At 6:30 on the morning of July 17, 1974, Bucks home phone
rang. It was his son Michael, who managed KUZZ. He informed
him that Don Rich had been killed earlier that evening when his
motorcycle struck a highway divider. "He said , Dad,
I have to tell you something. And then he told me about Don.
Its something that I always wanted to forget and never to
remember...and I had to call his wife and tell her --she was in
Several of Bucks musicians had bought motorcycles,
and when other friends of theirs died in motorcycle mishaps, Buck
repeatedly preached against them. Don promised Buck hed ride
his only on dirt trails. That night he was working late at Bucks
studio, planning to travel to Morro Bay to meet his wife and kids
for some deep-sea fishing. He was heading from Bakersfield to Morro
Bay on his bike when the accident occurred.
Buck was shattered. The alter-ego, the musical son who had
blossomed under his wing, whom he depended on both in the studio
and onstage, was suddenly gone. A huge void remained in Bucks
life and music and in his soul.
"After Dons death, I dont think I ever quite
recovered. I had such a long period of shock and such a long
period of being depressed and confused and hurt that I couldnt
talk about Don much for at least four, five, six years."
"Don was incredibly important as a human being. He was
as much a part of the music as I was. He seemed able to read my
mind. And a lotta times I would try to fool him on the stage: we
had our little thing goin. He was uncanny about catchin
me so he could sing with me. There was never anything like that
happened to me before or since. Thats the way Ill always
remember him. I finally got at peace with that."
Buck continued with Hee Haw after Dons death, since
he only had to tape in Nashville in June and October of each year.
And in 1974, Buck was about to depart Capitol after 18 years. His
records hadnt been selling, so there was little or no thought
of another Capitol contract.