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My Rock n Roll Model Interview with the Movers and Shakers of the New and Old Bakersfield Sound
Bruce L. Thiessen, Ph.D., aka Dr. BLT
The Bakersfield sound movement ushered in legends like Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Red Simpson, Sonny Langley, and Ferlin Husky. Back in the 50s and 60s, Kern County became known as the place where real country music was made---music that came from the heart, and reflected the hard times of struggling artists who fell victim to the unfulfilled dreams of the California gold rush. They found no gold in California, so they made their own gold out of music.
Some would dismiss that golden era of country music as a thing of the past. But folks so quick to diss and dismiss haven't stepped into Oildale's Trout's Nightclub, home of country legends old and new, at least not lately. I did. I tread where angels of doom fear to tread. Listen in to my conversations with a few country stars, country stars in the making, and general movers and shakers of the Bakersfield sound, a movement which is very much alive and kickin', in Bakersfield, in Oildale, and, indeed, around the world.
Bakersfield sound Pioneers/movers
and shakers, offer advice to Nu Bako sound Artists
Larry Petree (Kern County's quintessential steel guitar player): You ought to meet the young gentleman that works with us on Fridays and Saturdays. His name is Noel Clodge. He plays piano, guitar, and he sings really good. Just come on out and give him a listen. Gerald Clodge is his grandfather. Gerald played guitar for years. Heís got a good voice. He just started.
Do you know of any other younger artists here in town that are taking up the steel guitar?
Larry: Boy, there arenít many steel guitar players around.
Dr. BLT: Is it kind of a dying art?
Larry: Well, mainly itís because of the money. They cost so darned much. You can pick up a Japanese guitar for $100. This one here runs $3975. Thatís just the guitar. When you get the amp, and everything, it all adds up. The cost discourages a lot of guys. I wish there were more steel guitar players.
Dr. BLT: Do you think that thereís hope for a new generation of the Bakersfield sound?
Larry: Oh, Iím sure it will continue to grow among the young people---guys like Doyle, he also has his band, they play at Kern River Bell. He plays there Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon. Heís the one thatís going to carry the torch for us.
Dr. BLT: Itís wonderful
to here that thereís some young talent like that in town.
Lloyd Reading (played with
the original Blackboard Playboys, jammed with Buck Owens):
Lloyd: Well, I would say give it all youíve got, because it keeps you young. And on June 2, Iíll be 90 years old.
Dr. BLT: WOW!
Lloyd: And I feel like Iím 40. Thatís all I can say.
Dr. BLT: You look like youíre 40.
Lloyd: Music has kept me young. Music has been with me all of my life. Iíve enjoyed every bit of it. And Iím going to continue to play it till the good lord calls me.
Dr. BLT: Well, do you still want to come down to the studio to record that one song we worked on awhile back?
Lloyd: Well, one of these days, yes. Iím also getting ready to go into the Cotton studio with about 25 songs. Iíve got the band together here, and Iíve got to get that done. My grandson is with the Buckshot band, and heís going to engineer it for me, but later on we could work on that one I we wrote together.
Dr. BLT: Iíd like to get that grandson of yours on my recording as well, so if you see him soon, please let him know. As you know, Iím trying to bring Bakersfield sound pioneers together with Bakersfield sound-rooted artists from younger generations.
Also, I just talked to Larry Petrie and it looks like heís interested in recording steel guitar on a new song I wrote about the legendary steel guitar player, Tom Brumley, who recently passed away. As you may know, Tom Brumley played on some of Buckís greatest hits.
Lloyd: Yes, and he was excellent. Thereíll never be another one like him.
Dr. BLT: Well, Iím sure youíre
sympathies are going out to the family.
Dr. BLT: Well, Lloyd,
it was really great to see you again.
Dr. BLT: Sounds good!
Dr. BLT: Are you getting
ready to sing?
Dr. BLT: Well, do you mind if I ask you a few questions first, for an article Iím working on?
Vince: No problem.
Dr. BLT: Well, you seem to be representing a new generation of the Bakersfield sound and you seem to be a part of the inner circle. What advice would you have to others like yourself, younger, but, nonetheless, followers of the Bakersfield sound heroes that have made their mark on this community?
Vince: Get your name out there. Do karaoke. Start playing an instrument. Meet some of the older gentlemen that have been doing this for awhile, and just go from there.
Dr. BLT: Youíre doing it yourself.
Vince: Yes, thatís right.
Dr. Youíre leading the way, in terms of the generations all getting together, youíre putting the sound forward, you might say.
Vince: Yeah, Iím trying.
Dr. BLT: Nice to meet you. Thanks for taking the time, I know the band is needing you back on stage now, so Iíll let you go. Thanks.
Vince: Thank you.
Dr. BLT: Hey, Red! How are you doing, Red?
Red Simpson (country star, made famous with his trucking hits): Good, real good.
Dr. BLT: Have you got a comment for young, Bakersfield-sound-grounded artists that look up to you guys as role models? Is there any advice you could give them?
Red: Well, Iíd tell them to keep plugging away. Donít give up.
Dr. BLT: You keep playing every Monday night?
Red: Yes, I play here every Monday night, and every Tuesday at Rasmussanís at the 10:30 and 11:30 senior dance. Iím out there every other Friday too.
Dr. BLT: Iím a big fan of all of your old trucking songs. Theyíre wonderful songs. They really inspire me, Iím a songwriter myself. Are you going to be recording anything new?
Red: Nah, thereís not anything in the works.
Dr. BLT: Well, Iím working on something for you. Itís a song I wrote about you, called Red Truck.
Red: Oh, really. Iíd like you to sing on it. (he chuckled).
Dr. BLT: I wonít have you make any commitments while youíre on tape or anything, but.., I just talked to Larry Petrie, and heís considering playing on a tribute I just wrote about Tom Brumley who recently passed away, itís called Man of Steel, and itís from the CD Iím working on called From Buck Owens Blvd. to Merle Haggard Drive.
Iím trying to bring together the remaining few from the old days, with young admiring musicians of the generations that have followed in your footsteps. So if youíd like to be a part of it, youíre number one on my Most Wanted list.
Red: Well, I donít know.
Dr. BLT: Youíre not making any commitments right now, I understand.
Red: No, not really, Iím just about out of the music business, except for around home now.
Dr. BLT: Well, would you be interested in doing a more in depth interview one of these days?
Red: I might be, yeah.
Dr. BLT: Okay, hereís my card. Nice chatting with you. Iíll see you again soon.
Dr. BLT: Whatís up, Rockwell, do you have any advice to give young Bakersfield-sound-grounded new country artist from Kern County?
Rockwell (runs Trout's): You betcha! First of all, get out and support, contribute, to the legends of the past. Certainly, theyíre not gone. Theyíre here today and tomorrow. And the more influenced, and up-front-and-personal they can get from these people that have been pounding the pavement, and have lived the life and times in Bakersfield, the more heart-felt their passion is going to relate to their songwriting and performing abilities. They must not take it for granted, and assume that the CDs theyíre buying are the whole story. Get out here and get involved and shake hands with the people that have paved the way.
Dr. BLT: Once again, Rockwell, Iím inspired by your comments. Every time I speak with you, I get the feeling you should have run for President of the United States.
Rockwell: Well, Iím incredibly good looking andÖ
Dr. BLT: And incredibly humble