The World of Curls

August 2, 1984
“Step into the Worlds of Curls,” Bakersfield, CA 8/2/1984

It was surreal last Friday, listening to Garrison Keillor interrogate a young Austin band about the “honky-tonk scene” in Bakersfield. That scene was gone long before I took the picture displayed above; the Blackboard was a burned-out shell and although a few of the old players might be found at scattered little bars, the “scene” was dead by the mid-seventies. While they might have traveled to the town, they really couldn’t have much of a clue about what Bakersfield was really like. It was an unfair question.

All the same, the Derailers were incredibly faithful to the “Bakersfield Sound” popularized by Buck Owens. What I found myself thinking about after the show was how much the image conjured by Buck was a media mirage. It didn’t have much of anything to do with the dying honky-tonks, it was about a weird sort of glitter/glam that was a way of avoiding the stark reality of the town. It took me a long time to embrace it. As Buck was to honky-tonk, Bowie was to bar bands.

Past the 1960s, Buck never played in his hometown. We couldn’t have afforded him. It wasn’t until the late 1990s when he built the Crystal Palace that he played there much at all. Mostly, he owned the media– the TV stations, the radio stations, etc. His imprint was all over the town– but not necessarily his music. In the 70s and 80s country bars were small and mostly didn’t support live music. There were exceptions, but not that many.