They wanted to rename a street after Red Simpson, but the people who live on Hart Street in Oildale didn't want to go to the trouble of changing their addresses.
Red Simpson, no doubt, would have understood entirely. This was as humble and unpretentious a man as ever walked North Chester Avenue, even though he could have been forgiven the occasional boast considering his ample talents, songwriting credits and significant role in developing the Bakersfield Sound.
Still, Red never made a fuss over himself. His friends, however, are another story.
The group that launched the effort to move Merle Haggard's boyhood home to Kern Pioneer Village will unveil a bronze monument to Simpson at Rasmussen Senior Center in Oildale on March 6, what would have been the 83rd birthday of the singer/songwriter, who died early last year.
Buck and Merle can have their streets. The senior center is more Red: People, laughter, music, dancing, conversation, commotion, kind of like the barrooms where he started his career, only instead of rowdy cotton pickers or roughnecks on Saturday night, these are retired grandparents — some even great or great-great — on Tuesday morning.
"I used to dance to Red back in the 1950 and '60s," said Charles Vaughn, 90, enjoying the country music concert at Rasmussen on Tuesday. "It was at the 21 Club and I can't think of the other place."
Carrying on for Simpson at Rasmussen are his son and daughter-in-law, David and Dawna Simpson, who get the seasoned crowd two-stepping and line-dancing with the help of several musicians like Tommy Moore, Ed Rogers and Bob Osborn.
"I’ve only been singing about three years now," said David Simpson, 57. "I lived back east but I needed to come out and take care of my father before it was too late. I started learning the songs. Dad showed me different songs to get people up to dance. If they’re not dancing, they’re not happy."
Simpson, his wife and friends sing a lot of the standards of the Bakersfield Sound and, of course, many of the standards of the Bakersfield Sound were written by none other than Red Simpson.
"Red was just Red — how can I say it," said Wilma Weaver, a striking woman of 84, who saw Simpson perform both at the senior center and barrooms of old. "This place is not a honky-tonk. They had to get half boozed up to get there and now they just hobble in."
Now that Haggard's home is at the county museum and the tribute to Simpson is in the works, sisters Di Sharman and Glenda Rankin are tentatively taking a next step in their mission to celebrate Bakersfield Sound musicians, but it's a big one: bronze signs, like Red's, all over the place to denote historic faces and places of the music scene.
What if Bakersfield and Kern County were to emulate other areas of the country that have drawn tourism by promoting the thing that makes them unique?
Kern County Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt mentioned the idea when Sharman approached her about the since-abandoned plan to rename the street for Simpson.
"We could create a map," Oviatt told The Californian in December. "They could go on a Bakersfield Sound trail — different places, different restaurants, microbreweries, send people to the Crystal Palace. And it could be all the things you could do in a day. They got very excited."
And when these ladies get excited — their husbands get nervous.
"It's still in the planning stages," Sharman said. "We'll definitely get together with other people who are just as passionate about preserving our country heritage. However, our husbands have said this cannot consume your lives for five years like the Merle Haggard boxcar did."
Back at the Rasmussen Center, the cheerful combo of Diane Hooper and Mishelle Ulrich had their hands full Tuesday morning with an audit, a construction project and dozens of active seniors.
"There's music five days a week," Hooper said, "mainly country music but a deejay comes one day and we've had big band. We really need more men for dancing."
Weaver seconds that.
"Not too many prospects out there," she said, motioning to a few dancers as Bob Osborn sang "Lucky Old Colorado," an achingly pretty ballad by Simpson.
Ulrich noted that the somewhat cramped quarters where the concerts temporarily are being performed means some music lovers can't get in. That will change March 6 — the day of the sign unveiling — when the music room, currently being refurbished, opens.
The public is invited to attend the ceremony, at 9 a.m., and stick around for the music, dancing and lunch — it's deep pit that day.
"We didn’t get the street, but the bronze sign is an honor for my dad," Simpson said. "He took care of the seniors."