Teen helps carry Bakersfield Sound into new century

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Bakersfield burst onto the music scene last century with a new style of country music that came to be known as the "Bakersfield Sound."

Exhibiting a more raw, more stripped-down feel than the music out of Nashville at the time, the Bakersfield Sound was first embraced by the working class. It eventually gained massive popularity, producing many notable stars, including Merle Haggard and Buck Owens.

While Haggard and some other early contributors to the Bakersfield Sound are still alive and performing, popular country music is once again dominated by the highly produced sound out of Nashville.

But, one Bakersfield teen is hoping to change that, or at least shake things up.

Eyewitness News met up with 14-year-old Kadin Hernandez at his parent's horse ranch. With a black felt hat low on his brow and his guitar slung over his shoulder, he looked as if he had jumped right out of a country song.

Kadin said he has always loved music but only picked up the guitar about 6 months ago. Since then, he has already caught the attention of the local country music community.

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Kadin doing some Folsom Prison Blues at the Bakersfield VFW today!! -LJ

Posted by Kadin Hernandez band on Sunday, August 16, 2015

It's not just his talent that is drawing interest, but the type of music he plays. His song, "House of Broken Hearts," exhibits the same stripped-down, emotional and raw feel that was so characteristic of the Bakersfield artists of the past.

"I definitely take a lot of inspiration from Merle Maggard. I take a lot of my music from his," he admitted.

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Ok, Kadin went to bed earlier (like a good 14 year old). I wanted to share what we did tonight. Without knowing much about what we're doing, I wanted to get a "scratch track" saved to the computer. I wish I would have taken video to put this music back to, but I didn't. Ordinarily this track would be edited completely out, but in the interest of time, we ran with the one take and had a fun night.

Posted by Kadin Hernandez band on Monday, August 31, 2015

At the Kern County Museum, many elements of the Bakersfield Sound have been preserved. Haggard's childhood home was recently transported there and is under restoration.

An exhibit dedicated to the music genre includes a selection of costumes, instruments and pictures, but most of the memorabilia is stored in the basement, chronicling decades of the music's evolution.

"The roots of the Bakersfield Sound come out of that dust bowl era in the '30s and early '40s, and then it, of course, blossoms in artists in the '50s and '60s. People like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard," explained Lori Wear, the museum's curator.

One of the other key figures responsible for cultivating the sound was Bill Woods. A gifted musician in his own right, he was also the owner of the Blackboard Cafe, the epicenter of Bakersfield's emerging country sound.

Kadin said he is very aware of the music's legacy and believes it's still relevant, especially in Bakersfield.

"It's not a big money town. Not everyone here has money, and you're just able to sing songs about someone out there not having money but still having a good time," he said.

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Thank you all for getting us above and beyond 500 likes on the band page. Here's a Hank Jr cover that most probably haven't heard, but is exactly what Kadin stands for! We love our fans and please share it with your friends.-LJ

Posted by Kadin Hernandez band on Thursday, August 20, 2015

Just up Chester Avenue, past the Kern County Museum, the Bakersfield Sound lives on at one of the last remaining honky-tonks in Bakersfield, and the oldest one in the Central Valley - Trout's.

"The history of Trout's and the history of the Bakersfield Sound seems to weave together," said the landmark's owner, T. Rockwell.

He has seen many changes over the years, acknowledging the Bakersfield Sound has waned in popularity but claims it certainly never died.

"Does a diamond wedding ring ever die?" he asked rhetorically. "Sometimes it's just put on a different finger."

The walls of Trout's are covered with a museum-sized collection of their own memorabilia. But, to Rockwell, the most important thing about the place is not necessarily its past, but its current state and those who are keeping it alive.

"We've taken for granted the thousand clubs that have come and gone, the things we immortalize after they pass away. And hopefully we can take it with some seriousness, that if we embrace what we've immortalized then we don't have to lose the last of something," said Rockwell.

Kadin will be performing at Trout's at 8 p.m. on Friday.

You can also find more of his music on his Facebook page.