We decided to make our first day out a ‘short day’ and pulled in at Orange Grove RV Park in Bakersfield. This is usually the midpoint stop on our way to Palm Desert in the winter. Although almost deserted at this time of year (96 degrees when we pulled in at 2:00 pm) it is a nice, clean park with paved roads and level pull-thrus. The park is literally carved out of an orange grove, and in January the big attraction is the oranges, which the owners encourage you to pick as you please. Right now the trees are loaded with green fruit, but we look forward to coming back in January and harvesting breakfast!
In an effort to write something about Bakersfield (besides the heat, the dust, the oil rigs and the orange trees) I did a bit of web research while we were driving through California’s central valley. Because my Dad was a big country music fan, I grew up with Buck Owens and Merle Haggard on the radio in Wisconsin, but I was not aware of the genre called “the Bakersfield Sound”.
It seems that Bakersfield was the destination of many Dust Bowl migrants from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and other parts of the South in the 1930s and 1940s, and their music followed and thrived here. According to Tommy Collins, an Oklahoma native who wrote his first hit songs after moving to Bakersfield in 1951, “The (Bakersfield) music was simple but powerful, played by simple-living people who had to leave their farms to come west.” Crafted in homes, garages, and honky tonks, the Bakersfield Sound was driven by the piano, steel guitar, and of course, the Telecaster guitar.
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 and The Mavericks. The Beatles recorded a popular version of Owens’ Act Naturally, and 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 …”
So…thanks y’all for the Bakersfield Sound and somethin’ to blog about!