David Dwight Yoakam was born in Pikeville, Kentucky His mom was Ruth, a key punch operator. His dad, David, owned a gas station. The family moved to Ohio in hopes of a better life. He was raised in Columbus, Ohio, but they returned to Kentucky on weekends.
Throughout his high school years, Dwight excelled in music and drama, securing the lead role in school plays. He also played guitar with local garage bands, and entertained friends and classmates as a comedian. He was influenced by Elvis, Johnny Horton, and Johnny Cash. Being just south of Detroit, he was also influenced by Motown.
Yoakam attended Ohio State for a very short time. He dropped out, and moved to Nashville with his dreams of becoming a country music recording artist. The country music in Nashville at the time was mostly “Urban Cowboy” music. Dwight’s style of music was more of a hip Honky-tonk. He was met with closed doors because no one wanted to record his style. He did not give up.
Dwight then moved to Los Angeles, with his dreams and guitar. He wanted to bring his brand of music into the country music field. He performed in many clubs around Los Angeles, with his own music, his own lyrics, and his own style. He scored a hit with a video hit of The Blasters, called “Long White Cadillac”. This song helped him reach beyond the country music fans. Even rock audiences accepted the style of Dwight Yoakam.
Pete Anderson, producer for Oak Records, helped Yoakam get his debut album called “Guitars, & Cadillacs”. This launched a soon to be mega career. His hit single called “Honky Tonk Man”, was the first country music video ever played on MTV.
Dwight Yoakam’s style of country music paved the way for newcomers to join the “new traditionalist” movement in the world of country music.
Yoakam’s musical idol was Buck Owens; he was included in a duet which produced his first #1 hit. That piece was “Streets of Bakersfield”.
Johnny Cash once called Yoakam his favorite country music singer. Time Magazine dubbed Yoakam “A Renaissance Man”. Vanity Fair declared, “Yoakam strides the divide between rock’s lust and country’s lament”. Yoakam’s roots were in honky-tonk and bluegrass, but he has written or covered many Elvis Presley-style rockabilly songs including “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. It has been said that his lyrics on paper are as good as they get.
Yoakam has never been “just” country music. He is at home on stage with hardcore punk bands, as well as traditional country music bands. His lyrics and country music style has branched out into rock, bluegrass, honky-tonk, punk rock, and the old rock and roll.
He pioneered the way for country music entertainers who chose an alternative style of country music. Yoakam’s style and lyrics of country music was so unlike any before him. He really paved the way for an entirely new style of country music. He has recorded more than twenty-one albums and compilations, and has charted more than thirty singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts. He has more than 25 million record sales to his credit.
David Dwight Yoakam continues to be an icon in country music today. His lyrics, traditional country voice, his style of delivery, dedication to his fans, and his undying love for country music has gained him immense popularity and stardom in all fields of music.