Grayson County, Texas sits along the Red River, which separates Texas from Oklahoma. Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in Denison, just south of the river. Sherman, the County Seat, lies south of Denison. Dallas is 50 miles further south.
Alvis Edgar Owens Sr., a native of Texas, and his wife, Arkansas native Maicie Azel Owens, tilled the land at their farm outside Sherman. The Owenses were sharecroppers, trying to make a living to support their children. Mary, the first, was born in 1927. On August 12, 1929, Alvis Edgar Owens, Jr. was born. Two other children would follow, Melvin in 1931, and Dorothy in 1934.
At times Alvis Sr. worked at a dairy farm in Garland, Texas, near Dallas. That life, his eldest son remembers, was difficult. “You get up about 2-3 o’clock in the morning and get through about 7 or 8 and 12 hours later you start all over. That’s the worst kind of work a person can do. You have to do these two shifts to get one day.”
“Buck” was a mule on the Owens farm. When Alvis Jr. was three or four years old, he walked into the house and announced that his name was also Buck. That was fine with the family; the boy was Buck from then on. Music was an integral part of the Owens family. Maicie Owens played the piano and exposed her children to gospel music through visits to a number of churches before joining a Southern Baptist Church. The eldest Owens children worked in the fields as soon as they were old enough.