Buck Owens is the richest person in Bakersfield -- so reports Worth magazine in its March 2002 profile of the 100 richest people in America's 100 largest cities.
A profile of Owens by writer Melissa Phipps appears in the issue's cover story, titled "The Richest Person in Town." Each person was selected based on independent research into his or her net worth, according to the magazine.
The profile on the representative from Bakersfield (the nation's 65th largest city) follows, reprinted with permission from Worth:
"I can't tell you what I'm worth. I can't do that," protests country singer Buck Owens. "But," he drawls coyly, "I could tell you what other people would say." Other people would say that 72-year-old Alvis Edgar "Buck" Owens is worth about $125 million.
Tell people that the richest person in your town made his name on "Hee Haw," and they might expect a bad punch line to follow. But here, in California's 13th most populous city, it's no joke. Owens' music career has produced 100 albums and 75 charted songs. Royalties from such country standards as "Crying Time" and "Together Again" are still "lucrative," he says. "How about $200,000 to $300,000 a year? Is that lucrative?" He adds that his 15-year star slot on syndicated TV's "Hee Haw"earned him $400,000 each year for just a few weeks work.
But Owens' real bucks come from buying and selling radio stations: He sold some Phoenix stations in the late 1990s for about $150 million ("Government took half of it," he gripes) but is holding on to three Bakersfield stations, KUZZ FM and AM and KCWR, which are worth about $25 million today, according to radio broker Frank Boyle.
Some residents lament that Owens' hillbilly persona doesn't help Bakersfield's bumpkin image.
Still, he is the town celebrity. Local residents know his $300,000 Bentley by sight and trade stories about his sportive love life. (He calls his 29-year-old current girlfriend "the wild thing.") And Owens' opinion of the town he calls home?
"There ain't no better place to live," he says.