As Dwight Yoakam watched the Terminator 2 scene that features his song Guitars, Cadillacs, he noted an odd coincidence.
The bar in which the scene took place had hosted his music before.
That was filmed in a place called the Corral its torn down now in Lakeview Terrace, right out in the foothill area of the northeast end of the (San Fernando) Valley, Yoakam said. Its an old cop-cowboy bar out there, and I played there for almost a year.
In the scene, the buffed cyborg played by Arnold Schwarzenegger enters the honky tonk bar naked. Then, as Yoakams song plays on a jukebox, the Terminator walks up to a pool-playing biker and matter-of-factly says, I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle. A fight ensues and the cyborg emerges from the bar with a leather outfit just in time for George Thorogoods Bad to the Bone to kick in.
While that scene is perhaps the most memorable from T2 and from Schwarzeneggers storied action film career its memorable to Yoakam because he played the Corral three nights a week when he was trying to break through as a country act in Los Angeles.
In fact, Delaney Bramlett came in the night that John Lennon was killed and sat in with me because he wanted to sing a Beatles song, said Yoakam, who will headline the Pozo Stampede on Saturday.
It was appropriate that his first foray into film would include Guitars, Cadillacs, a semi-autobiographical tune about his time in Los Angeles.
I was in L.A., wandering around, Yoakam said by phone. Id been here nine years, driving air-freight trucks, furniture-moving trucks, trying to get somebody to notice the music.
While Yoakam has always been a traditional country music singer, his career has not been so traditional. Hes a country singer in L.A. who acts in movies and got his start sharing the bills with punk acts.
Ive often said I was born in Kentucky, raised in Ohio and grew up in California, he said.
Having first picked up a guitar at age 6, Yoakam grew up playing music. And after a short stint at Ohio State University, Yoakam inspired by acts such as Buck Owens and Merle Haggard decided to pursue a career in country music.
But in the era of crossover acts like Kenny Rogers and Johnny Paycheck, Nashville wasnt interested in Yoakams old-school twang. So he and a guitar-playing friend moved to Los Angeles, hoping the West Coast would welcome them like they welcomed Emmylou Harris.
He left after about three months, Yoakam said. I didnt have a car and stayed.
While he was inspired by the so-called Bakersfield Sound that Owens, a Bakersfield native, made popular, Yoakam made L.A. his base.
Ironically, the Bakersfield Sound was recorded 90 percent of it, anyway in Hollywood, at Capitol Studios on Vine Street, he said. So it really is Greater Bakersfield.
After years of toiling around L.A., he finally landed a record deal, releasing the album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. in 1986. His first single a cover of the Johnny Horton song Honky Tonk Man seemed to announce his arrival to those in Nashville who had rejected him.
Yoakam suggested that might have played into his decision to record the song. But mostly, he said, it was his admiration for the original.
Since I was a kid, I was really taken with Johnny Horton, said Yoakam, who had covered several Horton songs live before then. We cut that track and it was pretty swinging.
The song was the first of 14 top-10 hits, which would also include Little Ways, I Sang Dixie and Youre the One.
While Yoakam was making inroads into country music, he also had cred with the punk and rock communities. Part of it had to do with his rock covers, including Little Sister by Elvis Presley, Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen and Train in Vain by the Clash.
Meanwhile, his hit cover of the Blasters song Long White Cadillac was a nod to his days with punk crowds and acts.
They dubbed it, at the time, cowpunk, Yoakam said. The punk era had morphed into New Wave by 82 or 83, and some of the kids who were former punk rockers decided hillbilly music was kind of cool.
While having his song in T2 was his first involvement in film, it wouldnt be his last. After achieving fame as a musician,
Yoakamwho had participated in drama in high schoolbegan appearing in films.
He received some of his best early accolades as an abusive drunk in the 1996 film Sling Blade, written and directed by Billy Bob Thornton.
I was the least likely person to be a bully, he said with a laugh.
Though he hasnt released an album since 2007s Dwight Sings Buck, a tribute to Owens, new Yoakam music is on the way.
Im hoping to record this summer or fall for something thats out next year, he said. Im writing a lot.
Hes also been working with alternative rocker Beck on a project. And hes still acting. One project has him teaming up with Thornton again.
Billy wrote a new screenplay titled Jane Mansfields Car, he said. And its supposed to star myself, Billy Bob and Dennis Quaid as three brothers in 1969, who are ex-World War II vets wrestling with their own families and lives on a large cattle ranch in western Alabama.
He and Thornton have also worked together musically. Both performed backing vocals for The Wind, the album Warren Zevon made in 2003 as he was dying of cancer.
He did a lot of recording at Billy Bob Thorntons home studio, Yoakam remembered. And we were there one night and Billy said, Youve got to listen to this. It was after everybody had left, and he pulled up Knocking On Heavens Door. It was Warren doing it, and (Thornton) said, That tears you up.
Reach Patrick S. Pemberton at 781-7903.