Country Music Hall of Fame 084

Bakersfield Sound Exhibit Explores Country Music Roots

The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and California Country exhibit opened this past weekend at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, highlighted by a concert featuring special guests such as Gene Breeden, Dallas Frazier, Don Maddox, Jean Shepherd and Rose Lee Maphis.

The Bakersfield Sound was a raw, hard, sharp-edged alternative to the smooth, Nashville sound – made famous in the early 1960s by Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, who popularized this new style of country music to audiences across the country as their hits topped the charts.

During the hardship of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and the Great Depression, a mass migration moved westwards from Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and other parts of the South. Many found jobs in California farms and oilfields and settled in Bakersfield, California, where the rough-and-tumble nightlife thrived. Out of the honky-tonk bars and noisy nightclubs, a new sound developed in the late 1940s and ’50s. The birth of solid-body electric telecaster guitars, added to a defined backbeat, pioneered a new style of country music known as the Bakersfield Sound, with a strong influence of rock and roll.

The exhibit explores the forces that influenced the development of this California town as the focal point of West Coast country music. The performers, fashions, musical instruments, culture, recording studios, and the loud, rebellious style of music.

The 5,000 square-foot exhibit tells the story of the music’s evolution with narration by Dwight Yoakam, and visitors can take a pictorial journey down Route 66 in search of the Hollywood dream. Musical instruments and custom-embroidered outfits by famed Hollywood designer Nathan Turk are among the focal points. The Bakersville Sound exhibition will stay at the Country Music Hall of Fame until December 31, 2013.

To put the whole experience in perspective, it’s best to begin at the third level of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Follow the softly-lit passages through the storyline of country music in America, beginning with its folk songs and fiddle tunes brought by the earliest settlers from the British Isles. On the second level, the Bakersfield Sound moves effortlessly through the ’50s and ’60s, ending your tour at today’s icons. The exhibits are interactive and fascinating, and the patchwork of time and talent is an open canvas waiting to be explored. It is easy to get lost in front of your favorite artist for a private concert.

Write back with your personal stories of visiting these exhibits, and share with us.

“It makes me feel…”


Hi! I’m Dayle Fergusson. As a transplanted Aussie living in Middle Tennessee since 1986, I have been a freelance travel...Read on



    Claude Reese

    The museum sounds very interesting. Maybe you will have time to take me there when I’m jn that neighbor hood. By the way, I knew Minnie Pearnl, but I doubt if she is in the exhibit.

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