who applauded Yoakams ability to blend rock, pop, and country music without compromising any of the musical influences and without sounding like every other country or pop star on the radio. Songs such as A Thousand Miles from Nowhere and King of Fools were especially lauded, and Yoakam himself, in an article by People contributor Tony Scherman, characterized the type of music he plays as country rock, but asserted: Ill never quit playing country music, or at least acknowledging it, always, as the cornerstone of what I am. In a review in Macleans, Nicholas Jennings declared that on This Time Yoakams songwriting ranks among the best in country music, and that even though the artist deviates from his previous traditional country music style, his plaintive vocals make every song convincing.

He Can Really Sing

Despite his busy schedule as an actor on stage and screen, in 1995 Yoakam managed to release Dwight Live, which, as the name suggests, consisted of versions of songs that were recorded live during concert performances, and Gone, an album on which Yoakam continued the trend he had started with This Time, performing songs that blended a variety of music styles and influences. Both albums were well regarded by critics and were popular with fans. Tony Scherman, writing in Entertainment Weekly, called Dwight Live the most satisfying country record of the half year, applauded Yoakams vocal abilities, declaring the boy can flat-out sing, and praised the singers unwavering power to bar[e] his soul in every song. Guitar Players Art Thompson also offered a glowing review of the live album, and advised his readers that [t]his is the music of dented pickup trucks and funky bars, not the silly tight-Wranglers scene that dominates todays young country. Reviews of Gone were largely positive, but some critics asserted, as Alanna Nash did in her Entertainment Weekly assessment, that in incorporating all of the different types of music on the album, some of the heart of Yoakams music was lost. As Nash termed it, hes so busy getting the synthesis right that he forgot the soul. Scherman, this time writing for People, offered a different appraisal, proclaiming that Yoakam alone has the grit and individuality once common currency in country music, and that on Gone the singer pushes his voice into places it has never been with spectacular results.

In 1996 Yoakam earned rave reviews for his potrayal of the abusive, alcoholic Doyle in the film Sling Blade. Regarding his performance, most critics and moviegoers expressed sentiments similar to Entertainment Weekly contributor Owen Gleibermans assertion that in the film Yoakam gives a shattering performance, lending Doyle the redneck varmint authentic shades of self-loathing and cowardice. Although he expressed interest in acting, and following his performance in Sling Blade, he received offers to appear in many more films, Yoakam maintained his dedication to music, and in 1997, he released Under the Covers, an album on which he offered listeners creative alternative versions of songs made popular by other artists. The album features such songs as Train in Vain, by the punk rock band The Clash, reworked and presented in a style that often differs considerably from the original; The Clashs original pop rock style and vocals are replaced by what critic Graham Weekly, in his review broadcast on WVIA-FM and published on the internet, called a style somewhere between bluegrass and Cajun. Critical response to the album was mixed, with some critics praising Yoakams creativity, daring, and range, and other critics characterizing the work as overdone. Peoples Amy Linden, who while admitting that initially the new versions are interesting and enjoyable to listen to, remarked that eventually the production razzle-dazzle and sudden leaps of genre get tiresome. Entertain-ment Weeklys Jeremy Helligar, however, was enthusiastic about Under the Covers, and concluded that Yoakams performance on the album was [i]nspired as hell and absolutely out of control. This critics opinion seems to be shared by a great many others, judging from the media attention placed on Yoakam, who has continued to provide the public with fresh, innovative performances as an actor, singer, and songwriter.

Selected discography

Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc. (includes Honky Tonk Man, Miners Prayer, and Guitars, Cadillacs), Reprise, 1986.

Hillbilly Deluxe (includes Please, Please, Baby, Little Ways, and This Drinkin Will Kill Me), Reprise, 1987.

Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room (includes I Got You, Hold on to God, and I Sang Dixie), Reprise, 1988.

Just Lookin for a Hit, Reprise, 1989.

If There Was a Way (includes Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose, It Only Hurts When I Cry, and Since I Started Drinking Again), Reprise, 1990.

This Time (includes Aint That Lonely Yet and Fast As You), Reprise, 1993.

Dwight Live, Reprise, 1995.

Gone (includes Sorry You Asked?, Gone (Thatll Be Me), and Heart of Stone), Reprise, 1995.

Under the Covers, Reprise, 1997.

Sources

Periodicals

Entertainment Weekly, April 2, 1993, p. 51; May 26, 1995, p. 86; November 3, 1995, p. 66; December 6, 1996, p. 48; July 25, 1997, p. 73.

Guitar Player, September, 1995, p. 119.

Los Angeles Magazine, May, 1993, p. 165.

Macleans, April 26, 1993, p. 44.

People, March 29, 1993, p. 19; April 26, 1993, p. 46; November 27, 1995, p. 22; August 4, 1997, p. 23.

Online

Dwightsite, http://dwightsite.com/pr/sbpr.html.

Dwight Yoakam Fact Sheet, http://www.msopr.com/mso/dyoakamfact.html.

Dwight Yoakams homepage, http://www.wbr.com/nashville/dwightyoakam/cmp.

George Graham Weekly Album Review, broadcast August 6, 1997 on WVIA-FM, http://george.scranton.com/yoakam.html.

Lynn M. Spampinato

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Yoakam, Dwight

Dwight Yoakam

Singer, songwriter

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Country musician Dwight Yoakam has been dubbed the honky-tonk savior and the Hank Williams of the 1980s for his successful and almost singlehanded revival of traditional country forms. Yoakam, a native of rural Kentucky, makes the sort of country music you might have thought wasnt made anymorethe Real Thing, complete with sweetly morose fiddles, howled vocals and songs about drowning romantic sorrows in the nearest distilled liquid, to quote Philadelphia Inquirer critic Ken Tucker.

Not only has Yoakam reaped praise from fans of real country, he has attracted a new generation of listeners, including punk rockers in Americas biggest cities. Yoakam sings country music the way a union organizer might seek to stir up the rank-and-file, wrote Tucker. He extolls the virtues of country music with every twanging moan, with every sharp whine of the steel guitar that courses through his songs. Bill Monroe with drums, is Yoakams curt description of his music, and though not literally true [his] implications are ringingly clear: This is a 29-year-old who aims to revitalize the verities.

Yoakam was born in Pikesville, Kentucky, the grandson of a coal miner. Although his parents moved to Ohio while he was still young, he retained a strong affection for his Appalachian roots, one which offers the primary fuel for his music. Being born in Kentucky and having my mothers family there has left its imprint, he told the Washington Post.I feel blessed by my exposure to that hillbilly culture. Its a vanishing part of America and Ill always be proud of it. I feel I have to acknowledge it because its given me the subject matter and form for my music. I never could sing rock n roll. I have a country voice. Yoakam also has a long abiding affinity for country performers such as Johnny Cash, Williams, and Buck Owens, whose music of the 1950s and 1960s had a strong regional appeal.

When he began making his own music, Yoakam drew without hesitation on the work of the predecessors he admired. Ironically, when he tried to sell his sound in Nashville in the late 1970s, he was told that he was too country and was turned away without a contract. Taking a clue from role models like Owens and Emmylou Harris, Yoakam journeyed to the West Coast and began a lengthy stint of club and bar performances. He worked in near anonymityand near povertyfor more than eight years before finally landing a contract with Reprise, an eclectic subsidiary of Warner Bros.

The Nashville producers who rejected Yoakam initially must have found his success with a wide country and rock audience disconcerting. Equally embarrassing was the fact that Yoakam did not take great pains to hide his disdain for the type of country music that was

For the Record

Born c. 1956, in Pikesville, Ky.; son of David and Ruth Yoakam. Education: Attended Ohio State University.

Country singer and songwriter, 1974; unable to get a recording contract in Nashville, he moved to the West Coast during the late 1970s and performed in clubs and bars for eight years; began recording, 1986; has toured with backup band, The Babylonian Cowboys; has also made a number of appearances with singer-guitarist Buck Owens.

Awards: Gold Medal from New York Film Festival, and from American Music Awards, both 1987, both for video Honky Tonk Man; named best new male vocalist by American Academy of Country Music, 1987; two Grammy Award nominations, 1987.

Addresses: Home Los Angeles, CA. Office c/o Reprise Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505.

being promoted in the South. There have been a few points in history when country music stopped being country music, Yoakam told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1986. It happened in the 60s, when you got a lot of Nashville producers putting violins onto country records to make them appeal to the pop-music audience. It happened a few years ago, when all you heard from the country-music industry was the necessity to crossover, to make country records that could be played on pop radio stations. Country music then became this homogenized, all-things-to-all-people music, and it was terrible. Its the worst thing that can happen to a colloquial, ethnic, traditional art form, because it means that it loses its uniqueness.

Yoakam has striven to rebuild that traditional art form, finding it still valid and exciting. He told Rolling Stone that he is not surprised by the reaction his music gets from punk, New Wave, and rock fans. At first glance it would appear to be a great irony, he said. But not far below the surface, it starts to hit home that this is from whence [rock] music came. Everybody knows rhythm and blues was the black predecessor to rock & roll, but from the white side of things, hillbilly musicwhen it came down into the citieswas rock & roll. It was the ostracized form of music that attracted kids. These kids have picked up on that, which is why I owe them a debt for opening doors to me and the band. Theyre part of the people who brought me to the dance. But all I have to do to satisfy that indebtedness is not bastardize my pure form of country music.

More recently Yoakam has become more diplomatic in his relations with Nashville, and the industry has responded in kind. Yoakam was named best new male vocalist by the Academy of Country Music in 1987, and although his duet with Buck Owens, Streets of Bakers-field was passed over for awards, it occasioned much positive critical comment. Yoakam is pleased to have helped revitalize Owenss career, which had fallen on hard times in the wake of a buffoon-like HeeHaw image. The two entertainers often travel and perform together, with Yoakam assuming the role of grateful apprentice. Tom Moon noted in the Philadelphia Inquirer, however, that Yoakam is not an imitator. Hes not Johnny Cash revisited. Hes not reviving some lost art. Rather, hes reinventing the California honky-tonk sound, throwing together the elements of his background and re-combining them helter-skelter with an abandon usually exhibited by renegade avant-garde artists.

Whatever his methods, Yoakam is now finding the success he thought he might never achieve. According to Cameron Randle in Rolling Stone, Yoakams refusal to abandon traditional [country] forms is being vindicated. The critic concluded: If Yoakams early showing is any indication, his future might warrant equal optimism. On vinyl, as in concert, it is often difficult to tell which breaks more poignantlyhis heart or his voice. Yoakam may possess what it takes to become the Hank Williams of the Eighties.

Selected discography

Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc., Reprise, 1986.

Hillbilly Deluxe, Reprise, 1987.

Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room, Reprise, 1988.

Sources

Chicago Tribune, July 31, 1988; October 30, 1988.

Los Angeles Times, November 20, 1987; July 30, 1988.

People, August 4, 1986.

Philadelphia Inquirer, March 23, 1986; May 13, 1986; September 12, 1988; November 13, 1988.

Rolling Stone, May 22, 1986.

Washington Post, June 16, 1986.

Anne Janette Johnson

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Yoakam, Dwight

DWIGHT YOAKAM

Born: Pikeville, Kentucky, 23 October 1956

Genre: Country

Best-selling album since 1990: This Time (1993)

Hit songs since 1990: "A Thousand Miles from Nowhere," "Fast as You"


One of the first country "neo-traditionalists," Dwight Yoakam helped return the music to its roots during the 1980s and 1990s, popularizing a stripped-down sound built upon guitar, drums, and fiddles. Modeling his style after the twangy, guitar-based "Bakersfield Sound" created in the 1950s and 1960s by country performers Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, Yoakam retained his traditional approach even as country music became slicker and more pop-oriented in the midto late 1990s. For this reason, Yoakam did not become a country superstar, despite enjoying periodic success on the country charts. Instead, he found his core popularity among rock fans, an audience more appreciative of the somewhat ironic stance Yoakam brought to his music. Unlike fellow neo-traditionalist Randy Travis, who became one of the top-selling country performers of the 1980s and 1990s, Yoakam sometimes seems to be commenting upon his music from a distance, despite the reverence with which he performs it. By the late 1990s, his hip style had brought him success and acclaim as an actor in Hollywood films.

Born in the coal-mining town of Pikeville, Kentucky, but raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Yoakam began playing guitar at the age of six. As a youth he acted in local plays while developing a fondness for the country artists in his mother's record collection. After a stint at Ohio State University, where he majored in philosophy, Yoakam moved to Nashville to pursue a career as a performer. There, he met Pete Anderson, a guitarist who would later produce most of his recordings. The pair moved to Los Angeles, where they found steady work performing on the punk rock circuit of the late 1970s. With the help of an insurance check meant to fix Yoakam's car, they released a professional-sounding six-track album, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. (1984), which received substantial airplay on college radio stations. In 1986 Yoakam signed with a major label, Reprise, which re-released his first album, adding four songs. Hailed by critics as a stimulating, honest recasting of traditional country themes, the album became a commercial success, reaching the number one position on the country charts. Two follow-ups, Hillbilly Deluxe (1987) and Buenos Noches from a Lonely Room (1988), fared equally well, with the latter spawning Yoakam's first number one hit, "Streets of Bakersfield," a potent duet with his musical idol, Owens.

During the 1990s Yoakam altered his basic musical approach little, although he refined and developed his sound. Critics argue that If There Was a Way (1990) is one of his strongest albums, highlighted by the aching ballad, "The Heart That You Own." Recalling the classic performances of Haggard, the song displays Yoakam's ability to write memorable lyrics with strong themes: "I pay rent on a run-down place / There ain't no view but there's lots of space / in my heart, the heart that you own." Throughout the performance, Yoakam's singing is gentle and restrained, although his voice lacks the rich timbre of his forebears Haggard and Owens.

In 1993 Yoakam released the noteworthy This Time, an album in which his traditional ideas and themes fully coalesce. "Home for Sale" takes on an elegiac tone through the addition of a soulful Hammond B-3 organ, while the title track uncannily captures the sound and feel of a classic 1960s "honky-tonk" ballad, with lean guitar, tinkling piano, and drums, creating a delayed, shuffling rhythm. Yoakam's nasal vocal quality approximates Owens's singing without fully capturing the soul Owens brought to his work. Unparalleled as a craftsperson, Yoakam often sounds detached from the emotional core of his musica quality that gives him more in common with rock than with the sentiment and pathos of country.

After This Time, Yoakam's success on the country charts became more sporadic, with none of his post-1994 singles reaching the Top 10. By the mid- to late 1990s the neo-traditionalist phase in country had passed, supplanted by the slick pop approach of artists such as Shania Twain and John Michael Montgomery. Oblivious to this change, Yoakam continued to perform in his roots-based style, releasing strong albums such as A Long Way Home (1998) and Tomorrow's Sounds Today (2000), the latter of which features additional collaborations with Owens. By this time, Yoakam had also earned recognition for his acting work, having appeared in the films Red Rock West (1992) and, most notably, Sling Blade (1996). Unmarried, he shared high-profile romances with film actresses Sharon Stone and Bridget Fonda.

Unique among country artists in his refusal to follow trends, Yoakam has maintained his rebellious image, honoring musical traditions of the past at the risk of losing mainstream radio exposure. In the process, he has revitalized country in a manner that recalls the renegade style and personality of his musical heroes.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. (Reprise, 1986); Hillbilly Deluxe (Reprise, 1987); If There Was a Way (Reprise, 1990); This Time (Reprise, 1993); Gone (Reprise, 1995); A Long Way Home (Reprise, 1998); Tomorrow's Sounds Today (Warner Bros., 2000).

SELECTIVE FILMOGRAPHY:

Red Rock West (1992); Sling Blade (1996); The Newton Boys (1998); Panic Room (2002).

WEBSITE:

www.dwightyoakam.com.

david freeland

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"Yoakam, Dwight." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Yoakam, Dwight." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/yoakam-dwight

"Yoakam, Dwight." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/yoakam-dwight