Dwight Yoakam was born in Pikeville, Ky., on Oct. 23, 1956, but spent a sizable portion of his youth in Ohio. Inspired by the Beatles and the Byrds, as well as the honky-tonk music of the area, he moved to Los Angeles in 1978 after years of rejection in Nashville. He realized he might need to find an alternate highway for his music, so he brought his music to an unlikely audience -- the roots rock fans of Los Angeles who had already embraced local bands such as Los Lobos, the Blasters and Lone Justice.
Yoakam teamed with producer Pete Anderson for the 1984 EP Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. A few years later, Nashville was again eager for unconventional artists (such as Steve Earle, Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett), and Reprise Records reissued the six-song EP with four additional tracks (and an extra Etc. in the title). Through the end of the 1980s, he had notched nine Top 10 hits, including the No. 1 hit "Streets of Bakersfield," a duet with pioneer California-country pioneer Buck Owens.
In 1993, with his twang intact, Yoakam delivered a commercial smash with the album This Time. Three of its singles peaked at No. 2, and "Ain't That Lonely Yet" won a Grammy. (Yoakam has yet to win a CMA award.) Future albums on Warner Bros./Reprise failed to yield a Top 10 hit, and he seemed determined to fulfill his contract with a hits album, a live album, a covers album, a soundtrack, an acoustic album and a Christmas album. (He also offered studio albums in 1995, 1998 and 2001.) Following an impressive box set in 2002, he released Population: Me in 2003 on Audium/Koch Records. In 2004 he released Dwight's Used Records, an anthology of duets from other artists' albums, unreleased covers and cuts he contributed to various tribute compilations. He moved to New West Records in 2005 for Blame the Vain, which he produced himself after a professional split from Anderson.
Watching his innovative videos, it's not surprising that Yoakam has also found work in Hollywood. He earned rave reviews for his villainous roles in Sling Blade (1996) and Panic Room (2002). He also lends his name to a line of frozen biscuits and sausage.