He’s a legend today, but Buck Owens wasn’t born into country music royalty — in fact, he struggled for years as a session musician and performer, releasing a series of little-known recordings for smaller labels.

Next month, thanks to a compilation scheduled for release by Rockbeat Records, fans will get a new chance to hear some of Owens’ earliest recordings for themselves.

Consisting of 24 tracks on a single CD, ‘Bound for Bakersfield 1953-1956: The Complete Pre-Capitol Collection’ compiles recordings Owens made for the Pep, Chesterfield, and La Brea labels during the early-to-mid ’50s. With his trademark “Bakersfield sound” still on the horizon, these performances offer a glimpse of an artist finding his voice.

“There were lessons to be learned and dues to be paid,” country historian Rich Kienzle writes in the set’s liner notes. “But in the final analysis, the Buck of legend, of the raw honky-tonk vocals, catchy commercial tunes, twangy Fender Telecasters and churning, aggressive ‘freight train’ rhythms was forged in Bakersfield’s honky-tonks and recording studios there and in L.A. from 1951 to 1957.”

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