The Bakersfield Sound 1940 – 1974

Read about the new Bakersfield boxed set from Bear Family Records

The Bakersfield Sound 1940 – 1974

Boxed Set From The Bear Family

Release Date August 4, 2019

“We represent the end results of all the years of country music in this town,” Merle Haggard once remarked about the California city of Bakersfield that served as home base for he and Buck Owens, both Country Music Hall of Fame inductees.

The Bakersfield Sound 1940-1974 showcases these two men plus what lead up to their success in the ‘Country Music Capital of the West’.

Due from Bear Family on August 9, 2019, this 10-CD box set is the first multi-disc anthology to cover Bakersfield’s country music heritage. Diving deep into the “Bakersfield Sound,” the compilation’s 307 tracks include plenty of fan favorites as well as a vast quantity of deep cuts, alternate takes, radio recordings, demos, live material and previously unreleased studio recordings.

The massive collection begins with 1940s field recordings of migrants who arrived in Central California to find a better life, and proceeds to trace the development of this historic country music scene all the way through 1974. A turning point year for the Bakersfield Sound, 1974 stands as the last full year Haggard made his home in the city; the year of Buck Owens’ final Top 10 hit as a solo artist and the year local guitar hero Don Rich was killed in a motorcycle accident. 

Offering a glimpse into the early days of the Bakersfield Sound are rare recordings from early pioneers Tex Butler, Tex Marshall and Ebb Pilling, along with a Bakersfield radio studio performance by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys from the mid-1940s. During this era, Bakersfield served as a regular major tour stop for this fabled Western Swing ensemble.

The set reveals historic material: previously unheard work tapes of a recently-paroled Haggard recording demos with only his acoustic guitar to accompany him (likely the earliest existing recording of Merle’s voice); a newly discovered Haggard session for Tally Records that was believed to have been lost and has never been issued before; and previously unknown live recordings of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos at the very last of Buck’s legendary annual Toys for Tots shows before Rich’s death.

Buck Owens and the Buckaroos – Photo supplied

Included, too, are unreleased recordings by Red Simpson, Billy Mize, Bonnie Owens, and Johnny Bond; radio broadcasts from the stage of the legendary Blackboard Café; and an early Bill Woods vanity record that predates any of his previously known recorded output.

This new collection also contains many significant “firsts,” from songwriting legend Harlan Howard’s first recording (for Bakersfield’s Tally Records); to Harlan’s then-wife Jan Howard’s first known demo recording; to Barbara Mandrell’s very first solo recording and bandleader Johnny Barnett’s only known single (the first song written by Merle Haggard to have ever been commercially released).

Dozens of nearly-impossible-to-find recordings from local labels of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s have been assembled together for the first time. Many of the selections have never been reissued, and some haven’t seen the light of day since their initial release. In some cases, only a handful of 78 or 45 rpm records were ever pressed, and the songs have been long forgotten until now.

Known as “Nashville West,” Bakersfield proved to be a fertile musical breeding ground, boosting the careers of such nationally known country artists as Ferlin Husky, Tommy Collins, Dallas Frazier, Jean Shepard, Wynn Stewart, Tommy Duncan, Al Brumley, Dick Curless, Joe & Rose Lee Maphis, The Gosdin Brothers, Kay Adams, Clarence White, and Roy Nichols — who all can be heard on this anthology, together with numerous regional stars.

Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash – Photo supplied

Besides its music, The Bakersfield Sound 1940-1974 comes with an accompanying full-colored illustrated 220-page book featuring a plethora of photos (many shown for the first time), a foreword by Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett, in-depth analysis by Grammy-nominated Bakersfield Sound historian Scott B. Bomar, profiles on each artist, and a track-by-track commentary.


Read about the new Bakersfield boxed set from Bear Family Records

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Author: Rob Dickens

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