Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame to Induct First Group Including Haggard, Owens

by VVN Music

Bakersfield, CA is a city 110 miles north of Los Angeles with a population of just short of 400,000 and a long history in popular music.

In the late-50's, a movement began that would become known as The Bakersfield Sound, a return to the more twangy sound of country music after the records coming out of Nashville began to sound more-and-more mainstream with strings and other high production elements. Starting with acts like Jean Shepard, the Maddox Brothers and Rose and Wynn Stewart, the new west coast country music capitol would eventually produce Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Marty Stuart, Dwight Yoakam and many others.

Bakersfield also fueled a country music community throughout California leading to the founding of the Academy of Country & Western Music (today's ACM) which hosted the first country music awards in 1966. Nashville's Country Music Association (CMA) countered with their own awards a year later.

To celebrate Bakersfield's contribution to the music industry, both in country and other genres, Kimberly McAbee-Carter and Kyle Carter began the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame which, on January 27, will induct its first class of honorees.

The first class includes five individuals:
  • Buck Owens was the first true breakout artist to come out of Bakersfield. With 21 number 1 country records, he spread the new sound around the country with such hits as Act Naturally, Love's Gonna Live Here and I've Got a Tiger By the Tail.
  • Merle Haggard was the other leg on which the Bakersfield sound stood although he emerged a few years later than Owens. Among his 38 country chart toppers are Mama Tried, Okie From Muskogee and If We Make It Through December
  • Red Simpson was signed by Capitol Records to specifically record songs about trucks, a popular theme in country music. Not only did Red have hits with I'm a Truck, Roll Truck Roll and The Highway Patrol, he also wrote songs for other artists. 
  • Billy Mize was instrumental in spreading the Bakersfield sound through his many local television shows in Bakersfield and Los Angeles. He was also a steel guitarist who worked exstensively with Merle Haggard. 
  • Bonnie Owens, born Bonnie Campbell, played in a band with Buck Owens in the late-40's, marrying him in 1948. The pair moved to Bakersfield in 1951 and grew in the business together. She later was married and toured with Merle Haggard. 
The induction will be held on January 27. Each will be enshrined on the walls of the Hall of Fame along with receiving a star on the Hall of Fame's sidewalk. 



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