The Bakersfield Sound: How a Generation of Displaced Okies Revolutionized American Music

Nominee, Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research

In California’s Central Valley, two thousand miles away from country music’s hit machine, the hard edge of the Bakersfield Sound transformed American music in the latter half of the twentieth century. It turned displaced Oklahomans like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard into household names, and it aggressively pushed style, instrumentation, and attitude that countered the orchestral country pop churned out from Nashville. In this compelling book, Robert E. Price traces the Sound’s roots from the Dust Bowl and World War II migrations through the heyday of Owens, Haggard, and Hee Haw, and into the twenty-first century. Outlaw country demands good storytelling, and Price obliges: to fully understand the Sound and its musicians we dip into honky-tonks, dives, and radio stations playing the songs of sun-parched days spent on oil rigs and in cotton fields, the melodies of hardship and kinship, a soundtrack for dancing and brawling. In other words, The Bakersfield Sound immerses us in the unique cultural convergence that gave rise to a visceral and distinctly Californian country music.


“A savvy blend of personal anecdotes and broader historical narrative.”—Kirkus Reviews


“This book all but reads itself. Price’s sense of history, his command of facts, his sense of humor, his sensitivity to class and race, and a love of the music—it’s all here.”—Greil Marcus

About the Author

Robert E. Price, the award-winning executive editor of the Bakersfield Californian, has written and spoken extensively about the Bakersfield Sound for more than twenty years.