Honky tonk man Dwight Yoakam headed to Mayo Civic Center

March 28, 2018

Turn it on, turn it up, Dwight Yoakam is headed to town.

The honky tonk singer, whose hits have included “Turn it On, Turn it Up, Turn Me Loose,” will perform at 8 p.m. Friday at Mayo Civic Center ’s Presentation Hall.

Yoakam was one of the artists instrumental in broadening the borders of country music in the 1980s, although it wasn’t always easy. Born in Kentucky, reared in Columbus, Ohio, Yoakam brought an edge to his version of country that was not always welcome in Nashville circles.

After finding little success in Music City, Yoakam headed to Los Angeles in 1977, where he took his rockabilly and honky tonk music to punk and rock clubs. He also soaked up the Bakersfield sound of one of country music’s legends, Buck Owens.

The resulting musical stew, in evidence on his debut album, “Guitars Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.,” brought, new and younger fans to country music, and made Yoakam a star. Hits followed, including “Honky Tonk Man,” “Fast as You,” “I Sang Dixie,” “Little Sister, “1000 Miles From Nowhere” and “The Streets of Bakersfield,” a duet with Owens. In all, Yoakam has had 14 Top 10 songs on the Billboard country charts.

In addition to the music, Yoakam, who had the lead role in his high school’s production of “Flowers for Algernon,” found roles in movies and TV. Among his films were “Sling Blade,” “Panic Room” and “Four Christmases.”

As the tastes of country music fans have changed again — trucks have replaced Cadillacs as the vehicle of aspiration — Yoakam, now 61, has seen his profile diminish. But he continues to record new music, including his first bluegrass album, “Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars...,” released in 2016. Among the songs on that record is a bluegrass version of Prince’s “Purple Rain.”