The name Bakersfield brings to mind its association with country music, and in particular with the “Bakersfield sound.” Former Oildale resident and retired Sonoma State University professor Gerald Haslam’s book Workin’ Man Blues proposes that this Bakersfield Sound grew out of several different styles of music and that performers picked and chose the styles they liked and thus created their own brand of music found nowhere else in the country.
The Bakersfield Sound was marked by the sharp, loud, high-end sound of the electric and steel guitars, fiddles, and lead and harmony vocals influenced by rock and roll and rockabilly as well as traditional country music. It was a reaction to the early (’50s and) ’60s sweetening of country music as characterized by the Nashville Sound. Bakersfield music was, by comparison, rawer, twangier and more in line with rock music.
Performers such as Cousin Herb Henson, Bill Woods, Billy Mize, Oscar Whittington, Eugene Moles, Jelly Sanders, Johnny Cuevelo, and others played to appreciative crowds within the smoke-filled honky tonks in and around Bakersfield. The Blackboard CafÃ©, Bob’s Lucky Spot, the Rainbow Gardens, the Pumpkin Center Barn Dance, the Beardsley Ballroom, the Clover Club, Tex’s Barrel House, Trout’s, and a number of other establishments offered music seven nights a week.
This rich musical heritage, along with oil and agricultural production, is what put Bakersfield on the map as a California travel destination. The local music scene has produced popular performers such as Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and the alternative band, Korn. Buck Owens still makes his home in Bakersfield and performs regularly at the Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace Steakhouse. The Crystal Palace features veterans of country western music alongside some of the hottest up-and-coming young artists.
The downtown theater district offers visitors an opportunity to view live performances while dining in intimate surroundings. Vintage movies appear on the big screen and national touring theatrical companies perform. For more than 70 years, the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra has made beautiful music.
Visitors can catch some of the greatest touring performances at the Bakersfield Centennial Garden. The Garden converts into one of the most competitive sporting arenas in the San Joaquin Valley and has hosted basketball’s L.A. Lakers, hockey’s L.A. Kings, Fight Night at the Garden, and WWF Smackdown.
When spring arrives, thoughts turn to rafting, and the Kern River offers some of the best white water rafting available. If fast action is not your attraction, make sure to enjoy the many hiking trails, natural sites, and the famous Spring Kern Wildflower Tours. Beauty abounds as the wildflowers bloom and blanket the hillsides with color. Make sure to bring your camera for those perfect shots.
The city’s downtown area invites you to enjoy a day of shopping and experience the award-winning streetscape. Downtown offers time for relaxation as you can take in the architecture of the past; dine at many of the downtown eateries and browse through antique and specialty stores. Corner benches allow visitors to rest and enjoy the beauty of the flowers planted in the street medians.
If the visual arts appeal to you, tour the remodeled Bakersfield Museum of Art, located in downtown Bakersfield, where the architecture promotes a feeling of grace and elegance. Find outstanding displays of artwork in three different galleries featuring local artists and world-renowned traveling exhibits. In addition to the arts, evening concerts in the park, ballet, original plays and multi-cultural displays engage all ages and interest levels.
Professional sporting events and entertainers are featured at the City’s Centennial Garden & Arena. For those who enjoy exercising and having “cool fun”, check out Bakersfield Ice Sports Center located behind Centennial Gardens. The Bakersfield Ice Sports Center offers public skating, figure skating, and more. In addition, the Ice Sports Center is the official practice facility for the Bakersfield Condors Hockey Team. Most weekends bring topnotch auto racing at Bakersfield Speedway and streetracing is an ongoing and very popular attraction.
For water enthusiasts, the completion of the McMurtrey Aquatics Center offers additional fun to those visiting during the hot summer months. The multi-purpose swim facility is located next to the Ice Sports Center of Bakersfield. The Center has an 8,551 square foot recreation pool and a 50-meter competition pool as well as a double water slide, interactive wet play equipment, and a water volley ball area.
Those who enjoy the great outdoors may want to bring along a bicycle, roller blades, or running shoes and experience first hand the beautiful scenery of the Kern River Parkway. The Kern River Parkway extends nearly 20 miles along the banks of the Kern River, starting at the California Living Museum northeast of town and ending near Cal State Bakersfield.
Visit Bakersfield soon for a fantastic country experience, and help keep the Bakersfield sound alive!