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Jerry Brightman's years with Buck:
Jerry Brightman joined The Buckaroo's at the age of 18 in April of 1972, and moved to Bakersfield, CA. from Ohio after he was discovered by Buck in Wheeling, West Virginia. Jerry had been a member of the staff band since 1968 for the Saturday night Jamboree USA live radio show broadcast on WWVA.
Jerry's first concert with Buck, was at The Caines Ballroom, in OK. Jerry's first recording in Buck's studio was on "You Ain't Gonna Have Ole Buck to Kick Around No More" This cut appeared on the "Live at the Whitehouse Album", which was recorded live at The Whitehouse without Jerry, before he joined the band. The studio cut was added to the album. From there, Jerry recorded "Palm of Your Hand", and on through "Streets of Bakersfield" which were all released as singles. Jerry appeared for the first time on Hee-Haw, in June of 1972. The first show was played on a Sho-Bud professional. The second show taped in October of that same year, was done on his Red, White, and Blue Emmons push-pull.
JayDee played steel, and Jerry played acoustic guitar on a session while finishing a second album for Tony Booth. This is where Jay Dee introduced Jerry to the Emmons Push-Pull guitar. A short time later, in 1973, Jerry ordered his first Emmons. Jerry also performed on the Buck Owens ranch shows, until they stopped taping them in 1974. When Jerry left the band in 1975, he had recorded on 16 Albums with Buck, all of Susan Raye's albums after LA International Airport, along with singles and albums with Tony Booth, Buddy Alan, David Frizzell, Arlo Gutherie, Mayf Nutter, the Bakersfield Brass, with Don Markem, (who now plays with Merle Haggard), Lawanda Lindsey, and a host of other National artists. Jerry also played electric guitar, banjo, and dobro on sessions, and started playing electric guitar live after Don Rich died.
Here are some of the questions Jerry Brightman is often asked:
Q: "Why did you
leave the band"?
A: I left the band mainly because I felt I had gone as far as a career being a steel player would allow. I was on a weekly national television show on CBS, recording on top 10 records, and performing at 25,000 seat arena's all over the world with a top country music organization and there just wasn't much higher I felt I could go. I look back now and suppose I could have migrated into the studio's in Nashville as I had offers to do so at the time, but I also wanted to start a family, and the musician life wasn't very conducive to raising a family. I returned to Akron, OH.
Q: Was Don
Rich in the band when you played with Buck and the
A: He indeed was, and I was a member during the time he died. I was also a pallbearer at his funeral. He was everything you ever saw and read about him, and I never saw anyone who didn't agree, when you said Buck Owens, it immediately followed with Don's name being added as such a vital part of it all. I played electric guitar on several of the songs while Don was still alive, and on a couple songs when we toured. I continued those duties on an elevated scale during my last year with Buck in 1975.
Q: Were you on Hee-Haw?
A: Yes, I taped my first show in 1972, and continued until I left in 1975. I did return to do one more series of shows in 1976. I appeared on approximately 120 shows.
Q: Did you appear on any of The Buck Owens Ranch Shows:
A: Yes, I performed on them from 1972 through 1974 when Buck agreed to quit doing them due to a conflict with Hee-Haw.
Q: Why haven't you been more vocal about your history with
Buck until now?
A: That's an interesting question. First, it's just not my way. Secondly, I understand that many fans are confused about my time with Buck mainly because it happened so long ago. I'll share most anything when asked, but I choose not to come forward first with the history. Perhaps someday that will change, but for now I'll share the information when asked and through this website.
Q: In listening to the various cuts you recorded on with Buck
and others in Bakersfield, it's
sometimes difficult to recognize who was playing steel. Any comments?
A: I felt my job was to continue the styles that were already established when I joined the band. For example, when recording with Buck, I felt the style required a "Mooney" approach most of the time, and thus, that's how I attempted to play using a Sho-Bud. Other times, such as Hello Trouble, I approached it more to my style. On the Tony Booth sessions, JayDee had already established the style with Keys in The Mailbox, and Lonesome 77203. Again, I continued this style on those recordings I did using an Emmons most of the time. Susan Raye's recordings allowed me to play what I felt the song needed. Earlier recordings with her was on a Sho-Bud. Later recordings were on the Emmons.
Again, there are cuts with Buck that I played more of my natural style and tone on. Note: After recently developing the sample page and listening to the various cuts, I can totally understand why people would not know I played on them due to the various styles I did. Also, there are a few examples where different artists recorded the same song, and you can hear that I approached each a little differently on each cut.
Q: How long were you gone from playing?
A: I quit playing professionally in 1976 when I left Buck. I played a little on sessions until around 1980, and then quit all together as I was too involved in the day to day operations as General Manager of the Jamboree. I started producing country music shows and artists at the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree. I did perform at Scotty's International Steel Guitar show in 1986, when I was General Manager of S.I.T. Strings. But, I realized because I wasn't playing, and I wasn't prepared to play in front of an audience anymore, I decided I was done.
I did not play the instrument for almost 23 years...not even around the house. The MCI guitar that I owned, sit in a music closet un-played during that span of time.
Q: What made you decide to start playing
A: I had raised 2 daughters, Leah and Kim, along with my wife, Kathie. My job of choice, had nothing to do with the music business. One day I started having some strange feelings, and I decided to get the steel out of the closet around 2001. I found the Steel Guitar Forum, and that sparked me to get back in contact with the players. They encouraged me to play and attend some steel shows. Since then, I just do not have the time to attend a 4-5 convention because of my commitments to touring and studio's.
Q: Whatever happened to your Red, White, and Blue Emmons?
A: The guitar was a 1972, received in early 1973, and was a standard rosewood D10 push-pull with 8 and 4. It had artists tape on the front to make it appear in the color scheme of the band. Ron Lashley from the Emmons Guitar Company always hated that because he would call and tell me that people were calling him and trying to order a red, white, and blue guitar, and he said, we don't make one... yet they saw one on Hee-Haw and couldn't understand why they couldn't get one.
I doubt this guitar still exists as a complete guitar. Parts of it are probably on one or more of the many Push-Pull re-builds. I still used the Sho-Bud Pro in the studio from time to time.
Q: Do you still talk to Buck?
A: After leaving as a player, I went into the business side of music where I booked him for various concerts as a talent buyer. I booked him at the Wheeling Jamboree in 1980, and that was the last time I had any direct contact with him. It was nothing more then we both were pursuing opposite careers, and time just passed by way too fast. I am still in contact with his office along with Tom and Jay Dee, and we have really become great friends.
Update April 3rd, 2006: I attended Buck's funeral and was re-acquainted with many of the folks I performed and worked with. I always loved Buck for what he did for me during and after my time with him. It was when I landed in Bakersfield that I realized it had been 30 years since I had been there. Although I did play in the band with Don Rich, I have always considered myself to be a second generation Buckaroo, with Doyle Holly, Willie Cantu, Don Rich, and Tom Brumley being the original, first generation with Buck. The amount of time I was away from all of this has caused "outta sight, outta mind", and it doesn't surprise me when someone doesn't know any of my history with all of this. It was my choice until now, to remain quiet about it. As for some 30+ years, it was always assumed that Tom, Ralph, or Jay Dee played on the cuts as they remained more visible within the music community.
I am honored that I was allowed to be a small part of the history. I love this instrument, and I am so humbled as I say so many times at the shows, "I was so honored that the steel guitar community has welcomed me back." With the length of time I have been absent, I'm really surprised anyone would know who I am. I am never embarrassed when someone says, "I have never heard of you." Reece Anderson once told me that, "Do you realize you have been gone from this longer than a lot of players have played the instrument." I guess that's true. I raised two of the most beautiful daughters one could ever wish for along with my wife and best buddy, Kathie, and although I left music at the height of a dream career, I'd do the same again given the choice today.
I tip my hat to anyone who plays this instrument.
Thanks so much for all of your support!
To see a more detailed bio of Jerry, click here!
about the history of steel players with Buck, click here!
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