When I spoke to Vince Gill earlier this year about “Bakersfield,” his album saluting the songs of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, he mentioned that the supporting tour would bring him and his collaborator on the album, steel guitarist Paul Franklin, to the city the collection was named for.
I asked whether they’d be performing in the most obvious place: Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace. Gill was plainly sad to say no, that they’d be playing the nearby Rabobank Theater to accommodate more people. The Crystal Palace holds only about 600; the Rabobank Theater seats 3,000.
As it turns out, Gill and Franklin were able to spend a portion of their visit to Bakersfield on Friday at the club and restaurant that Owens opened in 1996 for a special program organized by the Grammy Foundation, the Grammy Museum and Gill’s label, MCA Nashville.
A couple of hours ahead of their formal concert, the two held court for a question-and-answer session and mini-performance moderated by Scott Goldman, vice president of the Grammy Foundation’s MusiCares program that assists musicians in need.
Goldman said he had lobbied the pair to visit the Grammy Museum while they were in Southern California, but their schedules couldn’t accommodate the detour. So Goldman decided that “we could bring the museum to them and do it here,” at the Crystal Palace.
The hourlong session before a few dozen museum donors, reporters and friends of the Crystal Palace was put on video, like those regularly conducted at the museum itself downtown near Staples Center, and will soon be made available for viewing by students, visitors, scholars, journalists and others.
Both men spoke eloquently about the impact the recordings of Owens and Haggard had on them as kids, and the way their appreciation for that music just deepened the more their own experience and knowledge grew.
Franklin said he got his first steel guitar when he was 8½, because it was his father’s favorite instrument, along with a copy of a Buck Owens album, also given to him by his father, with the advice, “Here’s how it’s supposed to sound.”
Between his and Gill’s stripped-down duo performances of Owens’ “Together Again” and Haggard’s “I Can’t Be Myself,” Gill stated, “In my opinion -- and I get to have one -- this was the best era in country music history.”
A full report on Friday’s concert, during which Gill, Franklin and Gill's band performed all 10 songs from the "Bakersfield" album, is coming in Calendar on Monday.
Twitter: @RandyLewis2Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times