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Who Lawton Jiles
What Charles Lawton Jiles, longtime Upland resident and singer/songwriter, dies at 90
When June 20, 2020
Where Taft, CA

Longtime Upland resident and accomplished singer/songwriter Charles Lawton Jiles died earlier this month in Taft. He was 90.

Jiles, who penned several tunes for country music legend Patsy Cline, was a successful accountant who, with his late wife Ruth, owned the Upland-based Vista Business Service until their retirement several years ago.

“Dad never wanted to be a big star,” Michael Jiles said of his father. “He lived a simple life and valued his family most of all. He enjoyed being with my mother and working together with her to achieve their dreams.”

Jiles made his first mark in show business as band leader for the late country music superstar, Buck Owens. He and his songwriting partner, the late Charles “Buster” Beam, co-wrote several platinum-selling songs for Cline, including “Let the Teardrops Fall,” “I’m Blue Again,” “Yes, I Understand,” “How Can I Face Tomorrow?,” “Love, Love, Love Me Honey Do” and “Crazy Dreams.”

“My father was my hero,” Casey Jiles said. “His life was full of amazing accomplishments, yet the most impressive thing about him was how humble he remained. He never forgot who he was.”

After their successes with Cline, Jiles and Beam wrote for Porter Wagoner, Janie Fricke and other country music artists. They scored a hit in 1963 with a tune they penned for Wagoner, “My Baby’s Not Here in Town Tonight.”

Throughout his career, Jiles also collaborated with independent music artists, such as Joe Eiffert, co-founder of the popular Southern California-based country band, Southern Spirit.

“Lawton hired me in the late 1980s to record demos and perform shows with him,” Eiffert said. “He was a genuine and beautiful human being and left me with so many wonderful memories. One of my favorite was him always asking me, ‘Do you think the rain in Spain will have any effect on the rhubarb this year?’ He had a great sense of humor and had a way of putting a smile on your face.”

Jiles was born in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, in 1929 and grew up in the San Joaquin Valley. He taught himself to play guitar at age 9 and, by the time he was in high school, the budding musician was writing songs and performing in local bands.

After graduation, he served in the U.S. Air Force three years. At the end of his stint, Jiles became a full-time musician and songwriter.

He made a name for himself during the 1940s and ’50s playing on the Bakersfield music scene with his group, The Valley Rhythm Boys. That gig led to a job as band leader for Owens in 1962.

“Buck and I were friends and when his career was beginning to take off, he approached me at a club one night and asked me if I would be his band leader,” Jiles said in a 2016 interview with the Daily Press in Victorville. “I told him I needed a day to think about it, so the next morning we went to breakfast and after a long conversation, I decided to accept his offer.”

In 2013, Jiles published his book, “The Birth of the Bakersfield Sound.” The story shines a light on the unsung heroes of the era, such as the musicians, disc jockeys, club owners and fans.

“There were so many people behind the scenes of the Bakersfield Sound,” Jiles said. “I wanted to make sure they were acknowledged for their contributions because without them, that sound probably would not have been born.”

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