Music: Strictly by Ear

A cold California fog hung over San Joaquin Valley. Inside Beardsley's dance hall, near Bakersfield, the air was steaming with the exertions of 1,358 oil workers and farmers as they jived, jumped, or just jogged to the music. The men were mostly tieless; the fruit-cannery girls they danced with were mostly in sweaters and slacks. On the platform, Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys tapped their pointed, hand-stitched boots, and plunked and blew their way through Take Me Back to Tulsa. On benches lining the walls, babies in blankets slept through it all.

The Bakersfield dance last week was something special: Bob...

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