If you're in the market for residential property once owned by a Bakersfield country music legend but you found Merle Haggard's 3,600-square-foot abode just a tad too cozy, consider this option.
The northeast Bakersfield house owned by Buck Owens in 1968-74 is on the market, and there's room for the whole band, roadies and all.
Buck and Phyllis Owens' home at 309 Panorama Drive, overlooking the picturesque Kern River Oil Field, comes in at 5,106 square feet, and that doesn't even include all of the living and storage space. Include the west wing — separated by a breezeway, with a full mother-in-law apartment, a guest bedroom with bathroom, a shop and a converted recording studio — and it's more like 8,000 square feet.
Cal Fire Captain Brian Bonkosky and his wife, deposition videographer Kelley, bought the single-story estate in January 2009. They're downsizing to the Central Coast now that the kids are out of the house, mostly.
The house, listed at $575,000, is about five miles from Haggard's old house at 4007 Brae Burn Drive, near Bakersfield Country Club, which went on the market last month. Merle, his second wife Bonnie Owens, children Dana, Marty, Kelli and Noel, and mother Flossie, lived on Brae Burn in 1969-70. That house is now in escrow.
The Panorama house's listing agent, Shelley Murphy of Miramar Realty, says the guest and in-law quarters, and the shop, will be the big selling points, but the home's lineage is undeniably big.
"The fact that Buck lived here might draw some attention, just like Merle's house," she said. "I told Brian, 'You might get looky-loos, just interested in the history.' We want want serious (prospective) buyers. But it's absolutely possible someone could want it because Buck lived here."
Someone like Mitchell Styles, a music industry operative and amateur Bakersfield Sound historian who knew Buck well and owned the house himself from 1996 to 2000.
"It's a great place, perfect for entertaining," said Styles, who installed the swimming pool — no, it's not guitar-shaped — during his time as the homeowner.
And, no, not just any sort of entertaining.
Buck told Styles one of his favorite stories about the house. It was 1968, Buck was hosting a backyard political fundraiser, and the guest of honor was then-Gov. Ronald Reagan. Reagan divulged to his host that he'd once considered being a singer rather than an actor. So Buck went back into the house, grabbed a guitar and prodded Reagan into joining him in a rousing rendition of "Act Naturally."
By the time Buck and Phyllis moved in on Panorama, Buck's incredible string of 14 consecutive No. 1 hits had played itself out, but he still had some juice left: "Who's Gonna Mow Your Grass," "Johnny B. Goode," and "Tall Dark Stranger"— three straight No. 1s — were all released while he lived in the Panorama Drive house. So was 1972's "Made in Japan," which would prove to be his final No. 1 record — until Dwight Yoakam came along and got Buck back in the studio for 1988's surprise hit, a new, Tejano-fied version of "Streets of Bakersfield."
Not every Panorama-era record Buck made was memorable. He lived there when he covered Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," too. Somehow that single, released in 1971, charted at No. 9.
Buck's close friend and musical collaborator, guitar virtuoso Don Rich, died in a July 1974 motorcycle accident, and that took the wind out of Buck's sails. His marriage to Phyllis ended after nearly 20 years and the Owenses sold the house.
Now it's on the market again; the next owner of the house, built in the late 1940s, will be its seventh.
That next owners might want the place as a token of country music history, but Murphy says they'll quickly appreciate it for something more.
"I love the windows looking out into the backyard," she said. "I've been over there is the evening and I love looking out those windows. It's wonderful."
Buck and Phyllis would undoubtedly agree.