When Buck Owens and Merle Haggard emerged from the dim lights, thick smoke and loud, loud music of Bakersfield, California’s thriving honky-tonk scene of the 50’s and 60’s, they changed country music forever. “We represent the end results of all the years of country music in this town,” Haggard once remarked about the California city that served as home base for the two Country Music Hall of Fame inductees. But how were the twin pillars of the “Bakersfield Sound” shaped by the Central California’s city’s larger musical community? Who paved the way for their successes and who were their influences? The Bakersfield Sound 1940-1974 answers these questions and more. Due from Bear Family on August 9th, this sprawling 10 CD box set is the first multi-disc anthology to cover Bakersfield’s country music heritage. Diving deep into the “Bakersfield Sound,” the compilation’s 307 tracks include plenty of fan favorites as well as a vast quantity of deep cuts, alternate takes, radio recordings, demos, live material, and previously unreleased studio recordings. The massive collection begins with 40’s field recordings of migrants who arrived in Central California to find a better life, and proceeds to trace the development of this historic country music scene all the way through 1974.
Bear Family Records' upcoming The Bakersfield Sound 1940-1970 box set, due out Aug. 9, was a labor of love for producer Scott Bomar. He found even more to love when he was presented with was thought to be a lost early recording of Merle Haggard singing "I'm Gonna Break Every Heart I Can," featured on the box and premiering exclusively below.
Haggard recorded the version included on the set for the independent Tally Records label, where Haggard was signed before Capitol. "I'd heard he'd recorded it for Tally, but nobody ever heard it and it was assumed it was lost," Bomar -- who also annotated Omnivore Records' recent Buck Owens reissues -- tells Billboard. "When I started beating the bushes and putting things together, someone handed me a tape box that was just labeled 'Merle' -- I think it was under somebody's bed somewhere -- and said, 'I don't know if anything on here would be of any interest, but check it out to see.' It turned out to be the original version of that song, which is quite a bit different than the Capitol version he recorded a few years later. It was a real find, quite a nice historical glimpse into that moment in the studio."