Ernie Lewis | The Bakersfield Sound

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The Bakersfield Sound

by Ernie Lewis

"The Bakersfield Sound" fits within the Classic Country, Americana, and Folk genres.
Genre: Country: Bakersfield Sound
Release Date: 

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1. The Bakersfield Sound
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Album Notes
"The Bakersfield Sound"

The following shares information about “The Bakersfield Sound” that was released on August 17, 2018. I wrote the tune, but I had a lot of help creating it and thank all of those who contributed, Norm Hamlet, Rick Reno Stevens, Jimmy Phillips, Mario Carboni, Rick Russell, and Zack Arnold. Without their involvement, the tune would not be what it is today: a heartfelt collaborative song made by individuals who strive to keep “The Bakersfield Sound” alive, including the late, great Red Simpson, who, with the help or Mario, made his way into the mix.

According to Robert Price, the Senior Editor of The Bakersfield Californian and writer of The Bakersfield Sound: How A Generation of Displaced Okies Revolutionized American Music,

"[t]he aesthetic known as the Bakersfield Sound transformed country music, its hard edge a stark contrast to Nashville’s stringed orchestras. It turned displaced Okies like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard into household names, and in the process created a widely felt influence on style, instrumentation, and attitude in American music."

“The Bakersfield Sound,” tells the tale of those who worked hard in the fields and looked for pleasure and comfort in the honky-tonks in and around Bakersfield, California, when the day’s work was done. The music that came out of those honky-tonks was hard driving and loud, but it spoke to and for the people.

“The Bakersfield Sound” could not have been accomplished without the help of the following artists:

Norm Hamlet (steel guitar), Norm’s masterful pedal steel creations can be heard throughout the song. Mr. Hamlet was the band leader and steel guitarist of Merle Haggard’s band, The Strangers, for over 40 years. He has performed countless shows, even one at the White House. He is currently touring with two of Merle’s sons, Ben and Noel Haggard, and is a true gentleman who loves pure Country music.

Jimmy Phillips (vocals): Mr. Phillips is a Capitol Records recording artist He is a drummer and vocalist who has recorded with such artists as Glen Campbell, Merle Haggard, Billy Mize, Charlie Pride, Ike Turner, Buck Owens, Red Simpson, Dick Curless, and more. Jimmy has lived in Tehachapi, California, for over 42 years, where he owns and operates Jim’s Barbershop. Furthermore, Mr. Phillips is a Country traditionalist who currently performs at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace, in Bakersfield, California, as a member of The Bakerbilly Sound.

Eugene Moles (lead guitar): Eugene is the son of the late, great Gene Moles, a true pioneer of the Bakersfield Sound. The pickin’ genes of Gene truly passed-on to his son. Eugene has performed with Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Hank Thomson, Vern Gosdin, Connie Smith, and more. He was also a member of The Strangers. Currently, he lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where he records and performs on stage regularly. He also owns and operates a guitar repair shop and is touring with Marty Haggard, Merle’s son.

Mario Carboni (piano and vocals): Mario is a true virtuoso and recording artist. He is known for his show-stopping piano performances, trumpet playing, singing, and songwriting skills. In Bakersfield, he worked with Red Simpson, producing two albums with him until Mr. Simpson’s passing in 2016. Mr. Carboni’s immaculate piano lines and rhythm can be heard throughout the song. Currently, he has been touring the United States - sharing his music with the masses. He enjoys playing traditional Country and is a true advocate of preserving the Bakersfield Sound.

Rick “Reno” Stevens (vocals): Rick is a true showman who has been engaged in the music business most of his life. Mr. Stevens has worked with Buck Owens, Johnny Rodriguez, Conway Twitty, Martina McBride, Tracy Byrd, Marty Stuart, Lone Star, Reba McEntire, Clint Black, Garth Brooks, Patty Loveless, Hank Williams Jr., Bryan White, and more. Currently, Rick is a member of Johnny Owens and the Buck Fever Band. The group is a regular at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace, in Bakersfield, California. He is also producing a multi-cultural Country album with Johnny Rodriguez.

Rick Russell (vocals): Rick is a founding member (the lead singer) of the Smokin’ Armadillos. The group was created in 1992 by Josh Graham and was active for 13 years. In 2012, Graham and Russell joined forces again to form a new band, Lucky Ned Pepper. That group released such songs as “I Remember Music” and “Go Crazy with My Heart.” In 2017, the Smokin’ Armadillos reunited and released a new song, “The Other California.” Mr. Russell is a class act. He is a magnificent singer whose heart is pure County.

Zack Arnold (drums): Zack started playing drums when he was 9 years old and was lucky enough to take lessons from John “Johny” Barbata who played with The Turtles, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and Linda Ronstadt. Mr. Arnold is no stranger to performing live. Currently, he is a member of Johnny Owens and the Buck Fever Band and a dedicated percussionist who loves Country music. Zack added snare accents to “The Bakersfield Sound.”

Red Simpson (spoken word): There is so much to say about Reds Simpson. Here is a quick look at his life as told by Sandra Brennan (from

Best known for his string of trucking songs, Red Simpson was raised in Bakersfield, California, the youngest of a dozen children. At age 14, he wrote his first song -- about chickens -- and sang it to his family's fowl. During the Korean War, he served aboard a naval hospital ship, the Repose, where he found relief by forming the Repose Ramblers, who played any instruments they could scrounge up. He bought better ones in Japan and began to practice in earnest, and became a professional musician in California after his discharge.

Simpson was working at the Wagon Wheel in Lamont when Fuzzy Owen saw him and arranged for Simpson to work at his Clover Club as a piano player. He then got a job replacing Buck Owens at the Blackboard Club on weekends. Simpson was influenced by Owens, Merle Haggard, and Bill Woods, who asked Red if he would write a song about driving trucks. By the time Simpson handed him four truck songs, however, Woods had stopped recording.

Simpson began writing songs with Buck Owens in 1962, including the Top Ten hit "Gonna Have Love."
In 1965, Capitol's Ken Nelson was looking for someone to record some songs about trucking. His first choice was Haggard, who wasn't interested, but Simpson readily agreed. His first, Tommy Collins' "Roll, Truck, Roll," became a Top 40 country hit, and Simpson recorded an album of the same name. That year he offered up two more trucking songs, both of which made it to the Top 50 or beyond.

As a songwriter, Red scored his first number one hit with "Sam's Place," recorded by Buck Owens. After that, Simpson decided to become a full-time writer. He returned to performing in 1971 with his Top Five hit "I'm a Truck," which had been written by postman Bob Staunton.

In 1972, he debuted on the Grand Ole Opry and had two more "truck" hits for Capitol. In 1976, Simpson signed to Warner Bros. and released "Truck Driver's Heaven." The following year, he teamed up with Lorraine Walden for a series of duets that included "Truck Driver Man and Wife."

In 1979, Simpson appeared for the last time on the charts with "The Flying Saucer Man and the Truck Driver." Haggard recorded his song "Lucky Old Colorado" in 1988; later that year Simpson was diagnosed with skin cancer and underwent surgery, but he fully recovered and continued his writing and performing career. Featuring 14 new songs, The Bard of Bakersfield was Simpson's first album in nearly a quarter century, arriving on the Windsor Music label in 2005. Sadly enough, Red passed away in Bakersfield in January 2016; he was 81 years old.

Red Simpson’s voice appears courtesy of Mario Carboni who obtained Red’s words during an interview. Having Red on the recording is a true blessing.

“The Bakersfield Sound,” words and music by Ernest D. Lewis, copyright 2018, BMI



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