Merle's song Kern River tells the story of the drowning of a friend in the treacherous river, that some call the Killer Kern. The river narrows when it comes out of the mouth of Kern Canyon onto the flat desert NE of Bakersfield. The flow speed increases. But the river looks peaceful on the surface. To beat the summer heat of Kern County (temperatures of 110 to 120) many people enter the river. 7 to 10 people drown there every year. Down stream are rapids with large rocks and fast water currents. One time my nephew and I were caught in the rapids. I did not think that we were going to get out of the river alive. We came very close to being killed. So Merle's song hits me with that terrifying memory.
Years later I lived in Oildale and worked out of the Schlumberger shop at 34th and L in Bakersfield. I would sometimes stop for coffee/grub at the the Blackboard Cafe. The Cafe was a couple of blocks away from the shop on Union Avenue. Union Avenue is the main route between Oildale and Bakersfield. The Cafe was an Okie, Cowboy, Oilfield Worker night club. The Cafe was prominent in the development of the country music style called Bakersfield Sound. (twangy) This was largely through the efforts of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. They sang there during the time my family and I were living in Oildale. The Cafe was torn down in the seventies for the building of the Kern County Museum.
Kern River might be my favorite country song. Merle is my favorite country singer.