LOS ANGELES BUREAU OF ARTS AND CULTURE – SUMMER 2014 ISSUE
BUREAU Magazine: New CINEMA
Billy MIZE & The Bakersfield Sound
By Joshua TRILIEGI
History is sometimes told by outsiders, sometimes by insiders and sometimes by someone simply very interested in the facts, in this case: it’s a little of each. Billy MIZE and The Bakersfield Sound is a New Documentary that tells the story of California’s forgotten history. We have got a lot of those around this Golden State. So very much has happened out here in The West. William J. Saunders steps up to tell the story of his Grandfather, songwriter and musician, Mr. Billy Mize. A local legend of sorts for anyone living in the middle of California in the 1950’s & 1960’s. Billy Mize was a big part of what is now commonly called, ‘The Bakersfield Sound’. An offshoot of Country Western Music with its own Rock – a – Billy bar room blend of hard driving guitar, rough edged rhythm and wide audience appeal that to this today is influential to musicians such as Dave Alvin, who appears in this film to help tell the story. So too does Merle Haggard and a host of people who were there or highly influenced by the music that was created during that time. A hard driving, hard working community of people whom many migrated to California during The Great Depression ala John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath and settled into middle California seeking employment in Agriculture.
” This is a Patchwork Quilt of a Film that is Truly American in its Creation. ”
Billy Mize and his pals had to actually establish the Academy of Country Western Music to chime in and recognize each other and their contemporaries out West. Artists such as Elvis, Dean Martin, Barbara Mandrell and others are sited as influenced and impressed by The Bakersfield Scene. Billy Mize, looked after new talent, collaborated, produced and performed with the likes of folks such as Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, who would go on to prosperous profits and notoriety while Billy, sometimes, did not. This documentary elliptically raises the question: What is Success ? Is it a top ten hit or is it a happy marriage or is it simply being satisfied with the things you have done ? Ask that question to three different people and you will get three different answers. This film allows each viewer to decide for themselves that answer and meanwhile we learn much about the center of California, The Music of Bakersfield and the career(s) of a whole group of people that clearly deserve our recognition. This is a patchwork quilt of a film that is truly American in its creation.
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