- Dwight David Yoakam
October 23, 1956 (age 64)
- Singer-songwriter, Actor, Film Director, Musician
- Ruth Ann Yoakam, David Yoakam
Dwight David Yoakam (born October 23, 1956) is an American singer-songwriter, actor and film director, most famous for his pioneering country music. Popular since the early 1980s, he has recorded more than 21 albums and compilations, charted more than 30 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, and sold more than 25 million records. Yoakam has recorded 5 Billboard #1 Albums, 12 Gold Albums, and 9 Platinum Albums, including the Triple Platinum This Time. In addition to his many achievements in the performing arts, Yoakam is also the most frequent musical guest in the history of The Tonight Show.
Yoakam was born in Pikeville, Kentucky, the son of Ruth Ann, a key-punch operator, and David Yoakam, a gas-station owner. He was raised in Columbus, Ohio. He graduated from Columbus's Northland High School in 1974. During his high school years, he excelled in both music and drama, regularly securing the lead role in school plays, such as "Charlie" in a stage version of Flowers for Algernon, honing his skills under the guidance of teacher-mentors Jerry McAfee (music) and Charles Lewis (drama). Outside of school, Yoakam sang and played guitar with local garage bands, and entertained his friends and classmates with his impersonations, such as Richard Nixon, who, at the time, was heavily embroiled in the Watergate controversy.
Yoakam briefly attended Ohio State University, but dropped out and moved to Nashville in 1977 with the intent of becoming a recording artist. Later on, Ohio Valley University in Parkersburg, West Virginia awarded and presented Dwight with an honorary doctorate degree on May 7, 2005.
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, Yoakam 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, groundbreaking music is often credited with rock audiences accepting country music.
Yoakam's recording debut was the self-financed EP Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. on independent label Oak Records produced by lead-guitarist Pete Anderson; this was later re-released by Reprise records, with several additional tracks, as his major-label debut LP, 1986's Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.. It launched his career. "Honky Tonk Man", a remake of the Johnny Horton song, and "Guitars, Cadillacs" were hit singles. His stylish video "Honky Tonk Man" was the first country music video ever 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.
Yoakam won the Grammy Award for "Best Male Country Vocal Performance" in 1993 for the song "Ain't That Lonely Yet". He was also named "Artist of the Year" by CMT Europe in 1993 and given the International Touring Artist Award by CMA in 2007.