By Annie Reuter
Every Monday night you’ll find Vince Gill and Paul Franklin onstage at Nashville’s 3rd and Lindsley, where their 11-piece western swing band the Time Jumpers has a standing weekly residency. It is here at this neighborhood club that Gill had the idea for Bakersfield, his collection of songs with steel-guitarist Franklin celebrating the honky-tonk sound and legendary songs that rose out of that Southern California farm town.
Gill and Franklin’s album Bakersfield initially hit stores early last year. It featured ten songs by Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, two Country Music Hall of Famers who each emerged from Bakersfield in the early 1960s and helped make the Bakersfield Sound (as it was dubbed) a national phenomena. Earlier this year, Cracker Barrel issued a deluxe edition of the album that features four bonus tracks (see the full track list on Radio.com).
In an interview with Radio.com, Gill and Franklin discussed the impact the Bakersfield Sound has had on their careers, and why it’s important to put the spotlight back on the music today.
For starters, they were finding that the music of Owens and Haggard still resonated strongly with their Time Jumpers audience.
“We were sitting there together every Monday night, playing all of the great songs that we love to play,” Gill explained to Radio.com, “and every now and then I get my belly full of swing music and I’d say, Hey, let’s play ‘Together Again’ or let’s play ‘Holding Things Together,’ both Buck Owens and Merle Haggard songs, and the crowd would go crazy. I told Paul, ‘There’s something here. Maybe we can find a way to do something to honor those guys.'”
Franklin jumped at the opportunity, and soon the two were talking of their histories and their admiration for Haggard and Owens.
“As we talked more, we learned about each other,” Franklin said. “My very first influence, my dad bought me a Fender 400 steel guitar, and the first thing he did was, he bought a You’re for Me album of Buck Owens. And he said, ‘Play like that guy, that’s the way it’s supposed to sound.'”
Franklin then pointed to Gill. “He goes back to Don Rich and Buck,” he said, referring to Owens and his longtime lead guitarist. “So when we realized that it made even more sense. It goes back to the core of who we are as musicians.”
Gill had a similar experience when he took the stage with his dad early on in his career.
“It’s like life came full circle in a beautiful way [on this album],” Gill said. “The first time I stepped on a stage was with my father, and I got to play this instrumental called ‘Buckaroo’ that Buck played. So, the history of this is authentic and goes to our very beginnings. The fact that it’s not fabricated. There really is a connection.”
Haggard and Owens, Gill said, are “two of the greatest that ever came down the pike for country music. It’s because that legacy of songs is just off the charts. You couldn’t pick a bad Merle Haggard song. You couldn’t pick a bad Buck Owens song.”
It was crucial to both musicians to capture the Bakersfield sound on their recording with instrumental solos and Gill mimicking the way both Haggard and Owens sang.
“It’s just important to me to play music from the heart,” Franklin said. “That includes all the pop stuff. We both love pop as much as we do the traditional. Everything has its place, but it’s important for me at this point in my life to play music that I really love playing, and this goes to the core of where I started.”