Saturday, January 9, 2010

California's rich Honky Tonk history....

Way before Austin, even before Nashville, California was the hub of the country music scene. California's Central Valley (Bakersfield) was the recording hub. With the mass migration of "Okies" to California during the Dust Bowl in the 1930's, they brought their music. The music found a home in the Central Valley.
Hard working farmers and oil workers needed a place to let loose after a hard week, and Honky Tonks opened up all through California. I have talked to ol' timers who grew up in the valley, and they said that on a Friday or Saturday night, they would get in whatever running car they could find, race up and down the roads (drinking) stopping at Honky Tonks and Whore Houses, all night long. And from what they say, there was an abundance of both. (Ever feel like you were born to late)?
Most of these Clubs are gone, some I was able to go to before they closed. Demarco's 23 Club in Brisbane is still open, but I believe the kids of the original owners are running it into the ground. I knew Lily Demarco before she passed away, and she told some great stories. Johnny Cash made his West Coast debut at this club. The Foothill in Long Beach is one that I made it to before it closed, it was a very cool time capsule. I have been to Trout's in Bakersfield (still open), but it feels more like a dive bar today. The Blackboard, is one of the most famous of the Bakersfield Roadhouses, (where many of the big names played, and got started. Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, the Maddox brothers and Rose, to name a few) and the city tore it down in the 1990's to build a strip mall.
These places are going, or gone. They are such a amazing part of California history, that should be saved. Try to get to one before they are all gone, it's worth it.


  1. ugh, I hate when they tear down all the cool spots. If I was rich i'd buy one of those places up. I love Buck Owens!

  2. i remember the foothill i grew up in there while my grandfather still owned it im 18 not and it was a great experiance i remember shooting pool meeting john travolta when he did lucky numbers and trying to sneek into the girls bathroom. its a great memory i will always have. i dont know what they put in its place houses i think, but ill always remember that place on cherry ave. and as for my grandfather hes still a cranky old guy who loves to talk about the bar fights he once had. unfortunatly he sold the place because he was getting old and didnt want to be in that life style anymore.

  3. Maddox brothers and Rose plus other bands played at a place called the Rancho, it's in Oakley CA. Good news it still stands, is a furniture store now but the 3200 square foot hardwood dance floor looks like new.