Merle Haggard

Asleep at the Wheel

Ray Benson is one of the greatest living practitioners of western swing - a mix of country, jazz and boogie-woogie that has delighted audience worldwide since the days of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. This weekend Benson brings his band to the Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, a town that was home to two of his other musical heroes - Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. Benson talked with us on Valley Edition about the legacy of Bob Wills and the lasting appeal of western swing. 

Vanguard Records

Acclaimed author Gerald Haslam grew up in the blue-collar Kern County community of Oildale in the 1940's, a child of the Dust Bowl migration to California. He went to school with another boy with a similar background, a child named Merle Haggard.

nickchapman / Flickr - Creative Commons

Can you imagine Southern California without Hollywood? Or the Bay Area without Silicon Valley?

No? History suggests that the identities of cities and regions are more fragile, and their central industries more perilous, than we care to admit. (Just ask former Detroit autoworkers.)

nickchapman / Flickr - Creative Commons

Detroit has Motown, Seattle has grunge, and San Francisco has psychedelic rock. Just three examples of American cities where unique musical styles developed and thrived, gaining international attention and helping to define the very image and sound of those places.

William J Sanders

A new documentary film seeks to tell the story of one of the most influential figures in the development the Bakersfield Sound. But when the film makes its Bakersfield debut this Thursday night at the Crystal Palace, the star on the screen won’t be Buck Owens or Merle Haggard, it will be musician, songwriter and influential TV personality Billy Mize.

Courtesy Vince Gill

From the honky tonks of Oildale to  concert halls across the world, the hard driving, guitar driven country music that came out of Kern County – known as the "Bakersfield Sound" - has captured millions of fans across the world. Superstars like the late Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, not to mention hundreds of other musicians made Bakersfield, at least for a few decades, a true rival of Nashville’s famed music row. Now a new album by Vince Gill and pedal steel guitarist Paul Franklin seeks to honor that music – it’s called simply Bakersfield.