M.U.S.E. had the great opportunity at the 2014 Los Angeles Film FestivalÂ to sit down with director of the documentary, Billy Mize and the Bakersfield Sound, Joe Saunders. We have a conversation about the film, the importance of Bakersfield country music and the influence of Billy Mize and other artistsÂ that can still be heard in country music to this day.
Billy Mize and the Bakersfield Sound is about Billy Mize‘s contributions to country western music helped shape the industry. His charm and golden voice are legendary among country music’s elite as is his passion for music. A performer on the brink of fame, his is a spectacular tale about identity and sacrifice in the music industry woven between acts of personal inspiration and horrible tragedy. In short, Billy Mize‘s story needs to be told.
Billy Mize (Born William Robert Mize on April 29, 1929 in Arkansas City, Kansas) is a steel guitarist, band leader, vocalist, songwriter, and TV show host.
He was raised in the San Joaquin Valley of California, an area steeped in country music thanks to relocated Okies and other southerners headed for the gold in them there hills out west. He originally learned to play guitar as a child, but fell in love with the steel guitar he received for his 18th birthday.
He moved to Bakersfield, California and formed his own band playing local gigs and also working as a disc jockey on KPMC. In 1953, he, Bill Woods and Herb Henson put together a local TV show called The Cousin Herb Trading Post Show on KERO-TV Bakersfield, where he became affectionately known as Billy The Kid. The signal from that show was so strong the show could be seen as far as Fresno, all the way over to the central coast and Los Angeles.
The show was wildly popular because it not only featured fledgling acts such as Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Tommy Collins, Jean Shepard, Bonnie Owens, Ferlin Husky, but many national acts such as Hank Williams and Patsy Cline. He stayed with the show for thirteen years. In 1955 he began to appear on the Hank Penny Show on Los Angeles television and by 1957 he was working on seven different weekly shows in the LA area, including the Hank Penny Show, Cal Worthington Show, Country Music Time and the legendary Town Hall Party.
He recorded for Decca (Solid Sender/It Could happen – 1957), Challenge and Liberty, finally hitting the country charts in 1966 with You Can’t Stop Me for Columbia. That year he began hosting and performing on Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch network show on KTLA as well as starting his own syndicated Billy Mize Show from Bakersfield. During the next decade he managed eleven chart hits as well as writing hits for others such as Who Will Buy The Wine (Charlie Walker), My Baby Walks All Over Me (Johnny Sea) and Don’t Let The Blues Make You Bad (Dean Martin). Dean Martin cut three of his songs in one day in June 1966, including “Terrible Tangled Web.”
For more information on the film please check out the film’s website billymizemovie.com on where you will be able to view this documentary. You can see our interview with Joe Saunders below.
Interview with Joe Saunders: