Dwight Yoakam

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Dwight Yoakam
Dwight Yoakam performing at the San Diego County Fair in June 2008
Dwight Yoakam performing at the San Diego County Fair in June 2008
Background information
Birth nameDwight David Yoakam
Born (1956-10-23) October 23, 1956 (age 65)
Pikeville, Kentucky, U.S.
OriginColumbus, Ohio, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actor
  • film director
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Years active1980–present

Dwight David Yoakam (born October 23, 1956) is an American singer, songwriter, actor, and film director known for his pioneering style of country music.[1] First becoming popular in the mid-1980s, Yoakam has recorded more than 20 albums and compilations, charted more than 30 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, and sold more than 30 million records. He has recorded five Billboard No. 1 albums, 12 gold albums, and nine platinum albums, including the triple-platinum This Time.

In addition to his many achievements in the performing arts, he is also the most frequent musical guest in the history of The Tonight Show.[2]

Early life[edit]

Dwight Yoakam was born on October 23, 1956, to Ruth Ann (née Tibbs), a key-punch operator, and David Yoakam, a gas-station owner.[3][4] He was born in Pikeville, Kentucky,[1] but was raised in Columbus, Ohio,[1] where he graduated from Northland High School in 1974. During his high school years, he took part in both the music and drama programs, having been cast in lead roles for the school's plays, including "Charlie" in Flowers for Algernon. Outside of school, Yoakam sang and played guitar with local garage bands.

He briefly attended the Ohio State University,[1] but dropped out and moved to Los Angeles in 1977 with the intent of becoming a recording artist.[5] On May 7, 2005, Ohio Valley University in Parkersburg, West Virginia, awarded and presented Yoakam with an honorary doctorate.[6]

Music career[edit]

Yoakam in 2009

When he began his career, Nashville was oriented toward pop "urban cowboy" music, and Yoakam's brand of hip honky tonk music was not considered marketable.

Not making much headway in Nashville, Yoakam moved to Los Angeles and worked towards bringing his particular brand of new honky tonk or "hillbilly" music (as he called it) forward into the 1980s. Writing all his own songs, and continuing to perform mostly outside traditional country music channels, he did many shows in rock and punk rock clubs around Los Angeles, playing with roots rock or punk rock acts like The Blasters (Yoakam scored a small video hit with his version of their song "Long White Cadillac"), Los Lobos, and X. This helped him diversify his audience beyond the typical country music fans, and his authentic, honky-tonk revivalism brought rock audiences closer to country music.[7]

Yoakam's recording debut was the self-financed EP Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., on independent label Oak Records, produced by lead-guitarist Pete Anderson. The record was later re-released by Reprise Records, with several additional tracks, as Yoakam's major-label debut LP, 1986's Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.[8] The record hit the market during a sea change in country music: the urban cowboy music was out of style, and neotraditional music based on classic styles, such as Yoakam's honky-tonk-inspired music, was now in demand. The LP was a breakout hit and spawned his first two hit singles: "Honky Tonk Man", a remake of the Johnny Horton song, and the title track "Guitars, Cadillacs." His stylish video "Honky Tonk Man" was the first country music video played on MTV. The follow-up LP, Hillbilly Deluxe, was just as successful. His third LP, Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room, included his first No. 1, a duet with his musical idol, Buck Owens, on "Streets of Bakersfield". 1990's If There Was a Way was another best-seller, selling more than two million copies. It earned double-platinum status in the US and produced five top 50 singles.

In 1993, Yoakam released his most successful album to date, This Time, which reached triple platinum status.

Yoakam's song "Readin', Rightin', Route 23" pays tribute to his childhood move from Kentucky, and is named after a local expression describing the route that rural Kentuckians took to find a job outside of the coal mines. (U.S. Route 23 runs north from Kentucky through Columbus and Toledo, Ohio, and through the automotive centers of Michigan.) Rather than the standard line that their elementary schools taught "the three Rs" of "Readin', 'Ritin', and 'Rithmetic", Kentuckians used to say that the three Rs they learned were "Readin', 'Ritin', and Route 23 North".

Johnny Cash once cited Yoakam as his favorite country singer.[citation needed] Chris Isaak called him as good a songwriter as ever put a pen to paper. Time dubbed him "A Renaissance Man" and Vanity Fair declared that "Yoakam strides the divide between rock's lust and country's lament." Along with his bluegrass and honky-tonk roots, he has written or covered many Elvis Presley-style rockabilly songs, including his covers of Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" in 1999 and Presley's "Suspicious Minds" in 1992. He recorded a cover of The Clash's "Train in Vain" in 1997, a cover of the Grateful Dead song "Truckin'", as well as Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me". He has never been associated only with country music; on many early tours, he played with hardcore punk bands like Hüsker Dü, and played many shows around Los Angeles with roots/punk/rock & roll acts. His middle-period-to-later records saw him branching out to different styles, covering rock & roll, punk, 1960s, blues-based "boogie" like ZZ Top, and writing more adventurous songs like "A Thousand Miles From Nowhere". In 2003, he provided background vocals on Warren Zevon's last album The Wind.

In 2000, Yoakam released dwightyoakamacoustic.net, an album featuring solo acoustic versions of many of his hits.

Yoakam performing in 2008

2005 saw the release of Yoakam's well-reviewed album Blame the Vain, on New West Records. He also released an album dedicated to Buck Owens, Dwight Sings Buck, on October 23, 2007. His duet with Michelle Branch, a song titled "Long Goodbye", was released as a free download on her official website in early 2011.

In July 2011, Yoakam re-signed with Warner Bros. Nashville and announced plans to release a new album. 3 Pears was released on September 18, 2012 with twelve new tracks. Produced by him, it includes a collaboration with Beck. 3 Pears was released to resounding critical acclaim and earned him the highest-charting debut of his career on the Billboard 200 and Billboard Country Albums charts. 3 Pears reached No. 1 on the Americana Radio chart on October 29, 2012 and broke the 2012 record for most weeks at No. 1 on Americana Radio.[9] By the end of 2012, it was named on annual best of lists by NPR, Rolling Stone, American Songwriter, AOL's The Boot, Entertainment Weekly, The Village Voice, and Rhapsody, and has been included in more critics' "best of 2012" lists than any other artist in the country genre.[2]

In June 2014, Rolling Stone ranked the song "Guitars, Cadillacs" No. 94 in their list of the 100 greatest country songs.[10]

In February 2015, Yoakam announced a new studio album, titled Second Hand Heart and released on April 14.[11] In 2016, he supported the album by performing at the C2C: Country to Country festival in Europe. He performed at the Americana Music Honors & Awards, announcing that he was working on a new album of all bluegrass songs. The album, Swimmin' Pools, Movie Stars..., was released in September 2016.

In 2018, Yoakam embarked on the LSD Tour with Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle.[12]

Film and television career[edit]

Yoakam has also starred in many films, most notably as the ill-tempered, abusive live-in boyfriend in Sling Blade (1996), as a psychopathic killer in Panic Room (2002), as a police detective in The Minus Man (1999) and as the sheriff in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005). He appeared in a supporting role as Doc Miles, the doctor for Chev Chelios, in Crank (2006) and its sequel, Crank: High Voltage (2009). In addition, he guest starred in the King of the Hill episode "Nine Pretty Darn Angry Men" as Lane Pratley. The episode also featured his frequent collaborator Billy Bob Thornton.

Yoakam had a cameo appearance in the 2005 comedy movie Wedding Crashers. In 2006, he starred alongside Penélope Cruz and Salma Hayek in Bandidas; in 2008, he played Pastor Phil in Four Christmases, starring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon; and he appeared in Dirty Girl (2010). He also appeared in The Last Rites of Ransom Pride, an independent 2010 Western that stars fellow country singer Kris Kristofferson. Yoakam played a truck driver in the Wyoming crime thriller, Red Rock West (1993). He also played Brentwood Glasscock in The Newton Boys (1998). In Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), his song "Guitars, Cadillacs" is playing in the background of the opening bar scene. He plays a prison warden in the 2017 film Logan Lucky.

In 2000, Yoakam co-wrote, starred in, produced, and wrote the soundtrack for South of Heaven, West of Hell, also starring Vince Vaughn and Bridget Fonda.

Some of his songs are included in the film Big Eden (2000).

Yoakam was featured in a recurring role as Bruce on the FX series Wilfred but was replaced by William Baldwin in the show's fourth and final season. He also appeared in the second season of Under the Dome as Lyle Chumley, who runs the Chester's Mill's barbershop. In 2016 Yoakam appeared in a supporting role on the Amazon original show Goliath, which stars Billy Bob Thornton.[8]

In the 2021 movie Cry Macho, Yoakum plays Howard Polk, a father looking to get his son from his ex-wife living in Mexico.

Bakersfield Biscuits[edit]

Yoakam's food brand, Bakersfield Biscuits,[13] has been available at retailers such as Walmart.[14]


On April 26, 2018, SiriusXM launched a new channel, Dwight Yoakam and the Bakersfield Beat. It features the music from Southern California that focuses on, and influences, the Bakersfield sound.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Yoakam began dating photographer Emily Joyce in late 2010. They became engaged in 2011 and married in a small ceremony in Santa Monica, California, in March 2020.[16] Their son, Dalton Loren Yoakam, was born on August 16, 2020.[17]

Awards and recognition[edit]



Studio albums[edit]

Cover albums[edit]

Compilation albums[edit]

International releases[edit]

  • This Is... (1990)
  • La Croix D'Amour (1992)



Year Title Role Notes
1992 Red Rock West Truck Driver
1995 The Little Death Bobby Lomax
1996 Sling Blade Doyle Hargraves Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
1997 Painted Hero Virgil Kidder
1998 The Newton Boys Brentwood 'Brent Glass' Glasscock
1999 The Minus Man Blair
2001 South of Heaven, West of Hell Valentine Casey Also director and writer
2002 Panic Room Raoul
2003 Hollywood Homicide Leroy Wasley
2004 Three Way Herbert Claremont / Clarkson
2005 Wedding Crashers Mr. Kroeger
2005 The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada Sheriff Belmont
2006 Bandidas Tyler Jackson
2006 Crank 'Doc' Miles
2008 Two:Thirteen Sandy
2008 Four Christmases Pastor Phil
2009 Crank: High Voltage 'Doc' Miles
2010 Dirty Girl Joseph
2010 The Last Rites of Ransom Pride Reverend Early Pride
2010 Bloodworth Boyd Bloodworth
2015 90 Minutes in Heaven Cecil Beaumont
2017 Logan Lucky Warden Burns
2021 Cry Macho Howard Polk


Year Title Role Notes
1986 Hee Haw Himself Episode: "18.7"
1991 P.S. I Luv U Harlan Justice Episode: "I'd Kill to Direct"
1993 Rhythm & Jam Himself Television movie
1994 Saturday Night Live Musical Guest Episode: "Kelsey Grammer/Dwight Yoakam"
1994 Roswell Mac Brazel Television movie
1996 Don't Look Back Skipper Television movie
1997 Ellen The Bag Boy Episode: "The Puppy Episode – Part 2"
1998 King of the Hill Lane Pratley Episode: "Nine Pretty Darn Angry Men"
1998 When Trumpets Fade George Rickman Television movie
2002 Dinner for Five Himself Episode: "1.8"
2011–2013 Wilfred Bruce 3 episodes
2013 To Appomattox George Meade 7 episodes
2014 Under the Dome Lyle Chumley 7 episodes
2016 Drunk History Jesse Benton Episode: "Bar Fights"
2016 Goliath Wendell Corey 7 episodes


Specific references
  1. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). "Dwight Yoakam". The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 1285. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ a b "Dwight Yoakam". musicmarketingtools.com. Archived from the original on July 14, 2013. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  3. ^ "[Article]". Country Music Magazine. May–June 1986.
  4. ^ "Country Music's Yoakam Comes 'Home' For Concert". Nl.newsbank.com. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  5. ^ "Dwight Yoakam". The Encyclopedia of Country Music. New York: Oxford Press Univ. Press. 2012.
  6. ^ "Country Doc – Dwight Yoakam Gets the Third Degree on His Ph.D." New York Post. September 25, 2005. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  7. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Dwight Yoakam". AllMusic.
  8. ^ a b "A Conversation With Dwight Yoakam". magnetmagazine.com. January 27, 2017. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  9. ^ "Dwight Yoakam's 3 Pears Is No.1 Americana Album For Fifth Week in a Row". warnermusicnashville.com. Archived from the original on June 15, 2013. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
  10. ^ Menconi, David (June 1, 2014). "94. Dwight Yoakam, 'Guitars, Cadillacs' (1986) Photo – 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  11. ^ "Dwight Yoakam Announces New Album". American Songwriter. February 4, 2015. Archived from the original on February 28, 2015. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  12. ^ "Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle & Dwight Yoakam Team Up for LSD Tour". Billboard. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  13. ^ "Dwight Yoakam's Bakersfield Biscuits". Bakersfieldbiscuits.com. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  14. ^ "Yoakam's Biscuits Now in Wal-Mart". CMT.com. Country Music Television. August 26, 2002.
  15. ^ "Dwight Yoakam and The Bakersfield Beat". April 26, 2018.
  16. ^ Smyers, Darryl (April 13, 2006). "Hokum or Yoakam?". Dallas Observer. Retrieved November 15, 2019.
  17. ^ "Dwight Yoakam on Instagram: "Like the lyric from the song Waterfall that Dwight wrote for Emily on his 3 Pears album says... Babies get born even in a... Pandemic lock…"". Instagram. Archived from the original on December 26, 2021. Retrieved August 21, 2020.
  18. ^ "Dr. John, Emmylou Harris & Dwight Yoakam Wins at 2013 Americana Music Awards". Top40-Charts.com. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  19. ^ "Dwight Yoakam". Grammy.com. National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. June 4, 2019. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  20. ^ "Past Winners And Nominees". CMAawards.com. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  21. ^ "Winners". ACMcountry.com. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  22. ^ "New Album, 'Swimmin' Pools, Movie Stars…" Available September 23". DwightYoakam.com. February 16, 2016. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
General references
  • Himes, Geoffery. (1998). "Dwight Yoakam". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbuey, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 605–6.

External links[edit]