Dwight Yoakam was born October 23, 1956 in Pikeville, Kentucky. He was raised in Ohio and grew up in California. He made an impression in 1986 with his debut album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., which went on to score double-platinum status. This was followed by such million-sellers as Hillbilly Deluxe (1987), Buenas Noches From a Lonely Room (1988), Just Lookin’ for a Hit (1989), If There Was a Way (199) and the triple-platinum milestone This Time (1993) featuring the Grammy-winning single “Ain’t That Lonely Yet” and his signature hit “Fast As You.”
Dwight followed with Dwight Live (1995), Gone (1996), Under the Covers (1997), Come on Christmas (1997), A Long Way Home (1998) and Last Chance for a Thousand Years (1999). Dwight’s version of the Queen classic “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” debuted during the 1999 Academy Awards telecast in a national ad campaign for Gap clothing stores and went on to become another Top-Ten hit.
The two-time Grammy winner has sold millions of albums. Yoakam’s acting career also garnered much acclaim, particularly for his role as Doyle Hargraves in the 1996 Oscar-winning Sling Blade, for which he was honored with the Premiere Performance Award recognizing outstanding breakthrough performances in film. Following that, Dwight made his directorial debut (starring in a screenplay he also authored) with the 2001 release of South of Heaven, West of Hell, a gothic western with an impressive ensemble cast that included Billy Bob Thornton, Vince Vaughn, Bridget Fonda, Peter Fonda, Paul Reubens, Bud Cort and Michael Jeter.
Other film credits include a 1994 debut in John Dahl’s Red Rock West (with Nicolas Cage and Dennis Hopper), The Newton Boys in 1998 (with Matthew McConaughey, Julianna Marguiles and Vincent D’Onofrio)The Minus Man in 1999 (with Owen Wilson and Janeane Garafolo), the 2002 blockbuster suspense film Panic Room (with Jodie Foster and Forest Whitaker) and the 23 action-comedy Hollywood Homicide (with Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett.)
In November 2002, Rhino Records’ commemorated Yoakam’s groundbreaking career with the release of the four-disc box set Reprise Please Baby: The Warner Bros. Years. To further solidify Yoakam’s musical legacy, he was honored with his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in ceremonies held June 5th, 2003.
Yoakam had just come off the road in 2002, (after four years of nonstop touring) when he stumbled across a scene that would change the direction of his musical journey. A renegade group of twangsters – going under such banners as Sweethearts of the Rodeo, Sin City All Stars, and East Bound & Down – were putting together twice-monthly Country & Western shows in Los Angeles, at off-the-beaten-track nightspots Molly Malone’s and the King King Club. When he happened upon ̶the next incarnation of California country rock ” Yoakam was taken back to the glory days of cowpunk, when he took the stage at scruffy bars alongside the fledgling Blasters, Los Lobos, Lone Justice, and the Knitters. ̶This great scene reminded me of 1981, ’82, ’83 ” Yoakam says, ̶and it probably looked a lot like 1968, when Clarence White and Gene Parsons were playing in a weird little band at a club in El Monte before joining the Byrds.”
Among the Sweethearts bunch was a fiery 3-year-old guitarist named Keith Gattis, whose Telecaster riffs caused Yoakam to prick up his ears. “We started hanging out” says Yoakam of the budding kinship, ̶and played some music together at the house. I had a benefit to do so I asked him to join me and he got up and played a little banjo, mandolin, guitar, and did some singing. It was a ball! I had been doing the big band for a long time and I found a new sense of inspiration doing something very stripped-down and austere.” Keith’s buddies, drummer Mitch Marine and upright bassist Dave Roe (a 12-year veteran of Johnny Cash’s band), joined Yoakam and Gattis for a string of unforgettable shows throughout 2003.
Dwight’s studio album titled Population: Me (2003) featured the #1 CMT video hit “The Back Of Your Hand” and has been followed by a critically-acclaimed compilation of previously released material, Dwight’s Used Records (2004), as well as a remastered retrospective package titled The Very Best of Dwight Yoakam (2004.)
“There’s a lot of reckless joy on this album” says Dwight Yoakam about Blame the Vain (New West Records, 2005), ̶We never left a session that wasn’t flat-out fun ” continues the singer, songwriter and guitarist who solely produced the album–a career first –and wrote the music and lyrics for these 12 songs of romantic cravings and deeply felt heartaches.
For some ̶psycho-hillbilly squall says Dwight Yoakam, there’s the song ̶Intentional Heartache. ̶I have to pay tribute to Buck and the Bakersfield sound on every album.
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.