KWMR's Mike Varley and Amanda Eichstaedt

KWMR's Mike Varley and Amanda Eichstaedt

Bakersfield and Beyond airs every other Thursday on www.kwmr.org. We play music from, about, inspired by the Bakersfield Sound.

Here’s how it happened. We were covering Foggy Ridge Music while Will Minor was away and were playing a Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers CD. Like their web site states,  “If you like Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, X or any combination thereof, you’ll immediately recognize the band as kindred souls.” It went on to say “The Bakersfield Sound.” Mike Varley and I looked at each other with raised brows and thus it began. An exploration into this sound called “Bakersfield”. Turns out we both had a fair amount of the music already and when we discovered more of this music we liked it as well. If it hadn’t been for our pal Ty calling in to berate us on our lack of knowledge on the California West Coast Country sound the moment might have slipped by, but neither of us take kindly to being thought of as foolish. It doesn’t take much more than an informed Google search to find Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen (Dr. BLT) and his Bakersfield Underground blog. Bruce joins us most shows with a live update on what is happening in Bakersfield proper. We figure there is enough material to keep us in radio shows for the foreseeable future.

From Wikipedia….

The Bakersfield sound was developed at honky-tonk bars such as The Blackboard, and on local television stations in Bakersfield and throughout California in the 1950s and 1960s. The town, known mainly for agriculture and oil production, was the destination for many Dust Bowl migrants and others from Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and other parts of the South. The mass migration of “Okies” to California also meant that their music would follow and thrive, finding an audience in California’s Central Valley. One of the first groups to make it big on the west coast was the Maddox Brothers and Rose, who were the first to wear outlandish costumes and make a “show” out of their performances.

Bakersfield country was a reaction against the slickly-produced, string orchestra-laden Nashville Sound, which was becoming popular in the late 1950s. Artists like Wynn Stewart used electric instruments and added a backbeat, as well as other stylistic elements borrowed from rock and roll. In 1954 Bud Hobbs MGM recording artist, recorded “Louisiana Swing” with Buck Owens on lead guitar, Bill Woods on Piano and dual fiddles of Oscar Whittington and Jelly Sanders. “Louisiana Swing” was the first song recorded in the style known today as the legendary “Bakersfield Sound.” 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, Marty Stuart, The Mavericks, and The Derailers.

Two important British Invasion-era rock bands also displayed some Bakersfield influences. The Beatles recorded a popular version of Owen’s Act Naturally. Years later, 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 …”.

The Bakersfield Sound has such a large influence on the West Coast music scene that many small guitar companies set up shop in Bakersfield in the 1960’s. The biggest of significance was the Mosrite guitar company that still influences rock, country, and jazz music to this day. The famed Mosrite company was stationed in Bakersfield until the death of the company’s founder, Oildale resident Semie Moseley, in the mid-1990’s.

As you might have guessed. We aren’t from Bakersfield, but want to hear from you if you are. The music has influenced many, but the place influenced the musicians.


17 responses to “About

  1. Hello from Bakersfield! What a great program you guys have going…I found it while searching around for Bakersfield Radio. My name’s Mike Cornett, and I’ve got a music project going here in Bakersfield under the guise of Meestro. Just recorded my debut 7-song EP that’s set for release by June 30th. I’ve got a gig lined up at Old Santa Ynez Day (http://www.oldsantaynezday.com) in the middle of June, and am working on a couple more gigs around this area soon after. I think some of my tunes would fit your format quite well…particularly the track ‘Valley of the Growers’. I’ve got the music up for streaming at: http://www.americansongspace.com/meestro

    I would be happy to mail you guys an advanced copy if you’re interested. Keep up the great programming, and thanks for supporting Bakersfield!

    -Mike Cornett

  2. Amanda E

    Send us what you have to share. We would love to play your music on KWMR! My brother may be playing in Santa Barbara – that’s a great event.

    If you find yourself in the Bay Area let us know – we would love to get you live on the air.


    • Hi Mike and Amanda,
      Following up as promised at the Merle Haggard concert in Santa Barbara last night. Here are my email details. Won’t be home in Oz for another month but in the meanwhile have a look at the Radio 6DBY website at 6dby.com.au. Thanks for the tip on the bluegrass festival in San Francisco this weekend. Guess where I’ll be going.
      Talk soon

      • Amanda E

        Great to hear from you. Looked up Derby on a map! Wow. Will check out the radio station. You can check us out on http://www.kwmr.org. I really enjoyed the show. Nice to meet you. Have a great show. We will be at the bluegrass fest on Sunday. If you are going to be there, let me know.

      • Amanda E

        Richard, check out the latest post on the blog when you get a chance. Mention the station in Derby. Hope to stay in touch. Amanda

  3. That does it – I’m hooked! I’m enjoying your show, Mike and Amanda. Keep up the great tunes…

  4. Greetings from Bakersfield! Brian Boozer from the band Soulajar here. I was just turned on to your show by a friend and I wanted to stop by and say hello and keep up the good work, this seems like a great thing you have going. Something you may want to check out… There is a huge buzz in the Bakersfield Music songwriter community right now as local recording studio, ASR Studios, now presents an open mic series called “Singer/Songwriter’s Open Mic Night”. Bakersfield songwriters are coming out of the woodwork for this event and it’s quickly turning into the next Austin City Limits! A true look at current movements in the Bakersfield music scene.

    As the Studio Manager of ASR Studios here in Bakersfield (largest studio in the San Joaquin Valley), I get one of the closest looks at Bakersfield Music, so please feel free to get in touch with us if you ever need any insider info on current happenings! Or better yet, a true local music authority is Dan Robertson from Dark Star Records. Hope to work with you guys in the future. Peace–

  5. Hello Mike and Amanda, we were passing through Point Reyes on our way from Seattle to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and dropped off our debut cd (Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers) at the station. Later a guy named Brian who writes a blog called Front Porch Musings suggested I check out your show. Looks like our music might be compatible with what you all play. If you’ve got a minute ask around the station and see if it’s laying around somewhere. If you can’t find it, I’d be happy to send you another one.

  6. Hey guys —

    Loved the show last night! I’m the Michael who called in to request “Tiger by the Tail,” and has been beating a path between LA and Pt. Reyes for the past twenty years.

    (here’s what I’m more-or-less about, if you’re interested: http://hollywoodjuicer.blogspot.com/)

    Some people I work with in LA just finished shooting a low-budget indy film about the last days of Hank Williams back in Arkansas. They said it went well and the movie is looking good. I’ll let you know when I learn more — it might be worth seeing.

    Thanks again for doing what you’re doing on this show. I like all kinds of music, from Hendrix to opera, but there’s a special place in my heart for good classic country. I’m no fan of the modern suburban cowboy/cowgirl singers — most of those kids are all hat and no cattle — but Hank, Merle, Buck, Kitty, Tammy, and Loretta still ring as true as ever.

    Keep up the good work!

  7. Rob Bickmore

    Wow! I am a Bakersfield native now living in the North Bay. I stumbled across this blog by accident. How very cool.

  8. Mike & Amanda!

    We’ve got a brand new album & think you’d love it! With just a mix or two left, we’re hoping to head up the west coast for a few shows in the near future. Would love to send you some tracks for airplay before it’s launched!

    x Rie


  9. Hey Mike and Amanda-
    thanks again for the spins. Really appreciate it. BTW, I have a video you might want to post from the album at : http://youtu.be/LAU_hRBwLTE.


    • Mike V

      Our pleasure, Toke. Really like that song and video. If you ever get out to the San Francisco area, we’d really like to have you on air at the station.
      All the best,
      Mike & Amanda

  10. Will be my pleasure. Should be there before the year is out.
    Peace and Love, and please pass the word,

  11. Jer

    Hey, Mike and Amanda. Mike and I commented on each others’ blogs and he mentioned your show, and here I am, and how great is this? I commented on another post of yours that I’m not used to seeing Bakersfield referenced from outside the town in a non-snarky, non-ironic way, which is pretty darned refreshing. My dad’s parents migrated to Oildale during the Dust Bowl and lived out their days there, just a few blocks away from Buck Owens’ studio. Watching Hee Haw at their house was just one of those things I put up with; I wish they lived to see how much I came to love the music they did. As I also mentioned, being in Bakersfield, I won’t be able to get you on FM but I’ll be streaming you for sure. Best of luck; this is a really worthy show and i appreciate that you appreciate the music.

    • Mike V

      Thanks, Jer. Sure has been find finding this whole side of music. It’s funny how one search for “mechanics and technicians” can lead you down a path that veers a bit off track, but one that brings your right back. It’s an adventure.

      The shows can be streamed on the radio station’s website (kwmr.org) and can be listened any time for two weeks at http://kwmr.org/show/93.

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