Posted by mcorcoran on April 10, 2013
I didn’t want to believe what was sent to me in the early ‘90s when I was the country music critic for the Dallas Morning News. Still don’t. It was a thick file of court papers, filed in California Juvenile Court on Dec. 9, 1965, in which Buck Owens’ 15-year stepdaughter Theresa Lynn Wall “alleges that her stepfather engaged her in an act of sexual intercourse on or about October 12, 1965.” As a result, Wall refused to return to her family home.
A ninth-grader with an IQ of 85, Wall contacted her counselor at Foothill High School in Bakersfield two days afterward and reported that Buck, married to Wall’s mother Phyllis, had been fondling her for about two years prior to the intercourse.
According to Wall’s statement, her stepfather would pull her up to him and “give her the kind of kiss that lovers give,” touch her breasts and occasionally insert his fingers into her private parts. On Oct. 12, he accosted her in the kitchen when she came home from school. He took her into his bedroom, she alleged, and “pulled up her dress, pulled her panties aside, unzipped his pants and had an act of sexual intercourse with her.”
In 1965, Buck Owens was in the midst of a streak of 16 consecutive number one singles, including “Act Naturally” and “Tiger By the Tale.” He was called the Baron of Bakersfield for his various business ventures, including owning radio stations and nightclubs.
When investigators asked why Wall took almost two months to report the incident, she said she had gone to the school nurse a few days after the sexual act and reported that her stepfather had molested her, but the nurse just counseled her regarding pregnancy and advised Theresa to discuss the problem with her mother. According to court papers, the nurse confirmed that Theresa had discussed this situation with her.
Wall took a lie detector test, which proved inconclusive. Because of a lack of physical evidence or witnesses, no charges were ever filed in the case.
Theresa said she had confided to her mother Phyllis Owens a year earlier that her stepfather had fondled her, but her mother didn’t believe her and wanted to hear nothing more about it. Phyllis Owens confirmed that conversation to investigators, court papers said, but added that “Theresa later admitted that she had lied about it.”
Could she have lied about everything? Three days before Theresa finally went to the school counselor and then was taken into protective custody, she received a whipping from Buck with a belt over an unspecified offense. Her mother told investigators that her daughter had “become interested in boys lately.” After happening upon Theresa and a boy, who was caught with his hand up Theresa’s dress, Mrs. Owens said her daughter was prohibited from dating and unhappy about that restriction.
But Theresa claimed the Dec. 4 beating prompted her to confide to a friend about the ongoing molestation, and the friend escorted her to the counselor’s office.
In evaluating the Owens home setting- a spacious house with a swimming pool, surrounded by pastures with horses- the court determined “this child has much to lose by this decision on her part (to enter foster care), and this attitude enhances the Probabtion Officer’s suspicions that something is very wrong in the home situation.”
Theresa’s mother was “most agreeable” that foster home placement was in her daughter’s best interest. “Mrs. Owens is of the opinion that Theresa cannot return home because of the accusations the child has made against her stepfather.”
Eileen Sisk’s 2010 book “Buck Owens: The Biography” portrays Phyllis Owens, a carhop when she met and married Buck Owens in 1956, as financially reliant on her husband, who once hit her in the face with a golf club and broke her jaw. Sisk quotes an aquaintance describing Buck Owens as “a very bad man who made very good music.”
I received the court file, as well as letters to Buck Owens and from his attorneys, from Walt Jones, who was married to Theresa at the time. They were writing a book about Multiple Personality Disorder, which Theresa had been diagnosed with. In a 1992 letter to Buck, who passed away in 2006 from heart failure, Walt Jones blamed his wife’s condition to “the fact that Terri was molested since approx. 5 years of age and then raped at 14 by you.”
The book was never published. Buck and Phyllis Owens divorced in 1972.