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Jack Owens - JPop.com
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Jack Owens

Jack Owens

Jack Owens


#1 Jack Owens (November 17, 1904 – February 9, 1997) was an American Delta blues singer and guitarist, from Bentonia, Mississippi, United States. #2 John Milton "Jack" Owens (October 17, 1912, Tulsa, Oklahoma - January 26, 1982, Phoenix, Arizona), singer/songwriter, gifted pianist, and a star of the longest running network radio show. #1 Jack Owens, born L. F. Nelson, mother was Celia Owens, his father, who bore the Owens surname, abandoned his family when Jack was 5–6 years old. Read more on Last.fm
#1 Jack Owens (November 17, 1904 – February 9, 1997) was an American Delta blues singer and guitarist, from Bentonia, Mississippi, United States. #2 John Milton "Jack" Owens (October 17, 1912, Tulsa, Oklahoma - January 26, 1982, Phoenix, Arizona), singer/songwriter, gifted pianist, and a star of the longest running network radio show. #1 Jack Owens, born L. F. Nelson, mother was Celia Owens, his father, who bore the Owens surname, abandoned his family when Jack was 5–6 years old.

After that time, he was raised by the Owens family, with his maternal grandfather the patriarch of 8 children according to the 1910 Census, and of them, two other children officially shared the Nelson name. (This does not account for two more children born after the census.) While very young, Owens learned some chords on the guitar from his father, and an uncle, and learned to play the fife, the fiddle, and piano while still a child, but his chosen instrument remained the guitar. As he matured, Owens did not seek to become a professional recording artist, but he farmed, bootlegged and ran a weekend juke joint in Bentonia for most of his life. His peer, Skip James, had left home and traveled until he found a talent agent and a record label to sign him, but Owens had preferred to remain at home, selling potliquor and performing only on his front porch. He was not recorded until the blues revival of the 1960s, being rediscovered by a musicologist, David Evans, in 1966, who had been taken to meet Owens by either Skip James or Cornelius Bright.

Evans noted that while James and Owens had many elements in common, and a sound peculiar to that region, referred to as "Bentonia School", there were also strong differences in Owens' delivery. Both James, Owens, and others from the area, (including Bukka White), shared a particular guitar style and repertoire utilizing open D-minor tuning (DADFAD). Owens, though, had experimented with several other tunings which appear to be Owens' own. He played guitar and sang, utilizing the stomp of his boots for rhythm in the manner of some other players in the Mississippi delta, such as John Lee Hooker.

James employed the use of falsetto, and, by this time, was accustomed to singing quietly for recording sessions, while Owens still sang roughly in his usual singing voice loudly enough for people at a party to hear while dancing. Evans, excited to find a piece of history in Jack Owens, made recordings of him singing, which eventually showed up on Owen's first record album Goin' Up the Country that same year and It Must Have Been the Devil (with Bud Spires) in 1970. He made other recordings (some by Alan Lomax) in the 1960s and 1970s. Owens travelled the music festival circuit in the United States and Europe throughout the final decades of his life, often accompanied on harmonica by his friend Bud Spires, until his death in 1997. He was frequently billed in the company of other noteworthy blues musicians that maintained a higher profile than Owens, who nonetheless were longtime associates.

One such performance was with Spires in an All-star Chess Records tribute in 1994 at the Long Beach Blues Festival, alongside acts that included Jeff Healey, Hubert Sumlin, Buddy Guy, the Staple Singers and Robert Cray's band, among many others, in Long Beach, California. Jack Owens died, at the age of 92 in Yazoo City, Mississippi, in 1997. #2 John Milton "Jack" Owens (October 17, 1912, Tulsa, Oklahoma - January 26, 1982, Phoenix, Arizona), singer/songwriter, gifted pianist, and a star of the longest running network radio show, Don McNeill's Breakfast Club, was known as "The Cruising Crooner" because of his unique showmanship of cruising through mostly female audiences attending the live Breakfast Club broadcasts in Chicago, and crooning love ballads to the blushing and giggling women, often singing directly to them, one at a time, sitting on their laps, and nuzzling close to them. Standing at just under six feet tall, Owens joined the show in 1934 at age 22 and stayed for two years before heading to Hollywood. There he was the off-camera singing voice of actors like Jimmy Stewart, James Ellison and others. He returned to the radio show in 1944 and stayed until July 23, 1949. From his start in small, local Chicago radio stations holding up applause signs, gaining small singing spots and janitorial duties (and a combined salary of $22.50 a week), to his brief performances in Vaudeville, to his fame on NBC and ABC as a radio singing star with movie star looks, Jack Owens found ways to stay in the spotlight in popular music with catchy songs, love ballads, and even Hawaiian songs. Some of his music has appeared in such movies as "San Antonio Rose" in 1941, and in the original film script for "From Here to Eternity" in 1953, and in "Grumpy Old Men" from 1993.

Even a Bob Clampett cartoon classic from 1941, Dr. Suess' "Horton Hatches The Egg" has Horton the elephant trying to sing the nonsense words of "The Hut-Sut Song." Jack Owens, who married fellow Chicago radio star Helen Streiff in the early 1930s, started his recording career with independent label, Tower Records, and then after the huge success of "The Hukilau Song", and "I'll Weave a Lei of Stars for You" in 1948, he was signed to Decca, the biggest label at the time. Overlooked or forgotten by many today, Owens was America's 10th favorite male vocalist from 1936 to 1944. He was best known for writing or co-writing such successful tunes as "The Hut Sut Song", "Hi, Neighbor", "How Soon", "The Hukilau Song", and "I'll Weave a Lei of Stars for You". He either wrote, co-wrote, composed, recorded, or some combination of these music credits, more than 50 songs spanning from the mid-1930s to the early 1960s. He also had his own TV show, The Jack Owens Show (aka The Brunch Bunch), from 1950-1955, during the pioneer days of TV and even received two Emmy nominations. While some of his songs have been covered by the likes of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Bing Crosby, Freddy Martin, Merry Macs, Andy Williams, Perry Como, Dinah Shore, Woody Herman, Vaughn Monroe, Glenn Miller Orchestra, Kay Kyser Orchestra, Sammy Kaye Orchestra, Nat "King" Cole, Orrin Tucker, Spike Jones, Pat Boone, Ferlin Husky, The Platters, The Cadets / The Jacks (of "Why Don't You Write Me" fame), Alfred Apaka, Don Ho, and Frank Sinatra, Owens' plethora of songs have, at times, not been credited to him correctly, or have lacked further adequate information about him, have been forgotten, or have been confused with blues singer Jack Owens. Another little interesting note about Jack is that according to “An Introduction To Information Theory: Symbols, Signals & Noise” by John Robinson Pierce, during the 1950’s, early computer engineers were engaged in creating computer-generated music through the use of rules and programming code.

In short sections, the “music” often wasn’t half bad, and on one occasion, Jack Owens set one computer-coded jingle to words, and it was played over the ABC network as Push Button Bertha. In “Robots Unlimited: Life In A Virtual Age” by David Levy, Levy adds further by noting that the music’s composer, a Datatron computer, complicated things for the Library of Congress. In less than one week after Owens’ lyrics were set to the music, there were five copies of the recording already on the market. Yet when a claim was made for a copyright in the name of the computer, the Library of Congress refused to issue a copyright certificate for a piece of music written by a machine. Jack Owens was made Honorary Mayor of Pacific Palisades in 1955 and 1956.

Other celebrities given the honor at that time included Jerry Lewis and Vivian Vance of "I Love Lucy." Owens retired from show business in 1957 and worked in real estate in Phoenix. Although he co-wrote "Back In Aloha Land" in 1963, and he co-wrote "I'm The Only One That Wants Me" in 1965, the pop era of music he once embraced and sang had gone by the wayside, falling in the shadows of rock and roll and the Beatles. Other interesting things about Jack Owens include: He was also the uncle of Roger Owens, the famed peanut vendor at Dodger Stadium. He appeared in a Mae West movie, The Heat's On. His music publishing company, Owens-Kemp Music Co. was located in Hollywood where the present day Walk of Fame is located. Read more on Last.fm.

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