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The book title is enticing enough: "Honky-Tonk Tourist: The Night Buck Owens Almost Got Me Killed." Just know it's a bit of a stretch.
Dan Epstein's book weaves through several musical topics but centers on a 1999 trip to Bakersfield to see Buck Owens perform at the Crystal Palace that then goes "horribly awry" when he and his friends take a side trip to Trout's.
The 36-page e-book (which went on sale Tuesday for $2.46 on Amazon and $1.99 in Apple's iBookstore) is part of Rhino Records' Single Notes book series. Epstein is a longtime Southern California music journalist, and his book description reads:
"In this amusing and bittersweet tale of musical obsession, Dan Epstein looks back on the ever-evolving role that country music has played in his life since he first discovered it as a child via Buck Owens and 'Hee Haw.' The story culminates with a pilgrimage to see Owens himself at his Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, a trip that goes horribly awry and forces the writer to confront some harsh truths about his notions of 'authenticity,' and his relationship with country music in general."
Specifically, the "horribly awry" part deals with Epstein's belief biker types at Trout's were preparing to harm his group because a woman at the bar had asked whether they were gay.
The threat of violence may have been real -- and Epstein describes his fears in vivid detail -- but Epstein admits his friends thought he was "being totally paranoid" as he hurried them from the bar to their car.
They left without incident, but a week later learn Oildale has a reputation for "white power" and that the area near Trout's had been the site of a "gay-bashing" assault.
Fourteen years later, Epstein asks:
"Did I save my friends and myself from becoming another Kern County statistic? We'll never know, but I'm pretty sure that Hoss and those bikers weren't going to come over and ask us if we liked Merle Haggard or Buck Owens better."