The Bakersfield Sound, although resoundingly popular in Bakersfield and Kern County, became notable throughout the Central Valley and Los Angeles as performers began to spend time playing in those areas. It is important to note that these areas already had country music and much of the same type of music was being played as it was in Bakersfield. Again, the influence of performers on each other is significant. Further widening the popularity was the session work being done in Los Angeles recording studios. Some of the notable instrumentalists were Eugene Moles, Buck Owens, Jimmy Phillips, Bill Woods, Oscar Whittington, and Roy Nichols. In fact, Moles was such a talent that Nashville guitar pickers starting copying his style. Moles, however, never achieved the success of Nichols because he was unwilling to tour and leave his family behind. In fact, Moles turned down a multi-year contract with Capitol Records. Nichols, on the other hand, performed with such legendary stars as Lefty Frizzell, Wynn Stewart, and finally for twenty-two years with Merle Haggard.
Another reason for the popularity of the Bakersfield Sound was radio and television. KUZZ radio broadcast could be heard up and down the San Joaquin Valley. Meanwhile, Cousin Herb and his Trading Post Gang could be seen every week on KERO-TV. Folks tuned in even from the Central Coast and Fresno to watch the show. The guest talent on the Trading Post Gang was every bit as good as what Nashville was producing at the time. Entertainers such as Joe and Rose Lee Maphis, Dallas Frazier, and Barbara Mandrell performed on the show and for some it was their springboard to stardom. Cousin Herb Henson hosted the show for ten years until his untimely death at the age of 39 on November 26, 1963. I have long argued that the Bakersfield Sound would have been much more popular if Cousin Herb had lived longer. This, of course, may or may not be true.
But, Henson's replacement was a success in his own right. Billy Mize began playing on KBAK's The Chuck Wagon Gang in the 1950s with Cliff Crofford. He had already begun performing on the Trading Post Gang when Cousin Herb had his fatal heart attack. Mize then took over as host of the show. In fact, Mize also hosted Gene Autry's Melody Ranch for a number of years. For two years, he even hosted both shows racking up over 3,000 miles per week driving between Bakersfield and Los Angeles. Billy Mize won the Academy of Country Music's TV Personality of Year from 1965-1967. Mize recorded for Columbia, Decca, United Artists, Zodiac and other record labels. However, he like many of the Bakersfield Sound crowd was an excellent songwriter. Vern Gosdin reached #1 on the country music charts with Just Enough to Keep Me Hangin' On, a song credited to Mize. Dean Martin also recorded three of his songs including Terrible Tangled Web.
Songwriting is an important part of the Bakersfield Sound equation. The poetic writings matched with the instrumentation are what made it a success. One songwriter that cannot go unmentioned is Dallas Frazier. Frazier is thought of as one of the all-time great songwriters having composed songs that have been hits in several genres. He got his start at a children's talent show in 1952 that was hosted by Ferlin Husky. From that point, he became a member of Husky's band, and began appearing on Cousin Herb's Trading Post Gang. It was from that association that he learned to play guitar being taught his first chords by another band member, Tommy Collins. Frazier, who spent most of his career working in Nashville, wrote hits such as Alley Oop, There Goes My Everything, and Elvira. Artists such as Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, Eddy Arnold, Willie Nelson, The Beach Boys, Charley Pride, and George Jones recorded his songs. In 1976, Frazier was named Country Music Songwriter of the Year. He has also been inducted into the National Songwriter's Hall of Fame.