John Milton "Jack" Owens (October 17, 1912, Tulsa, Oklahoma - January 26, 1982, Phoenix, Arizona), singer/songwriter, gifted pianist, and a star of the longest running network radio show, Don McNeil's Breakfast Club, was known as "The Cruising Crooner" because of his unique showmanship of cruising through mostly female audiences attending the live Breakfast Club broadcasts, and crooning love ballads to the blushing and giggling women, often singing directly to them, one at a time, sitting on their laps, and nuzzling close to them.
From his start in small, local Chicago radio stations holding up applause signs and his brief performances in vaudeville, to his fame onNBC and ABC as a radio singing star with movie star looks, Jack Owens found ways to stay in the spotlight in popular music with catchy songs, love ballads, and even Hawaiian songs. Some of his music even appeared in such movies as San Antonio Rose in 1941 and From Here to Eternity in 1953.
Jack Owens, who married fellow Chicago radio star Helen Streiff in the early 1930s, started his recording career with independent label,Tower Records, and then after the huge success of "The Hukilau Song", and "I'll Weave a Lei of Stars for You" in 1948, he was signed toDecca, the biggest label at the time.
Overlooked or forgotten by many today, Owens was America's 10th favorite male vocalist from 1936 to 1944. He was best known for writing or co-writing such successful tunes as "The Hut-Sut Song", "Hi, Neighbor", "How Soon", "The Hukilau Song", and "I'll Weave a Lei of Stars for You". He either wrote, co-wrote, composed, recorded, or some combination of these music credits, more than 50 songs spanning from the mid-1930s to the early 1960s.
He also had his own TV show, The Jack Owens Show (aka The Brunch Bunch), during the pioneer days of TV of the early 1950s and even received two Emmy nominations.
Though his songs have been covered by numerous well-known artists — Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Bing Crosby, Freddy Martin, Merry Macs, Andy Williams, Perry Como, Dinah Shore, Woody Herman, Vaughn Monroe, Glenn Miller Orchestra, Kay Kyser Orchestra, Sammy Kaye Orchestra, Nat "King" Cole, Orrin Tucker, Spike Jones, Pat Boone, Ferlin Husky, The Platters, The Cadets / The Jacks (of "Why Don't You Write Me" fame), Alfred Apaka, Don Ho and Frank Sinatra — they have not always been correctly credited to him, have lacked adequate information about him, or have been misattributed to blues singer Jack Owens.
Jack Owens retired from show business in 1957 and worked in real estate in Phoenix. Although he co-wrote "Back In Aloha Land" in 1963, and he co-wrote "I'm The Only One That Wants Me" in 1965, the pop era of music he once embraced and sang had gone by the wayside, falling in the shadows of rock and roll and the Beatles. Other interesting things about Jack Owens include:
- He was also the uncle of Roger Owens, the famed peanut vendor at Dodger Stadium.
- He appeared in a Mae West movie, The Heat's On.
- His music publishing company, Owens-Kemp Music Co. was located in Hollywood where the present day Walk of Fame is located.