When Bakersfield Plays, America Listens

Buck Owens Put the City on the Map with an Entirely New Country Sound. Does His Legacy Live On?

Depending on the person you ask, Bakersfield, California became a musical mecca thanks to the Gold Rush, Dust Bowl migration, or World War II, when young men flocked to California to work in shipyards and aircraft factories. But in opening a “Living the Arts” event co-presented by the James Irvine Foundation, moderator and Bakersfield Californian executive editor Robert Price said he chooses to start with 1951. That year, a young orange picker landed in Bakersfield and bought a used Telecaster guitar.

“American music was never the same,” said Price—and neither …