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The Bakersfield Sound was a genre of country music developed in the mid- to late 1950s in and around Bakersfield, California. Bakersfield country was a reaction against the slickly-produced, string orchestra-laden Nashville Sound, which was becoming popular in the late 1950s. Buck Owens and the Buckaroos and Merle Haggard and the Strangers are the most successful artists of the original Bakersfield sound era.

Contents

History

The Bakersfield sound was developed at honky-tonk bars 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 other parts of the South. The mass migration of "Okies" to California also meant that their music would follow and thrive, finding an audience in California's Central Valley. 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.

Bakersfield country was a reaction against the slickly-produced, string orchestra-laden Nashville Sound, which was becoming popular in the late 1950s. Artists like Wynn Stewart used electric instruments and added a backbeat, as well as other stylistic elements borrowed from rock and roll. 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 kinds of country music, also influencing later country stars such as Dwight Yoakam, Marty Stuart, The Mavericks, and The Derailers.

Two important British Invasion-era rock bands also 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 1960's. The biggest of significance was the Mosrite guitar company that still influences rock, country, and jazz music to this day. The famed Mosrite company was stationed 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 his music 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. The music, like Owens, was rebellious for its time and is dependent on a musician's individual talents and spirit, as opposed to the elaborate orchestral production common with Nashville style country music. Bakersfield Sound musicians perform in the studio as they do on stage, with the same instruments and style they use every day, and do not depend on elaborate studio production techniques when recording their music.

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. Love of the Bakersfield Sound has never died, carried on by artists such as Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers in the 1960s-70s, Highway 101, The Desert Rose Band, and Marty Stuart in the 1980s and '90s, and Big House, Dwight Yoakam, Dave Alvin, The Derailers, The Mavericks, Dale Watson, Brad Paisley, Dave Gleason and many more in recent decades. To one degree or another, most of today's successful country acts depend on The Nashville West or Bakersfield Sound revival style for their success. 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.

External links

References








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