THE UNTOLD STORY OF CALIFORNIA COUNTRY MUSIC
AND THE HORSE IT RODE IN ON
PALOMANIA - The Palomino Club of North Hollywood (1949-1995) was the most important venue for Country Music on the West Coast, and arguably second in the U.S. only to the Grand Ole Opry. It was a mandatory stop for the biggest stars in Country Music for decades. This tiny, widely unknown club has left a lasting influence on the genre and its culture as we know it today.
Artists Hank Penny (early Western swing band leader) in the 1940s, Patsy Cline, George Jones, The Byrds, Marty Robbins, Linda Ronstadt, and Jerry Lee Lewis not only played there but considered it a musical home. Their stories, told by the surviving legends and latest generation of artists to play The Palomino Club, will take us through the ages and show the lasting influence of California culture on Country Music. These artists will show the dynamic changes in the music and style of the genre could only have happened on the West Coast. The Fender Telecaster, The Nudie Suit, the Singing Cowboys of Hollywood, and the rebellious western spirit which inspired musical performances not seen before were all ingredients in this magic recipe. The decades of art, the vibrations of spirits in the walls, the through lines and connections between young artists who met at The Pal and fell in love, the tragedy of a rock and roll plane crash and the loss of one young, promising drummer will all play a part in the story’s timeline.
Generations of musicians who made The Palomino Club what it ultimately became have passed on. The artists who remain hold hands to hearts when telling the stories of camaraderie they experienced at The Pal. These “Great Grandchildren of The Pal” are now 60 years old and more and their stories will die with them if they are not recorded now. Among these characters telling the story are Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Dave Alvin, James Intveld, Rosie Flores, Jim Lauderdale, Ronnie Mack, John Jorgenson and others.
“The Palomino is so important for so many of us and I think the world needs to know about it.” — Emmylou Harris
Many people have heard of the Laurel Canyon Sound, Cosmic Country Music, Cowpunk, Outlaw Country and The Bakersfield Sound. The Palomino was a place that allowed artists to develop and showcase these new original sub-genres and break away from the mainstream. Had it not been for the pioneering spirit of the West and the willingness of The Pal to support these game changers, the genre may not have continued to evolve.
“New York City in the 70’s had CBGB’s, San Francisco in the 60’s had The Fillmore, L.A. in the 80’s had The Palomino.” — Lucinda Williams
As the years went on and the artists continued to entertain patrons of The Pal, the wild stories of this mecca multiplied. The biggest names in Country Music would come just to watch and be part of the crowd. One could walk into the club on a Tuesday night in the 1970’s and have a dance with Hank Williams Jr., or even say hello to Governor Jerry Brown. The folks in the audience would often be more famous than the performers on stage.
Clint Eastwood at the Palomino Club during a party for the film "Any Which Way You Can," 16th July 1980.
California had been a destination for migrant workers form the dust-bowl stricken U.S. The near 100,000 new arrivals in the late 1930s and early 40s brought with them their mandolins, banjos and roots music which they played around campfires in their agricultural pop-up camps. These "Okies" found escape and joy in the honky tonks that were popping up all over the state. Artists like "The Maddox Brothers and Rose,”known as the world's most colorful hillbilly band, were directly born from this era and circumstance in California's Central Valley. This band is one of the many throughout the years who came to play The Palomino Club.
Decades of growth in the state, changes in the musical genre, Country Music going mainstream, the death of the club owners and a host of details changed the landscape of Country Music but not The Pal, which was able to survive from 1949 through 1995 through all of this. It was a home to those who played there; a networking base, a place where life-long friendships were born, heroes were worshiped, careers nurtured and developed. Had it not been for The Palomino Club of North Hollywood, Country Music would not have evolved as it did, and may not have built the huge fan base it enjoys today.
“A building is just a building without the people.” — Jim Lauderdale
The history of The Palomino and California Country is slipping through our hands as the last generation of Palomino performers are now in their 60s. This amazing Club has seen the biggest stars in Country Music come through it’s doors. The time to document this history is now, before the people who lived the stories are no longer here. These artists may not get another chance at life on the road; in and out of venues like The Pal, given the current undoing of live music and all of the wonderful venues. We treasure these artists and the music they make and simply desire to share this untold history and show how influential the Golden State, The Palomino, and the artists who played there have been throughout the years.
Please join our FB Group: PALOMANIA - The Movie!