Saturday, Apr 06 2013 09:00 AM

Man behind Palace concerts takes his own bow at ACMs

BY MATT MUNOZ Californian staff writer mmunoz@bakersfield.com

Jerry Hufford's knack for booking hot acts at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace is being honored Sunday in Las Vegas by the Academy of County Music. But to hear the humble talent buyer tell it, most of the credit for his achievement goes to the country legend whose name graces the Bakersfield venue.

"I'm fortunate to have one of the 'gig of gigs,' where 95 percent of all country artists want to play our venue at some point in their career," said Hufford, 53. "It's not always about money or timing; these artists want to be here."

Hufford learned he'd been named the Don Romero talent buyer of the year last week, his first such industry award.

"You get nominated and you get excited," said Hufford during a phone interview Friday from Vegas, where the country music industry had been celebrating awards week.

"I didn't think I was going to win. It's pretty amazing. I literally sat at my desk kind of stunned, 'Really? Me?' But again, it's not about me, I work for a great organization and venue. This is the venue's award too. I get to say I'm the talent buyer, but there are a lot of people that work there who allow us to do what we do. I'm just the first contact."

Hufford estimates he's booked more than 500 ticketed shows at the Crystal Palace since the nightclub opened in 1996.

"As the venue gets older, we're learning how the market changes and what decisions will help support the venue. This market is pretty cool right now. One day you have the Mavericks and Blackberry Smoke, the next day you have Old Crow Medicine Show completely sell out the place. It's all about the people buying the tickets who are saying they want a little bit of everything."

Hufford will be joined at ceremony by his wife, Mathy, and 5-year old son Waylon.

"I don't think Waylon knows he's going to an awards show, but he hasn't kept quiet about this for weeks. He's ready to come to Vegas. Their credentials are right here waiting for them."

Hufford isn't the only victor in the Buck Owens family of businesses. KUZZ has again won the radio award for its market category. Buck Owens' Productions CEO and general manager Mel Owens attended a ceremony in Vegas on Saturday to collect that award.

Alas, the Crystal Palace didn't fare as well. After being selected nightclub of the year in the past, the venue lost this year to Joe's Bar in Chicago.

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