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Bakersfield sound

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Bakersfield sound is a genre of country music developed in the mid- to late 1950s in and around Bakersfield, California.[1] Bakersfield was the first genre of country music to be significantly influenced by rock and roll, and as a result, the first to rely heavily on electric instrumentation and a defined backbeat.[2] It was also a reaction against the slickly produced, orchestra-laden Nashville sound, which was becoming popular in the late 1950s.[2] The Bakersfield sound became one of the most popular and influential country genres of the 1960s, initiating a revival of honky-tonk music and influencing later country rock and outlaw country musicians.[2]

Wynn Stewart pioneered the Bakersfield sound,[2] while Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, and Merle Haggard and the Strangers are the two most successful artists of the original Bakersfield era.[1] Other major Bakersfield country artists include Jean Shepard, Tommy Collins, Susan Raye, Joe Maphis, and Freddie Hart.

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  • ✪ Fender Play LIVE: Country Guitar Crash Course: Bakersfield Sound | Fender Play | Fender
  • ✪ Streets of Bakersfield (Live)
  • ✪ Bakersfield Country Part 1


[THEME MUSIC] SCOTT GOLDBAUM: --back, everybody, folks who are here. [APPLAUSE] Let's waste no time. Let's just jump right into it. A little jam off the top. One, two, a one, two, three. [PLAYING GUITAR] There we go, christening the show, my man. All right, guys. Hello and welcome to another week of "Fender Play Live." I'm your host, Scott Goldbaum. Now, Fender Play has hundreds of country songs and lessons on our country path. But just like rock, there are tons of different types of country styles to choose from. So today we're going to be looking at a specific type of country music that blended country and rock. It's the Bakersfield Sound. These classic country tunes are born here in California and ingrained with Fender history. So let's take a look at some iconic artists, some quintessential tones, and of course show you some of the songs that you gotta know. Let's just jump right into it. To help me out, I wanna welcome a very special guest, very close friend of our show and Fender Play, the one and only Eugene Edwards. Thank you so much. So good to have you again, man. Welcome back. You guys, seriously, you make it so easy for us to keep bringing you back. You're an amazing singer, guitarist, composer, popularly recognized as Dwight Yoakam's guitarist. And also, you guys should be familiar as Fender fans, especially on our YouTube channel, you've been doing a massive amount of our guitar and amp demos lately. Honored, honored, honored to be a part of the family, man. I'm telling you, it's a real pleasure to work with you guys. Yeah, absolutely, man. It really, really is. No, I'm sorry to hear that you've been banned from several states recently from carrying a Telecaster due to how dangerous you are with it. You know, a lot of these things have been-- [LAUGHTER] I know it's been tough, especially with the tour. I can't change how I was born. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I think it's a little-- I thought I'd catch you off guard right off the top. That goes to say. But no, I mean, along with your accolades that speak for themselves, you actually have a personal history with this Bakersfield sound, country as a general umbrella with music. How do you speak to that? Well, I grew up in Southwestern Arizona, and playing country music, just as a matter of making a buck, was something that you just had to do. And as you're learning all this, and you're playing all night long, and you're playing lots of different songs, and then at some point, someone calls out like a Buck Owens song, and you just know there's a charm about this. There's something fun about this. And then you learn the records, and you listen to the guitar parts. SCOTT GOLDBAUM: The nuances, the details. There is something really cool going on here. And then so-- I knew Buck Owens from watching Hee Haw. Yeah, of course. That's the guy from the thing! Cross-mediums. Cross-mediums. And then I played rockabilly. And then of course, joining with Dwight, who obviously had a big hand in the resurgence of the Bakersfield Sound. And as I worked with Dwight, we paid tribute to Buck. We paid tribute to Merle. And on his radio, his Sirius XM channel, we certainly paid a lot tribute it and a lot of attention to it there. So it's ingrained. And then night after night, yeah, I just I play a Telecaster over some honky tonk jams. I love it. No, the way that you guys integrate all those tributes, paying tribute to the people that came before y'all is so-- It means a lot to us. --artistic, so cool. Yeah, way to carry that torch. And honestly, you're carrying a beautiful Tele on you right now, too. I believe it's the American Professional. I got this a couple of years ago. And this is just a kind of tip off from this next song. So this is tuned down a whole step, very, very similar to how Don Rich would do. Well, we've got some techniques and are just waiting on deck for us utilizing that. But in the meantime, let's hear what it sounds like solo first. Here you go. [PLAYING GUITAR] Yeah, man. It's only a matter of time before you're banned from California. Oh, man! I live here. That's gonna be a problem. Well, before we get into some jamming, tonight we're gonna do something a little special. Eugene has some Bakersfield trivia to send your way. Now, if you know the answer, drop it in the comments. And the first to get the right answer is gonna win a very special prize. That is, in fact, a shout out from Eugene himself live on air. So that brings us to the first question, man. What do you got? OK, here you go. We just had the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, correct? Yes, yes. So what band that performed at Woodstock mentions Buck Owens in one of their big hit songs? OK, dot, dot, dot. While the Jeopardy music is playing in the back of your guys' minds-- Get your answers into the comment sections. Get those in the comment sections. Yeah, we're gonna type that answer in case-- or type the question in case you guys are late to having heard it. But get that answer. First one to win, you're gonna get a shout out from us. In the meantime, let's go ahead and start with one of two seminal artists in this genre. So you've got Buck Owens, Merle Haggard. Let's jump right into a Buck Owens jam right now. You got it. That cool? I got the intro here. I'll follow your lead, man. [PLAYING GUITAR] There it is, there it is. Let's talk about that. So you're going up and down the neck, and I'm hearing some Don Rich signature style sounds. Right, so what we talk about Don Rich in his signature style sound, well, it's an interesting dichotomy. As Buck would play major chords on acoustic, full major chords, Don would play these really minor pentatonic scales over that. So over just like a big G chord, Don would do-- [PLAYING GUITAR] It's very blues licks. Yeah. And you had this tension that existed. And that's a really, really big part of that Buck Owens and Don Rich sound, but Bakersfield country. Yeah, big differentiation between what you might deem national country and decades of country before it. Right, Nashville had a lot of jazz players essentially, and they were playing Gibson guitars, a lot of those. So we've got Don Rich playing these really tough blues licks on a Telecaster bridge pickup. And I'm trying to pick as close back as far on the bridge as possible. And that's true to a lot of techniques just in the general umbrella of country. When you're getting into chicken picking, you wanna kind of live over by the bridge, right? That's right. The way the pickup and the scale of the guitar works, it's gonna pick up a little-- it eliminates the lower range, essentially, of the guitar. And you get all that percussion that you want. OK, so that really cuts through. It cuts through. That's a good tip. That makes a lot of sense. Now, when it comes to what defines this Bakersfield sound, how would you say it's further different from-- different. You know, as I said a moment ago, the decades of country that came before it. Right. Nashville country, you were saying those have more jazz voicings and stuff. Right, well, the people that made a lot of them were essentially refugees from the Dust Bowl era. Right, OK. So they brought those-- SCOTT GOLDBAUM: That's migrating with them. They brought Oklahoma, Texas. They brought a lot of that with them. But then they land here in Southern California. You've got mariachi music being played over the weekends, and you were playing in bars more often than you were playing in churches. So it's a tougher sound. Yeah. And so that's one of the things. Also, you're a Southern Cal-- you're a Southern California-based artists. And there's a particular Southern California-based guitar manufacturer laying around. So your steel guitars, your electric guitars, even your acoustic guitars are most likely going to be Fenders. There you go. And so inherently there's just so much twang, because they're all playing Fender guitars. Well, there you go. I think it's also worth talking about the international influence, as far as the Beatles going as far as, I think it was Ringo singing on the top of Act Naturally. All nervous and out of tune on The Ed Sullivan Show, as he said. That's commitment, man. That's International translation. That's so cool. Now, guys, it's worth saying that we've got a trivia winner, too. I'll be the bearer of good news here, man. So we got a trivia winner from our first question. This goes out to Albert Siva, who answered it right. That is-- you wanna give away the answer? Way to go, Albert Siva. You knew it. He answered correctly. It was that Creedence Clearwater Revival mentions Buck Owens. In what song? Oh, man. I have I assume no familiarity with the answers to any of these questions and trivia. "Looking Out My Back Door." Ah, OK. Well, thanks for inviting me, guys. I'll take it. Now, when it comes to doing another one, what's next on the docket? OK, I got this one right here. So Eugene, for this next question, you see this one? This is what we're gonna prompt our audience with. OK, here we are. So we've talked about the Bakersfield Sound, but where were a majority of the Bakersfield Sound records recorded? OK, this one I actually do know the answer to. You do know the answer. Drop the answers in the comments. You're not allowed to answer yet. OK. And the first one gets a shout out. There you go. So guys, yeah, scurry to that. Which studio did all that stuff take place at? Yeah, we're asking for the studio. Yeah, OK, cool. So let's play another Buck tune in the meantime while we are going dot, dot, dot with those answers. We've got a few others available to learn on Fender play, but let's do that one that really shows off that awesome Tele. Here we go. Cool. [PLAYING GUITAR] Howdy, buckaroo! I really think that's maybe the unofficial national anthem. I'm such a fan of that piece. And it really shows off-- I kind of feel like it's almost like a Spanish influence, the way Don uses fourths in this. Yeah. Well, obviously he uses that. But then we go to the four chord, or G, we hear it again. And then we get to the five. Again, that dominant seventh is ringing out. It's almost like a samba feel to it. Yeah, and there's sort of a Bossa but not really. It's got this Latin thing going in there, especially in the right cymbal. Also, when the steel player comes in, we've got this major third harmony happening, which also kind of feels very much like mariachi trumpets to me. Yeah, yeah. that would translate really beautifully. And if you have a friend, you're learning guitar with a friend, have them figure out that harmony part, because you can get a real cool-- [PLAYING GUITAR] Those sorts of moves, you know? Yeah. And also there's a little chicken pick, just a very clean style. [PLAYING GUITAR] Back here as much as possible. Now is that just a technique that can be applied through the duration of that performance? Are you living toward the center at all at any point? No. It's generally leaning back here toward the bridge? Generally leaning back towards the bridge. Cool. And sometimes you just have to accommodate room, because Don would do this hybrid over that. Right, right, right. [PLAYING GUITAR] So it forces the pick hand, the pick fingers forward a little bit. SCOTT GOLDBAUM: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's interesting. It gets back. SCOTT GOLDBAUM: Wow. What a weird hybrid. I love that. That's so cool. Whoa. In that little bit of time, I guess it's worth mentioning, we've got another trivia winner. OK. All right, Eugene, take it. Who gets the shout out? I love that they know it. Jared Hamlin answered correctly. They were recorded just a couple blocks over at Capitol Records. SCOTT GOLDBAUM: That's right. An eye shot away, the big tower. That's right, right. That's awesome. Jared, good on you, man. Good job. Oh, we got another one. We got a final trivia one, and we would deem this a tough one. What do you got for our audience? OK, which governor gave Merle Haggard full and unconditional pardon for his crimes? SCOTT GOLDBAUM: Which implies he committed crimes. We'll talk about that in a little bit. So we mentioned the Telecaster's big role in the Bakersfield sound, and Buck Owens was a big Telecaster fan. So were the people he surrounded himself with, obviously. But he had a very specific type of Tele. And that was the Thinline semi-hollow body Telecaster. For today's insider, we cut to the studio. We're gonna check out the difference between the thin line and the solid body. Let's check it out. [PLAYING GUITAR] Hey, guys. I'm Matt Lake, one of your "Fender Play" instructors. I absolutely love Telecasters and have played them for many years. But I especially love Thinline Telecaster, like this Britt Daniel signature Telecaster. You might be wondering what's so great about a Thinline Telecaster and how is it different from a regular solid body Telecaster? Well, today I'll show you everything you need to know about Thinlines and why it might be the right guitar for you. [PLAYING GUITAR] First, some quick history. In the 1960s, Fender used ash to make guitars, but the type of ash they were using made the guitars quite heavy. So they decided to experiment by hollowing out the body and adding an opening up here known as the F hole. The results stuck, and since 1968, Fender has continued to produce this Thinline Telecaster. So right away, we can see a major difference between a Thinline and a solid body Tele is it's lighter. Thinlines can weigh about half as much as the solid body types. For me, though, the main difference is in the playing. Because of the hollowed out body, the Thinline has a bit warmer sound than a twangy, high end solid body Telecaster, which is why jazz guys like Bill Frisell and soul artists like Curtis Mayfield played a Thinline. As a jazz player, the warmth is a huge plus. Check it out. [PLAYING GUITAR] You still do have some of that country twang, though. Guys like Buck Owens and Conway Twitty used a Thinline as well. [PLAYING GUITAR] My favorite reason to use a Thinline, though, is that I find I can get a bit more sustain on the high notes than on a solid body guitar, which is great for when I'm playing lead lines in rock or blues. [PLAYING GUITAR] And what a great sound. I've got the guitars just straight into the amp, no effects, and I've got sustain for days with just a little bit of vibrato. [PLAYING GUITAR] It's a unique tone all its own, and I just love the way it sounds. So just like a solid body Telecaster, the Thinline is extremely versatile. It's not just used by jazz or country artists, but it's also used by some great modern rock artists, like Carrie Brownstein, Thom Yorke, Paul Westerberg, and of course Britt Daniel. Whatever your style is, try one out and see if maybe this guitar is for you. Keep practicing, and I'm gonna see you next time. [PLAYING GUITAR] EUGENE EDWARDS: Pretty good. SCOTT GOLDBAUM: Love a Thinline, man. Thanks, Matt, back at the studio. And it's worth mentioning, we just came out with that Britt Daniel signature Telecaster Thinline. Have you seen this yet in the flesh? I haven't held one, no. I saw pictures of it. I've seen Spoon live. I'm a big fan. Yeah, same, same. Yeah, long overdue that we do that. Check out John Dreyer's demo. I think it came out yesterday. If you guys are into Thinlines, Britt Daniels' Thinline is amazing. So just check that out. And in the meantime, in that time, we have a trivia winner, is that right? Yeah, our questions aren't hard enough, apparently. So congratulations to Robert Wild. SCOTT GOLDBAUM: Robert! Good job. He knew that California Governor Ronald Reagan was the one who pardoned Merle for his crimes. There it is. There it is. Guys, we spent a lot of time talking about Buck Owens in the first half. And for that reason alone, we're ready to shift into talking about another person who had a massive influence, and that is of course Merle Haggard. We've got about six Merle songs already on the "Fender Play" platform, but let's just jump right in by jamming one. We'll do "Mama Tried?" Yes, and you have the intro on this. OK, I will simulate that Dobro. Here it comes. That's right. [PLAYING GUITAR] Nice little nod to Merle. Merle and the gang, another example right in that song. I'm hearing that blues scale again over those majors. Those beautiful, elegant chords. A little trivia there. The great, great guitar player James Burton actually plays that intro on a Dobro. And then Roy Nichols comes out of the clear blue sky with this half bend. And then again, in case you missed it, and a power chord. What a trip. It's pretty rock. Yeah, so cool, man. It's such a cool integration of genres. I love that. Mhm. So yeah, you got that main lick right there. And it's funny because Merle Haggard, I mean, talk about rites of passage, just being an artist, a songwriter. Rumor has it-- and by that, I mean, I'm sure just the history is available to anybody, but he actually witnessed Johnny Cash performing at San Quentin as an inmate. Yeah, so that inspired him greatly. I mean, he had a lot of energy as a young man, Merle did. And actually, the song "Mama Tried." It really reads like a biography. Totally. He was asked to write a song for a movie, and then he ended up writing about himself. Oh, wow. But he had a deep sense of empathy, and I think if you're gonna sit down and write a country song, I think Merle Haggard might have to be your gold standard in terms of writing. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, no, absolutely. He's a legacy artist. And a lot of people are carrying that torch right now. In and out of prison in the '50s, saw Johnny Cash perform live, massive Tele player himself. And I think it's worth recognizing the fact that you're actually holding a Merle Haggard Signature Tele. Yeah. Tell us everything. Well, this is a very elegant guitar. I met Merle once. It was back in about the mid-'90s, I think. I was invited on his tour bus. And he had a guitar, very similar to this, sitting on the table. And I was grateful, because we just talked about guitars, because I had nothing in common with the man other than this. There's your denominator. It was a denominator. Yeah, he was very, very sweet and very gracious. He really liked maple fret boards. He liked how bright they were. And this is a-- yeah, it's a pretty guitar, so I'm honored to get to play this. This is lovely. Well, let's prove that point. Let me hear you play a little bit on that with me getting out of your way this time. Oh, I see. You're gonna get out of my way. Oh, yeah. Free it up. [PLAYING GUITAR] Beautiful. That was gorgeous. Yeah, get that dirt in there. Where applicable, apply dirt. Yeah. Well, in that time, it gave us a little bit of time to get a-- let's go see here. Oh, this is a-- oh, OK. So actually, here's an opportunity now. So in the back half here, we're gonna try to make it a point to stump you. What did I do? OK, so we're gonna try to stump you with some trivia right now. OK. And this is gonna be coming out from either the-- if any of you guys out there have any ideas that Eugene, a proclaimed expert may not know the answer to when it comes to Bakersfield Sound, throw it our way. So put it in the questions and the comments. Do we have one coming through yet? Is that what I see? MAN: Not yet. OK, so remember on "Fender Play," you guys, that we give you the tools to learn to play all of these songs. We have tons more Bakersfield Sound songs in our country path. So just jump in and show us what you guys have. In our community, there's a massive amount of songs to pull from, whether it's just the country path or our vast library of songs. Choose your own adventure, and find your own Bakersfield Sound tune to show us in our community. Let's go ahead and play one more tune right now, just for the fun of it. Let's jump into a 12 bar "Working Man Blues" tune. Speaking of James Burton, he played lead on this one. Oh, OK. Just up the block at the Capital Records. Oh, yeah. OK. We're in the key of G sharp, for those of you keeping score. All right. I'll follow your lead, man. [PLAYING GUITAR] Beautiful playing. My man! That chorus, I don't know. Look at that. Didn't get it exactly right, but-- OK, so looks like we got somebody with a question for you, man. See if we get it-- I love this segment. "Stump Eugene." What song-- oh. Oh, oh, oh! This is really putting you under the gun, brother. What song-- Wait, who's asking this question? Oh. MAN: One of our YouTube viewers. OK. One of our YouTube viewers? OK. All right, very good. Is that Albert Siva? MAN: Yeah. OK, Albert, we got you. So I love that you asked this question, Albert. What song did Dwight Yoakam record with Buck Owens? Oh, this one's tough. Ooh. The lifeline. Regis Philbin in the back. I don't need a lifeline. We do this song every night. He did the song "Streets of Bakersfield." Ah, there it is. That's right. Which I don't know if we have the rights to, so I won't be able to play it. But yeah, written, I believe, by Homer Simpson. A great, great song. It was an album. It was an album cut of Buck's back in '70s. And then Dwight kind of got him out of retirement, and they cut it, and it was a huge hit. Oh, man. What a good question. Great question. So cool. OK, so here's another one. All right, so this is just generally speaking, this is more insight. So what's the difference between Bakersfield Sound and rockabilly? Those years you spent cutting your teeth in the bars playing. Well, rockabilly always inherently has swing in the rhythm section. SCOTT GOLDBAUM: Right. And normally an upright bass, too, which really develops that pocket in a big way. Bakersfield Sound usually has an electric bass and can be any range, any number of rhythms. We talk about that like half Bossa Nova thing in "Buckaroo." It's a little more of a straight eighth feel in Bakersfield country as opposed to that swinging feel in rockabilly. OK, cool distinction. Michael Burrell, thanks for that question, man. Again, I'm gaining as much insight as you guys are. We were talking my James Burton a little bit earlier. We were talking about some of those chicken picking Techniques a lot of other people have carried that torch. A number of other players have carried that torch since. Who are some other people that came before them, that also were of that decade or of that era? So simultaneously, like in "Mama Tried," we have an example where James plays the Dobro intro, but Roy Nichols plays the electric part. And Roy was Merle's longtime guitar player. And before he was with Merle, though, he was around a bit. The great group called the Maddox Brothers, with Rose Maddox and her brothers, and on their early records, you hear Roy Nichols on that. And it's interesting, because he's a little more traditional country, and you hear him evolve as he works towards that Bakersfield thing. Kind of leaning into the rock side. Yeah, exactly. There's another artist named Tommy Collins. And he was a forefather of Buck Owens and those guys. And so if you can find some of his records, you really hear the transition. Tommy was a very, very Hank Williams Sr. influenced type singer. But his material starts to push forward a little bit. So if you can find some Maddox Brothers and some Tommy Collins, some really good great, great Bakersfield stuff there. That's awesome, man. Well, in the time that you explained that so thoroughly-- The show's over? --all succinctly, it's worth mentioning that our producer just let me know we are in fact allowed to play that Dwight Buck tune. What does that sound like? [PLAYING GUITAR] Two thumbs up to Michael Burrell for that influence. Thanks for that, man. OK, so who came up with the name for the Buck Owens band The Buckaroos? That's from Tracy DeVoe. Tracy, I don't know that I know who came up with the name, but I do know that we get this word buckaroo as a mispronunciation of "vaquero," the Spanish word for "cowboy." Oh. "Vaquero" becomes "buckaroo." That is a really great way of deflecting the fact that you don't know the answer to the question. You noticed that? [LAUGHTER] Anticipate an even more interesting question with a great answer. Dude, your car's on fire. I'm taking notes. I'm taking notes. Let's get to the homework. Great question, Tracy. Each week, we assign homework to our viewers. And now we just want you guys to put your homework in the comments. Use the hashtag "homework." And we'll make sure we grade you. So what do you got for our students this week? So for the beginner, strum the courts to "Act Naturally" at half speed. Nice and slow. Just like my man here. Some open essential tunes. Nice and easy. Sing along if it helps. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Bonus. You get some extra credit. Sing along. Exactly. If Ringo can do it, you can definitely do it. Now, for the intermediate, play the intro lick from "Mama Tried." [PLAYING GUITAR] Bends, power chords, it's great. And if you really wanna blow our minds, play the lead guitar part on "Buckaroo," a name that came from Lyndon B. Johnson. Lyndon B. Johnson. And it's weird. No one [INAUDIBLE] [PLAYING GUITAR] Awesome. Awesome. Eugene, so good, man. Well, I'll be the bearer-- oh, oh. OK. We're finding out some more. This is live in real time. This is kind of full circle, and I feel dumb and stumped. Apparently, Merle Haggard came up with it. OK. All right. Tracy is our source. We'll follow their lead. All right. Cool. I can dig into that. So I'll be the bearer of bad news this week. So we don't have a giveaway this week, but that's only because we changed it up a bit. And we wanna give everybody a chance to get those streaks that we were talking about. That's three minutes. Sorry, that's seven minutes three times a week. And that's going to enter you in the giveaway as one of our students. So for more info, check the link in our description. We'll give you some greater detail, and we will be sure to announce our next week winner. So stick around for that next. We've got some Q&As and some community engagement. I guess we covered all the questions, but here's some shout outs for some of our people this week. We got Joanne Baumgartner. She showed off her power chords with a righteous cover of "Hit Me with Your Best Shot," which she learned on "Play." That is exactly what we want to have happen. That's right. Learn it. Way to go, Joanne. And improve [INAUDIBLE] That's what I'm talking about. What did Gary do for us? Gary, he used to play guitar until an accident left him unable. Now he's 69 years old, and he's back at it. He's rocking out with his Fender Squire, and he's learning some tunes on "Play." Awesome, awesome. Keep it up, Gary. Good show. Way to go, Gary. As always, guys, we've got a couple updates for you. We got a couple new songs, including Crystal Gayle's "Don't Make My Brown Eyes Blue." EUGENE EDWARDS: Right. And the amazing Andra Day with "Forever Mine." So check out those tunes. I'm kind of inclined to go back to that last tune we were just playing, "The Working Man Blues." I feel as though we have some unfinished business. Well, we do. Now, since we're live, we're live at Fender and anything can happen. So please welcome my dear friend Chris Masterson. The great Chris Masterson! Plays with Steve Earle, and he and his wife Eleanor have a great group called The Mastersons. Please check them out. And Chris, do you might telling us what you got here? This old thing? This old thing? You're wearing this old thing? This thing is from 1958. And I found it at a great Carter Vintage Guitar in Nashville. Oh, love Carter. It's dangerous walking into the shop. It was an expensive afternoon. Yeah, it was. All right, well, I think we're all pretty excited to hear that. So we're gonna do a little more Working Man. Yeah, let's take it, guys. I'll follow your lead. [PLAYING GUITAR]



The Bakersfield sound was developed at honky-tonk bars[3] such as The Blackboard, and on local television stations in Bakersfield and throughout California in the 1950s and 1960s. The town, known mainly for agriculture and oil production, was the destination for many Dust Bowl migrants and others from Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and parts of the Midwest. The mass migration of "Okies" to California also meant their music would follow and thrive, finding an audience in California's Central Valley.

Bakersfield country was a reaction to the slickly produced, string orchestra-laden Nashville sound, which was becoming popular in the late 1950s. One of the first groups to make it big on the West Coast was the Maddox Brothers and Rose, who were the first to wear outlandish costumes and make a "show" out of their performances. Artists such as Wynn Stewart used electric instruments and added a backbeat, as well as other stylistic elements borrowed from rock and roll. Important influences were Depression-era country music superstar Jimmie Rodgers, early 1950s honky tonk singer Lefty Frizzell, and 1940s Western swing musician Bob Wills.[1]

In 1954, MGM recording artist Bud Hobbs recorded "Louisiana Swing" with Buck Owens on lead guitar, Bill Woods on piano, and the dual fiddles of Oscar Whittington and Jelly Sanders. "Louisiana Swing" was the first song recorded in the style known today as the legendary "Bakersfield sound". In the early 1960s, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, among others, brought the Bakersfield sound to mainstream audiences, and it soon became one of the most popular sounds in country music, helping spawn country rock and influencing later country stars such as Dwight Yoakam, Marty Stuart, The Mavericks, and The Derailers. Jean Shepard, one of country music's first significant female artists, began her recording career on the West Coast in the 1950s. Through Capitol Records, Shepard's "A Dear John Letter", was the first major country hit single to use entirely Bakersfield musicians. Many of her early recording sessions featured prominent members of the Bakersfield movement, including Lewis Talley and Speedy West.[4] Susan Raye was also a major figure in the Bakersfield sound, particularly in the 1970s, with hits such as "L.A. International Airport". She was also a member of Buck Owens' road show and recorded several hit duets with him. Other women to emerge from the West Coast country movement include Bonnie Owens, Kay Adams, and Rosie Flores.

Two important British Invasion-era rock bands displayed some Bakersfield influences. The Beatles recorded a popular version of Owens' "Act Naturally". Years later, the Rolling Stones made their connection explicit in the lyrics of the very Bakersfield-sounding "Far Away Eyes", which begins: "I was driving home early Sunday morning, through Bakersfield".

The Bakersfield sound has such a large influence on the West Coast music scene that many small guitar companies set up shop in Bakersfield in the 1960s. The biggest of significance[citation needed] was the Mosrite guitar company that still influences rock, country, and jazz music to this day. The famed Mosrite company was located in Bakersfield until the death of the company's founder, Oildale resident Semie Moseley, in 1992.

Buck Owens and The Buckaroos

Buck Owens and the Buckaroos developed it further, incorporating different styles of music to fit Owens' musical tastes. The music style features a raw set of twin Fender Telecasters with a picking style (as opposed to strumming), a big drum beat, and fiddle, with an occasional "in your face" pedal steel guitar. The Fender Telecaster was originally developed for country musicians to fit in with the Texas/Western Swing style of music that was popular in the Western US following World War II.[citation needed] The music, like Owens, was rebellious for its time and is dependent on a musician's individual talents, as opposed to the elaborate orchestral production common with Nashville-style country music.

Buck Owens not only aided in the development of the Bakersfield Sound, he also helped preserve its history. In 1996, Owens opened Buck Owens Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, which served as both a nightclub for country music performers and as a museum of the history and sound of country music, including the Bakersfield sound. Owens regularly performed at the Crystal Palace until his death in 2006.[5]

Other successful artists

Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, as well as Merle Haggard and the Strangers, are the most successful artists of the original Bakersfield Sound era. The Bakersfield sound crossed over to country rock when embraced by artists such as Gram Parsons of the Byrds, and the Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, the Grateful Dead, Chris Hillman, and Creedence Clearwater Revival, in the 1960s–70s, and Highway 101, Hillman and the Desert Rose Band, and Marty Stuart in the 1980s and '90s. Other notable artists are Big House, Dwight Yoakam, Red Simpson, Ferlin Husky. Dave Alvin, the Derailers, the Mavericks, Dale Watson, and many more in recent decades. Musicians from Bakersfield's musical golden era who are still playing locally include Tommy Hays. Newer local artists who are grounded in the old style, but add rock and roll and blues include Monty Byrom and Chuck Seaton. Bakersfield residents (the late) Slim the Drifter, Rick "Reno" Stevens, Jennifer Keel, Ernest "Ernie" Lewis, Ronnie Smith, Steve Davis and Stampede, the Moosehead Band, the Dooley Brothers, the Wichitas, the Nightlife Band, the Western Connection, the Fruit Tramps, and Johnny Owens (Buck Owens' youngest son) and the Buck Fever Band have also contributed to the new Bakersfield sound.

In an interview, Dwight Yoakam defined the term "Bakersfield sound":

'Bakersfield' really is not exclusively limited to the town itself but encompasses the larger California country sound of the '40s, '50s and on into the '60s, and even the '70s, with the music of Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, the Burrito Brothers and the Eagles -- they are all an extension of the 'Bakersfield sound' and a byproduct of it. I've got a poster of Buck Owens performing at the Fillmore West in 1968 in Haight-Ashbury! What went on there led to there being a musical incarnation called country rock. I don't know if there would have been a John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival had there not been the California country music that's come to be known as the 'Bakersfield sound'.[6]

The magazines No Depression and Blue Suede News regularly feature Bakersfield sound enthusiasts, while podcasts such as Radio Free Bakersfield carry on the tradition online.


  1. ^ a b c McNutt, Randy (2002). Guitar towns : a journey to the crossroads of rock 'n' roll. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press. pp. 152–168. ISBN 978-0-253-34058-0.
  2. ^ a b c d "Bakersfield Sound Genre Overview". AllMusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved 2019-02-11.
  3. ^ McNutt, Randy (2002). Guitar towns : a journey to the crossroads of rock 'n' roll. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-34058-0.
  4. ^ Wyland, Sarah. "Center Stage at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum". Great American Country.
  5. ^ Hover, Bob. “The Bakersfield Sound: Welcome to the Crystal Palace.” Blue Suede News (2011): 21-24. Print.
  6. ^ Trost, Isaiah. "Hollywood hillbilly". Country Guitar, Winter 1994, pp. 31-32.

External links

This page was last edited on 22 October 2019, at 23:28
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