Every day I drive past the Academy of Country Music right off the 101 freeway in Encino and wonder why it is there. Seriously, I thought country music was relegated to the Ozarks in Missouri and Nashville, TN. Needless to say, I got my answer when I saw Billy Mize & The Bakerfield Sound. You see, even though Nashville, by all accounts, is considered the “Capital of Country Music”, Bakersfield is really where the country sound we enjoy today was born.
Billy Mize, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard are all pioneers of the Bakerfield sound that was more a rock based country sound born from those southerners who migrated west during the dust bowl era in America. Billy Mize was HUGE!!! He had hit records, a television show and the respect/admiration of all his peers. So, why didn’t I know who he was? Billy Mize didn’t tour to keep his face and product out there like we are accustomed to artists doing to broaden their fan base and keep their music on the charts. Billy also incurred terrible loss at a young age of both of his sons (one is a motorcycle accident and the other an accidental drowning).
Being the ultimate family man, once his children left the nest, Billy attempted to resume his recording career. While on tour, he suffered a stroke that left him unable to speak for a number of years. Thanks to a stellar and persistent therapy team, Billy Mize is able to once again speak, sing and play his beloved music. All this and he even had time to be one of the founding members of the Academy of Country Music, which is why it is here in California.
Mize’s journey has been a difficult and inspiring one, but he is still kicking it at the ripe old age of 86.