Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame Honors Performers
For Kim McAbee-Carter, the founding of a Hall-of-Fame to honor musicians from Bakersfield made a lot of sense.
As a singer, she performed regularly at the Crystal Palace in Bakersfield singing alongside country music legend Buck Owens.
She sang with him right up to the last night he performed in his adopted hometown.
Buck died in 2006, and while the music went on over the years for Kim, a deep-seated idea to honor Bakersfield music performers continued to grow.
That idea has led to the creation, along with her husband, of the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame honors the people who made Bakersfield proud.
It also contains items you might see in a music museum. And it is a venue for the performing arts.
“The Hall of Fame was started to promote the rich heritage of the not just country music, but all music,” Kim says. “We pay tribute to the local people who played a role in creating that music.”
While this Hall of Fame is a home for all genres of music, there’s no doubt the initial focus is on country.
To be specific: The Bakersfield Sound.
The Bakersfield Sound was a title given to the music pioneered by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, his lead guitarist Don Rich, and the legendary Merle Haggard.
The Bakersfield Sound is described in my book 9 from 99, Experiences from California’s Central Valley as “Country, with an emphasis on electric guitars that sound as though the treble has been turned way up.” There are other definitions, but I’ll stand by mine.
The Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame is more than a tribute to the Bakersfield Sound.
In the inaugural class of seventeen Central Valley music artists, country accounted for the first five honored in 2017.
The honorees range from country, nu metal, opera, and beyond. To give each honoree an appropriate induction, the inaugural class was divided into three smaller classes.
The first five are: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Bonnie Owens, steel guitarist Billy Mize, and singer songwriter of truck driving songs Red Simpson.
“The inaugural Class was broken into three sections so that we could spend time honoring each individual,” Kim says.
The honorees have been featured in original artwork. The original art hangs in the conference room of the Hall of Fame, but an enlarged life-sized version lines the walls in the public areas.
While this is first a Hall of Fame, there are interesting things to see throughout the facility.
There’s a piano that Buck Owens had made just for him. He used this piano on many of his recordings, and played it practically every day when he was performing in his later years.
“It’s a Knabe piano,” Kim says.
“In this style, two were custom made. Elvis Presley had his painted white and Buck had his painted black. We let the performers come and play on that piano. We roll it out on the stage.”
Kim also bought a jukebox that greets Hall of Fame visitors. The jukebox contains the hit records of the inducted artists.
In her office, she proudly displays a red, white, and blue guitar given to her by her former boss.
As a member of Buck’s band, the Buckaroos, she sang regularly with him on the road and at the Crystal Palace night club just off the Buck Owens Drive exit of California highway 99.
The Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame is also a performance venue.
Professional acts are booked to the Hall of Fame stage, local performances hold their shows there, and the facility is offered to other organizations for events and parties.
The place has been the scene for receptions and the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
“We’re very proud of what we are trying to accomplish here,” Kim says.
The history of American music can be told through many chapters. Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tells the rock story.
Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame has grown from a modest beginning in the 1960s to a world repository for country music.
There are at least two states that have Jazz Hall of Fames. Near my hometown in upstate New York, there’s the North American Fiddlers Hall of Fame in Osceola.
This Hall of Fame is taking a different approach and calling out the significant contributions from some local musical contributors who either lived in or near Bakersfield, or who made the city their home later in life.
Kim McAbee Carter thinks it’s only right that Bakersfield have a place to honor these artists.
She believes her former boss, the late Buck Owens, would be proud of what she and the Fall of Fame leadership have done for Bakersfield.
“His thoughts would either be he thought about it first and then was glad someone else did it,” she says.
“I’d like to think he would be happy it was me.”
Steve Newvine lives in Merced
He first wrote about Bakersfield in his book 9 From 99, Experiences from California’s Central Valley, first published nine years ago.
To learn more about the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame, go to