California Country

I’m not sure when I started liking country music. It was a little too hokey to match my teenage angst which was better accompanied by Nirvana and Sublime. However, I grew up in ag country, so the stuff was in the ether, strains squeezing out of huge trucks in the school parking lot, blasting from the main stage at the county fair and accompanying the line dancing at the only place for 18-year-olds to go dance in the Sonoma area – Kodiak Jack’s in Petaluma (“Home of Kodiak, the Mechanical Bull”) which had an all-ages night on Thursdays.
At some point, I decided that I liked the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain, adding some bluegrass and alt-county through college – Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch, Neko Case, the Be Good Tanyas. And I got quite hooked on Johnny Cash (and Johnny Cash Radio on Pandora). Since “country music” ranges from Willie Nelson to Tammy Wynette to Carrie Underwood to Garth Brooks, it is both a guilty pleasure and a deep vein of American history with songs that stand the ages.

Here’s a playlist of some of the fun stuff.

The other day, I was listening to the local country station (I am still unclear how the LA market can support two pop country stations since I have yet to meet a country music listener here) and they played this song:

It caught my ear because it referenced California and I realized that the Golden State doesn’t figure very high in the content of country music. Which got me thinking.
Are any country music stars from California?

This being the Age of Google, I was pretty easily able to dig up some California country songs, including this one:

Full disclosure: I found it because I was listening to her other hit, “Redneck Woman,” to see if I could line dance to it.

Here are the full lyrics for those of you with dial-up:

California Girls – Gretchen Wilson

Well I ain’t never had a problem with California
There’s a lot of good women, from Sacramento to Corona
But them Hollywood types, after a while wear on ya
Strutin’ around in their size zeros,
Skinny little girls no meat on their bones
Never even heard of George Jones

Ain’t you glad we ain’t all California girls
Ain’t you glad there’s still a few of us left, who know how to rock your world
Ain’t afraid to eat fried chicken and dirty dance to Merle
Ain’t you glad we ain’t all California girls

There ain’t nothing wrong with plastic surgery
Well, Dolly Parton never looked so good to me
Everybody oughta be exactly who they want to be
But that Paris Hilton gets under my skin
With her big fake smile and her painted on tan
Never had a chance at a real man

Ouch. Good thing Katy Perry and the Beach Boys already prepared a musical retort on behalf of us California girls.

However, I still didn’t feel I’d really found a genuine connection between country music and California. The few songs out there usually reference California as somewhere people are running away to. I did notice an inordinate number of references to one California locale however – Bakersfield. This allowed me to finally connect the dots:

Dust Bowl forced Okies to migrate to California’s Central Valley => Many settled in Bakersfield => Some of them made country music, including: Merle Haggard who is a NATIVE of California and saw Johnny Cash play when he was an inmate => He was later covered by the Grateful Dead => Gretchen Wilson references Merle in her song denigrating California girls

Ta da! I’ll admit, California’s not exactly the birthplace of country, but the love is there. So quit being too cool for school, Cali kids, and embrace your country roots.


1 Comment

Filed under California history, I heart Cali, Los Angeles

One response to “California Country

  1. Hey Sierra got drawn into your blog by a facebook post but hey while I’m here, check out this album that has greatly helped me deal with my guilt ridden love of country music

    I found it in a used record store in, of all places, New York City (cue the Pace Picante guys) and I don’t think its on iTunes but its worth tracking down.

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