||A 1973 Pontiac Granville signed
by Elvis is parked behind the bar at Buck Owens'
Buck Owens' Crystal Palace on Buck Owens Boulevard is a
concert hall that houses a bronze Buck Owens statue, display cases
packed with Buck Owens platinum albums, and a 1973 Pontiac Granville
convertible signed by Elvis, perched above the bar. Of course, the
most popular Buck Owens—related attraction is a lifelike piece of
country memorabilia known as Buck Owens himself.
Every Friday and
Saturday night, the former Hee Haw cohost draws throngs to
his saloon-style theater, where he takes the stage with his band,
the Buckaroos, and his trademark red-white-and-blue guitar. It's
been more than 40 years since Owens recorded "Act Naturally," the
first of his 15 consecutive chart-topping singles to hit No. 1. But
at 74, he still plays the hard-driving, heart-aching songs (remember
"Cryin' Time" or "Together Again"?) that made him famous and earned
him credit as a founder of the country music style that aficionados
refer to as "the Bakersfield Sound."
You can hear the
twang and jangle of the Bakersfield Sound everywhere you go in this
sunbaked Central Valley city, which has often been called "the
Nashville of the West." Dial your radio to 107.9 and you can even
listen to Owens's country music station, KUZZ.
The city has had
a kind of dungaree toughness since 1899, when oil was discovered
beneath its silty clay soil. When Buck Owens moved here in the early
1950s, the oil derricks bobbing against the horizon reminded him of
his home state of Texas. He wound up hitting pay dirt in a different
field, playing alongside greats like Dusty Rhodes and Bakersfield
native Merle Haggard, just two of the biggest names in what was
already a fast-growing country music scene.
today, prospects for hearing country music are still good. One of
the best venues is Ethel's Old Corral Café, on the outskirts of the
city. On Fridays and Sundays, its dance floor fills with couples
swiveling hip to hip. Western music also packs them in at the
Rockin' Rodeo, a spacious nightclub where patrons can try their luck
riding a mechanical bull—or go next door for hip-hop.
saddle up, check out the boots, belts, and Stetson hats at the
Emporium Western Store. If shopping for antiques is more your speed,
head to the Five and Dime Antique Mall in the old Woolworth's
Building in historic downtown.
also a city in which to grab some interesting grub. It has a number
of authentic Basque restaurants, thanks to its large ethnic
population. Two of the most popular dining spots are the Wool
Growers Restaurant, which dishes up traditional Basque cuisine, and
the Pyrenees Café, specializing in French-Basque meals. Both serve
multicourse family style dinners that start with soups, salads, and
house-baked breads, then move on to an assortment of grilled seafood
and meat, with plenty of wine to go around. For some frontier-style
sustenance, locals head to KC Steakhouse, the perfect place for
carnivores with big appetites and anyone with a taste for live jazz
and blues, which are piped into the dining room every night. You can
follow up your T-bone with a sundae at Dewar's Candy Shop. Sit at
the soda fountain and try the mint chip ice cream or pick up fudge
or caramels at the candy counter. This Bakersfield fav-orite has
been making all its own ice cream and candies for almost 100
sweetest attraction hasn't been around quite that long. But he's got
that theater and that boulevard bearing his name. And on weekend
evenings, in vibrant live performances, he's every bit the country
music leg-end. As Buck Owens himself might sing, all he's got to do
is act naturally.
Going . . . |
Area code is
661. Pick up AAA's Northern California & Nevada
TourBook and Bakersfield Area map. Contact
the Great Bakersfield Convention and Visitors
Bureau, 515 Truxtun Ave., (866) 425-7353,
Eats and Sleeps
Western Hill House 700 Truxtun Ave., 327-4064.
Courtyard by Marriott 3601 Marriott Dr.,
Dewar's Candy Shop 1120 Eye St.,
Ethel's Old Corral Café 4310 Alfred
Harrell Hwy., 871-4136. Holiday Inn Select 801
Truxtun Ave., 323-1900.
2515 F St., 322-9910.
Pyrenees Café 601
Sumner St., 323-0053.
Wool Growers Restaurant
620 E. 19th St.,