The Bakersfield Sound


The central valley of California is home to more than fruits nuts and vegetables. It’s also home to the Bakersfield sound – a style of music that expresses the heartbeat of America.

The Bakersfield sound was born in the 1950s. It was the music of the working men and women who had made the trek to California during the dust bowl days. The music grew in back yards and honkytonks catering to the working man, then on local television shows in the central valley. The music is all-American, loud and boisterous, a reaction against the slickly produced, string orchestra-laden Nashville sound of the time.

Performers like Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, Tommy Collins, Merle Haggard – all familiar names in Bakersfield – had a big impact on music in the 1960’s. The Bakersfield sound grew to represent a segment of America that believed in hard work and family values, and taking your lumps when you make a mistake.

These are the songs of the central valley.  It’s music for hardworking people who live close to the land. The songs resonated with many and made their mark in other genres; the Beatles recorded “Act Naturally”, and did it in Bakersfield style. The Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Credence, Dwight Yoakam, and others all felt the connection and were influenced by it.

So thank you Bakersfield, for your heartfelt contribution to music. It’s the sausage gravy on biscuits in the morning – life just wouldn’t be right if it wasn’t there.

Previously published in the Western View from AgNet West, January 2015.

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