Dwight Yoakam (1956– )

Updated: May 18, 2011

Country singer and songwriter.

Dwight Yoakam, born October 23, 1956, in Pikeville, Kentucky, was viewed as one of the most promising of country music’s “new traditionalists” when he came to national attention in 1986. Yoakam’s music is heavily influenced by the Bakersfield sound of such artists as Buck Owens, yet he did not forget the Kentucky coal-mining area where he was born. In interviews, he frequently mentions his grandfather, who worked in the mines, and to whom he dedicated his self-composed song “Miner’s Prayer.” Although based in Los Angeles, Yoakam possesses wide knowledge of his native region’s history and lore. His song “South of Cincinnati” reflects his love of Appalachia, just as “I Sang Dixie” is a lament not only for a lost friend, but also for the American South.

Playing a style of hard-edged honky-tonk music that had disappeared from mainstream country, Yoakam booked himself into Los Angeles punk rock bars during the early 1980s just to have a place to perform. That audience thought him a parody act, but Yoakam soon connected with fans of traditional country music with his first album, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. (1986). His version of the Johnny Horton hit “Honky Tonk Man” brought critical accolades and extensive radio play.

Although Yoakam focused his attention on acting after the release of his 1993 album This Time, appearing in such movies as Sling Blade (1996), he continues to record strong albums in his unmistakable style, and his music is highly esteemed among newer fans of the honky-tonk style of country music.

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"Dwight Yoakam," Encyclopedia of Appalachia, 2017, Encyclopedia of Appalachia. 22 Oct 2017 <http://www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=217>

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"Dwight Yoakam." (2017) In Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Retrieved October 22, 2017, from Encyclopedia of Appalachia: http://www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=217

Dwight Yoakam