One of my favorite lines from the great movie The Blues Brothers is when Elwood Blues asks the proprietor of a honky tonk “What kind of music do you usually have here?” She responds, “Oh, we got both kinds—we got country and Western.” It provided the grist for my favorite Baptist joke: I grew up going to a church with both kinds of preaching—hellfire and damnation. But have you ever wondered what the heck is “Western”?
Dwight Yoakam is Western. Western is cowboy music, but it is more than that. It was shaped by the cattle towns and the open range, but its roots are deeper. Like old-time, its roots are in Appalachia and England and Scotland before that. The same hillbillies who took their music with them when they settled in Oklahoma would take it with them when they moved again to the interior of California. The Bakersfield Sound developed as an alternative to the overproduced pablum coming out of Nashville (then, as now). Its most successful products were Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. Dwight Yoakam would pick up that mantle twenty years later.
I’ve seen Dwight play twice in the last year and a half. Both times he played a half dozen or so Merle Haggard songs early in his set. Talk about heaven. But Dwight’s biggest influence was Buck Owens. The two would collaborate on Streets of Bakersfield. It hit #1 thirty years ago last Monday. It was Dwight’s first #1 and Buck’s first #1 in over 15 years.
It is also one of my all-time favorite songs, period. And a rare one I can enjoy with my wife—she’s a bigger Dwight Yoakam fan than I am. How could I not love it with lines like “you don’t know me, but you don’t like me”? This is probably how every person in Bakersfield feels about voters in San Francisco. Of course that doesn’t mean you can just up and steal from some feller just because you’re in the San Francisco can with him.
Streets of Bakersfield is off Dwight’s album Buenas Noches From A Lonely Room.
Music Monday is the brainchild of Drew at The Tattooed Book Geek.
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