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A Dozen Down and No End in Sight: The Woes of a Desparate-O From Bakersfield, California

A Dozen Down and No End in Sight: The Woes of a Desparate-O From Bakersfield, California

Any student of music history should be familiar with the Bakersfield Sound: the outlaw country movement to emerge from the unlikely burbs and honky-tonks of Central California in the 1960s.

For those who don’t know, it was a twangy, electronic, defiant tone that synchronized many styles that came before it. But, most importantly, the Bakersfield Sound’s momentum surged as a reactionary movement; it’s positioning opposed the reigning methodologies of the day. 

So, with Kevin McCarthy failing to clinch his campaign for speaker of the House twelve votes in and counting, it’s high time to point at the backward nature of his upbringing and politicking in his hometown of Bakersfield, CA. And how — right now — it’s the ghost of the Bakersfield Sound that haunts him. 

The Bakersfield Sound

By the 1950s, Nashville was Constantinople of the country genre. American music had reached full industrialization; it was processed, polished, and monopolized. Nashville studios brought in massive orchestras to smooth over the rough-cut style of the traditional Appalachian, Bluegrass, and backwoods Gospel that made congress there, eventually creating modern country music.

However, starting in the early 60s, a few down-and-outers looked up at the shiny records rolling out from 16th avenue, and decided to clear their bitter throats and create their “own” style by stringing together country, rock, and blues. 

Thus, the Bakersfield Sound emerged. 

The movement’s origin is attributed mainly to Buck Owens, and many of those who followed him were burnouts, bums, and jailbirds, those on the outside looking in. But damn, did their raspy disgruntled songs turn heads.

The McCarthy Backlash

Considering McCarthy’s long-established Washington-ness and the recent swell of inter-party backlash, it’s evident that the Nashvillian-style refinery politics that has served McCarthy for decades has turned around to nip him on his slack rear end. 

By no means should this analysis be considered a praise of the GOP’s carton-of-twenty, these wastrels posing as “mavericks,” “outlaws,” or whoever the hell they think they are. Au contraire, to these brown eyes, this house speaker parade is nothing but a sad echo of the past six years and something Democrats would be wise not to mock. 

However, there is a painful level of crossover from the wanna-be country music outlaws of Bakersfield and the Freedom Caucus, given they are/were both primarily groups of rudderless, loud criminals defiantly opposing the status quo after realizing their brash behavior flings them to the top of the charts. 

Many of them hate McCarthy for his processed stench of achievement. But at the very least, they recognize the importance of bearing the image of hatred for McCarthy in this moment of mania. 

Ultimately, I’d offer that the energy Trump rustled up in 2015 was the peak season of the GOP’s attempt to create a political Bakersfield Sound: in almost every way, it was the same old processed Republican tenor that came before it. But, this time, it slapped on a tasseled jacket and a large red trucker hat. It let its hair grow out and flapped its tongue whenever and at whoever it pleased. 

All this to say, Bakersfield eventually became known as “Nashville West.” Yes, it carried a slightly different sound, but the process inevitably had to take the reigns. 

In the end, this whole outlaw shtick, it’s all Nashville, all the time. And those twenty hostage-holders straining for the spotlight and any camera time they can steal are no less Nashvillian than McCarthy. 


Don’t get me wrong: even in metaphor, it’s painful drawing parallels from the creatures of the Freedom Caucus to the likes of Buck Owen, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, and Johnny Paycheck. But for the sake of metaphor, it works. 

I could easily make you frown by plugging in many of your beloved genres that went through their alt, punk, middle-finger-to-the-man eras. In this case, Bakersfield came easiest and seemed to strike the nail most squarely on the head. 

Anyways — onto the next ballot…(Oh, Kevin, Bakersfield boy, you should’ve saved yourself some trouble and stuck to scratch-offs and sandwiches.)

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Nathan Rizzuti
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