Kentucky-born, Ohio-raised Dwight Yoakam rebuffed Nashville's commercial music demands back in 1977 when he fled Tennessee for the artistic tolerance of California. Taking the stage with off-the-beaten-path bands such as Los Lobos, Yoakam discovered the creative freedom he required. And once established, he was able to lure legendary performer Buck Owens out of decade-old retirement for a duet on his self-penned "Streets of Bakersfield." It was Yoakam's first No. 1 hit and the beginning of a long-term relationship with Owens. As country-western as Roy Rogers himself, Yoakam combines his honky-tonk and rockabilly styles on such songs as "Little Sister," "Always Late (With Your Kisses)," and "Guitars and Cadillacs." Yoakam's most recent album, Tomorrow's Sounds Today
, demonstrates that he hasn't drifted from pure country music. As proof, there's the Hank Williams-like "The Heartaches Are Free" and the terrific first single "What Do You Know About Love?" The ever-versatile Yoakam has written music with Mick Jagger, acted in Sling Blade
and The Newton Boys
, and recently made his directorial debut with his co-written western South of Heaven, West of Hell
. Seemingly forever on tour, Yoakam puts out the allure. With his signature Stetson tipped forward and his spindly legs wrapped snugly in denim or leather, the six-foot cowboy lowers his head and twitches one leg to get the audience on its feet. Never married, Yoakam has been pictured most recently with actress Bridget Fonda. One might think he'd shy away from celebrities, after his whirlwind romance with actress Sharon Stone in the early '90s. Following the breakup, Stone said she'd rather bite into a dirt sandwich than reunite with Yoakam. The publicity-shy Yoakam didn't respond to the statement. In fact, with all his class, he simply didn't acknowledge the affair at all.