Introduction | West Coast Scene | Country

Although one tends to think of Nashville as the primary source for country music, many other regions contributed to this music’s growth, especially the West Coast, where migrant workers from Oklahoma, Texas and other regions of the Southwest played a vital role in putting California on the country-music map.

With Los Angeles as its focal point, the Golden State’s country-music scene blossomed. This was due to a number of factors: the singing cowboys of the Hollywood movies; the influx of the western-swing bands and other artists; the boom business of the ballrooms and dancehalls; the radio stations and, later, television shows programming country; the development of recording studios, which moved sessions away from places such as Dallas, Nashville and Chicago; and the creation of Capitol Records, which would – in a few short years – be a giant among the independents and challenging the majors at their own game.

At the same time, Bakersfield – a small town situated some 160 km (100 miles) away from Los Angeles – was fostering a new breed of musician that would provide an alternative to the smooth countrypolitan sounds that were streaming out of Nashville in the late 1950s. Sporting its own roster of local artists, with the likes of bandleader Bill Woods and entrepreneur Herb Henson as catalysts, it created a new, edgy, vibrant sound and introduced two entertainers who would become icons – Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.

The West Coast, with Los Angeles and Bakersfield as the main hubs of activity, gave Nashville a run for its money, but it was relatively short-lived, as Tennessee’s Music City gained clout with an abundance of artists and executives, recording studios and record labels.

Key Artists

Merle Haggard
Buck Owens
Tex Ritter
Merle Travis

Styles & Forms | West Coast Scene | Country
Inside the Music | The Silver Screen | West Coast Scene | Country

Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Music, consultant editor Bob Allen


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