If you reside in Bakersfield you probably remember Pete Jones Music. A store that was open for over 50 years and once gave Buck Owens guitar strings on credit. Pete Jones Music supplied all the Bakersfield musicians (stars and up-and-comers) with amps, instruments and repairs. We recently got our hand on a speech Pete Jones (of Pete Jones Music) gave on September 9th, 1984 celebrating Billy Mize Day. We’ve written out the speech in full below. It’s a wonderful and well written reminder of why we honor the Bakersfield musicians and why remembering the Bakersfield Sound’s significance is so important.
It’s a great thrill for my wife, Martha, and I to be here and be a part of this fabulous show honoring one of the West’s great super stars, and most of all one of our dearest friends – Billy Mize. I have been asked to talk to you a little bit about country music in Bakersfield and most of all, Billy Mize.
Bakersfield, nestled at the foot of the lofty high Sierras and the majestic Tehachapi Range, is the giant agriculture and oil center of the San Joaquin Valley. It is drenched in the history of mountain men, indians, Spanish dons, cattle barons, sheepmen, oil tycoons, cowboys and field hands. This area, rich in history of the pioneer migrant farm workers from Texas and Oklahoma, is the western capital of country music.
Its country music is like a fine vintage wine – pure, rich and real. The music tell sthe story of the land and the people like they really are, pure and simple – sometimes with joy, sometimes with sorrow.
Country music – the people who write it; sing it; play it; live it! The history of this music and its creative people is an important chapter of the saga of the south San Joaquin. We must preserve what has happened before and what is happening now, and give recognition to our country music family, or the heritage of these strong freedom loving americans and their music will gently blow away across the great mountains and disappear.
The south San Joaquin has made a tremendous contribution to the world of country music. From the song writer to the instrumentalist, to the radio shows of the early days, to the present network television shows and the super stars themselves, Bakersfield has been the predominant giant of the West. This niche in our history must be preserved for our rich country heritage. It must definitely mot be just a hallowed sanctuary for the super stars alone. We must preserve the story of country music from its very raw beginning to the lofty heights of the super star.
The Saturday night dance hall, the radio remote opening, the every night lounge player, the struggling recording and television star, the hungry writer, the promoter, and finally the super star are passing chapters of country music, or our area, and must be preserved forever.
Right now – right here – this very minute – Betty Pugh is taking another giant step forward to help recognize and preserve this rich country and western heritage.
Today, Betty’s always great country music awards show is honoring one of the West’s all time favorite country-western entertainers – Billy Mize. Yes, that’s why my wife and I are so proud to be here today. This is Billy Mize Day, and we are honored to take part in this celebration.
Billy came to Bakersfield in 1948.
1. First job – Bill Woods – Orange Blossom Playboys – 1949
2. Join Tommy Duncan’s Western Allstars – 1950
3. Worked at Blackboard Cafe after leaving Tommy. Bob Wills offer him a job at that time, and he had to turn him down due to family commitments.
4. In 1952, He joined KBIS as disc jockey and was a Jockey for several years there and at KAFY
5. IN 1953, joined Cousin Herb and Uncle Wilber to start the Trading Post Show.
6. In 1954, had his own show with Cliff Croford on channel 29 for 1-1/2 years. This was the first television show Merle Haggard ever worked on.
7. In 1954, singed with Decca Records – had two recordings, “Who Will Buy the Wine” and “It Could Happen”
8. In 1955, signed to work weekends at Corriganville in Chatsworth while working at the Lucky Spot 6 nights a week, the Trading Post 5 days a week and a 6am radio show 5 days a week on KAFY.
9. In 1957, joined Town Hall Party on Saturday nights in LA
10. When Town Hall Party went off the air in 1960, he joined the Cal Worthington Show, doing 7 shows a week for Cal.
11. In 1962, took over the Trading Post Show and continued doing 7 shows a week for Cal (12 television shows per week in all…LIVE! Boy, talk about an IRON MAN.
12. In 1963, singed to host “Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch” show on channel 5 in LA. What a show that was! The Trading Post Show went off the air shortly afterward.
13. Continued on Melody Ranch until it went of the air in 1970, during which time he won several awards for Best TV Personality from the Academy of Country Music.
14. In 1965, signed with Columbia Records and recorded with them until 1969 when he joined United Artists.
15. The year 1969 was the beginning of 3 tragic years for Billy and Martha. They lost one son in 1969 and on son in 1971. He dropped from public view and only did a few records with Mega and some personal appearances. His home base, since 1958, has been the Foothill Club in Long Beach, all through the 70s and into the 80s
16. In 1983, made a double album title, “Billy Mize Salute to Swing” a tribute to Tommy Duncan on GM Records.
17. Future plans: He has great and exciting things coming up. He’s been cast in a movie with Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson on the life of Bob Wills, Tommy Duncan and Milton Brown. Billy is set to play Tommy, Hagg – Bob and Willy – Milton Brown. He’s also working on an album tribute to Gene Autry and a duet with Debbie Reynolds.
Now, let me tell you about the Billy Mize I know. In the business, among the professionals, he’s known as the Pro’s Pro. To be recognized by your peers in this manner is truly the highest compliment a performer can receive.
He is the most unselfish entertainer I know. He is not a dual personality. Good on stage and something else off stage. He is a super guy on and off the stage and he is the most liked and respected country star that I know.
He has donated, as a performer, hundreds of hours and raised thousands of dollars for charity and the handicapped.
For 10 consecutive years, he as been the star of the Kern County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse benefit dance for handicapped kids. This venture alone has raised thousands of dollars for the handicapped right here in Kern County. His career has spanned the days of western music, the singing cowboys and western swing right to the present country music scene.
Billy Mize – Super American – Super Star.
So – Ladies and gentlemen – It is my distinct honor and privilege to introduce to you – the west’s crown prince of country – western music – BILLY MIZE!