One month after their opening in December of 2015, the board of directors of the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame unwittingly started a bit of a controversy when announcing the first group of musicians to be recognized: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Billy Mize, Red Simpson and Bonnie Owens.
Is it the Bakersfield Country Music Hall of Fame?
The Hall of Fame is answering the question with next Wednesday's next group of honorees, which include two jazz musicians (one of whom is also recognized as a classical music composer), one of the Metropolitan Opera's most revered performers, a multi-Grammy Award-winning nu metal band, and two country music performers.
So, it's the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame.
Hall executive director Kim McAbee Carter, known as the "World's Only Buckarette" for her work with Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, said she and other board members had conducted a lot of research to augment the many recommendations that were made to come up with the initial list of musicians with a Bakersfield connection that should be recognized.
"It was a lot of education," Carter said. "With all the names that had come in and with all that I had researched we had 17 people that we could put forward."
Carter said the entire list was sent to the hall's membership, who were asked to vote for five. The "winners" of that poll were, understandably, those who had created the Bakersfield Sound and had been recognized nationally, and internationally.
But Carter didn't want to ignore the remaining 12 artists on the list.
"Instead of eliminating, we put forward the first five and then put the rest of the 12 up for this first class," Carter said.
Wednesday's honorees are Lawrence Tibbett, the reigning baritone at the Metropolitan Opera during the 1930s and '40s; Susan Raye, Buck Owens' duet partner, a "Hee-Haw" regular and successful solo artist; Don Rich, a founding member of the Buckaroos, Buck Owens' music director and co-writer of several of Owens' hits; the Grammy Award-winning, platinum-record-selling nu metal band, Korn; jazz musician, composer and educator Doug Davis, who also co-founded and produced the Bakersfield Jazz Festival for 30 years; and jazz guitarist Mary Osborne, one of the pioneers of electric jazz guitar in the 1940s and '50s.
Of course, for me and my family, it is always nice to see our mother (Osborne) remembered, especially in the community she made her home. Carter said she is pleased by the diversity of musical genres represented by the group and even more pleased by the addition of live music at the ceremony — Susan Raye, Doug Davis and members of my family will all perform, and Carter is working on including more.
"It would already be fabulous, but that there will be these performances makes it really special," Carter said.
Carter said that was a missed opportunity for the ceremony in January.
"We opened our doors before Merle passed, before Red Simpson passed," Carter said. "Red was supposed to come but he wasn't feeling good."
No, the members of Korn are not expected to attend.
Carter said the hall plans to induct the remaining members of the inaugural class some time in November. They are Jean Shepherd, Larry Daniels, Tommy Collins, Ken Nelson and "Cousin Herb" Henson, all pioneers of the Bakersfield Sound; and blues man and a founder of "modern soul" Luther Davis. After that, it will be time to identify more musicians to be recognized for their accomplishments.
Carter said while there is no list of criteria, she is looking for people who have made, or are making, a significant contribution to music.
"This is to honor the past, the present and the future," Carter said. "The 'Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame' already makes a pretty big statement."
"(The honor roll) needs to be people who bring attention to Bakersfield from all over the nation and internationally," Carter said.