Rachael Myrow here, host of the California Report, with an AM post from somewhere else in California. We’re in this Golden State together. Right?

As the nation celebrates the life and music of Earl Scruggs, (he died Wednesday at age 88), I was surprised to read Flatt & Scruggs played at the Avalon in San Francisco in the 1960s. Bear with me, dear readers: I wasn’t born yet!

I was struck by the idea of these guys playing to the long hairs, but I suppose it makes sense. After all, the appeal of bluegrass and country music cuts across all kinds of cultural borders. Especially when you’re talking about a master of the craft. I love the way Steve Martin put it in a recent tribute to Scruggs the New Yorker: “Before him, no one had ever played the banjo like he did. After him, everyone played the banjo like he did, or at least tried.”

California has boasted masters like that.

I’m talking here, of course, about the Bakersfield Sound. Back in 2006, when Buck Owens died, the California Report pulled a lovely 1999 profile from Steve Cuevas out of the archives. Oh, to be a fly on the wall while Owens talked for an hour and a half!

The contribution of musicians like Owens and Merle Haggard is getting some righteous attention in Nashville these days, thanks to “The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country” at the Country Music Hall of Fame. It’s packed with all kinds of gems, like Dwight Yoakam explaining “Nashville came out of the churches. Bakersfield came out of the bars.”

He continues “Then bar music joined up with the church music and went on to what we got.”

Well, that’s part of the story.  There were some other influences at play: Western swing, hillbilly music, R&B, even Mexican norteño music.

That last influence doesn’t get enough airplay for Jim Fusilli, who otherwise gushes about “The Bakersfield Sound” in the Wall Street Journal. I dunno, Jim: sounds to me like a pitch for another exhibit…

In the meantime, here’s a little something to put a smile on your face. Gosh, they were good.

Beyond the Bay: The Bakersfield Sound Still Plays in Nashville 29 March,2012Rachael Myrow


Rachael Myrow

Rachael Myrow is KQED’s Silicon Valley Arts Reporter, covering arts, culture and technology in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties. She regularly files stories for NPR and the KQED podcast Bay Curious, and guest hosts KQED’s Forum.

Her passion for public radio was born as an undergrad at the University of California at Berkeley, writing movie reviews for KALX-FM. After finishing one degree in English, she got another in journalism, landed a job at Marketplace in Los Angeles, and another at KPCC, before returning to the Bay Area to work at KQED.

She spent more than seven years hosting The California Report, and over the years has won a Peabody and three Edward R. Murrow Awards (one for covering the MTA Strike, her first assignment as a full-time reporter in 2000 as well as numerous other honors including from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Radio Television News Directors Association and the LA Press Club.
Follow @rachaelmyrow

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