Page 1 of 1

Big Fresno Barn

Posted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:13 am
by Drakonyx
Did anyone attend the dances and shows at the Big Fresno Barn out on Shields? I'm told the building itself is still there, though it's long closed. Apparently some very big names in country music played there during the '50s. Any information about this?

*Note from admin: Newspaper clipping added from 1953 showing Big Fresno Barn ad.

Re: Big Fresno Barn

Posted: Sun Oct 27, 2013 9:59 am
by roland.jones559
I'm too young to have gone to the Big Fresno Barn Dance (I call the old Fresno Barn), but I've heard of its history and lore all my life. The building probably won't be standing much longer because of its dilapidated condition. The roof is clearly sagging, but I'm sure that the roof isn't the worst of the problems that makes it unsafe to even go near the building. I believe that the old Fresno Barn was once the home stage for Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys when he was based in Fresno (1945 - 47).

Bob Wills was one of the biggest entertainers in America and the best musicians in the country followed him wherever he was based, so it significantly enhanced the talent pool in the Central Valley and many historians credit Bob Wills for the early roots of the Bakersfield Sound. He clearly was the primary influence for the two most famous artists associated with Bakersfield Sound... Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. Hag still includes Bob Wills songs in his concerts. The location of the old Fresno Barn is somewhat desolate. That part of Shields avenue is not busy, so it feels like a deserted and lonely ghost town, but the spirit of what it once was remains. It feels like hallowed ground to me when I stand and look at it from off the road. All the great Country artists of their day played there, but knowing that among them were also the elite artists like Hank Williams sr., Bob Wills, Merle Travis, Hank Snow, Ray Foley, Tex Ritter, and Ray Price have been on the stage of the old Barn makes it almost sacred to me. I usually wonder if Merle Haggard has his tour bus driver roll by to see if it's still standing whenever he is performing in our area.

I'll admit to growing up never wanting to be in the Beatles or Rolling Stones... I dreamed of being a Stranger, or Buckaroo. So my attachment to that old building probably goes a little deeper than most of the world that passes by it not even knowing that Joe Maphis performed "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (and Loud Loud Music)" in that building on his Mosrite guitar, a song he wrote, that has now been recorded by countless artists and the best descriptor of the Bakersfield Sound than anything you will find in a book. Junior Bernard, Don Rich, Maddox Brothers and Rose, Johnny Russel all were there and probably roamed around the property when it was a jumping place. I'm baffled that there isn't common knowledge of the Old Fresno Barn's rich history its historical significance to this are and to Country music.

They called it Nashville West in Nashville because it was on the schedule of every Country artist when they played the West Coast. That Old Barn had around 2000 people show up for their dances! You would think it would be easier to find information about it, but it just isn't so. That said, I did find a gold mine of information on a Web site titled "www.corralitoshistory.com" which is a site that provides historical information about the town of Corralitos in the Santa Cruz mountains. Incredibly, they have devoted a section of their site to the memories of Dave and Vi Stogner. Many people might remember Dave Stogner as a heavyweight in the Western Swing era, but he also was somewhat of the manager of the old Fresno Barn Dance. His band, Dave Stogner and the Western Rhythmaires became the house band at the old Barn in 1951, and he booked all the talent there and other valley venues. Dave Stogner seemed to be a detail oriented person and the detail he provides in the memoir is unequaled in anything else I have ever found anywhere other than from the oral history of the people I knew and would talk about the old Barn.

I was fortunate to know Harley Huggins and he took an interest in me because I was church musician. Harely passed away before my interest in the great Bob Wills and the Old Fresno Barn began to grow and I regret not being a better listener when he would share his glory days. However, Dave Stogner's memoirs are so vivid in their description that my regret about not being a better listener as a kid is all but faded away. If you are interested, start in chapter 3, go down mid-way on the page, and you will find incredible information about the old Barn. Here is the URL http://www.corralitoshistory.com/daveStogner_03.html You might have to past it into address bar if it doesn't appear as a hyperlink. I'm also attaching a picture I took of the old Barn not too long ago.

Re: Big Fresno Barn

Posted: Sat Feb 11, 2017 7:30 am
by Sue LaFleur
My parents took me a few times to the Old Fresno Barn. First time I saw Merle Haggard there. Remember standing right in front of him and think wow what a voice. Probably not more than 50 people there. Met Buck Owen's there also. My aunt Voni Morrison and Johnny Russell wrote Act Naturally. Back then Imena Phillips owned the Barn. My Mom would sell tickets, and my Dad was bartender in the bar. I would stay with my mom and check in coats. Those were very fond memories.

Re: Big Fresno Barn

Posted: Sun Feb 26, 2017 2:16 pm
by roland.jones559
Great memories. Thanks for sharing. I always like to hear stories of the old Barn.

Re: Big Fresno Barn

Posted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 7:02 pm
by John Kennedy sr
I grew up going to the big Fresno barn great memory. Also meet my wife Peggy there we 13 years old. Peggy and her mother lived with Mr. Phillips who owner of the barn that 1970 - 1972. My father and 4 of my bothers go weekly to dance. The house band was the Ragsdale family. The best I can remember that was 49 1/2 years ago. Also seen Earnest Tubbs, Buck Owens Little Jimmy Dickens. So many great memories great stories family fun. John Kennedy

Re: Big Fresno Barn

Posted: Sun Sep 08, 2019 6:04 pm
by josh moore
My great grand parents owned the barn and my mother is the last grand child we know of phillis phillips.

Re: Big Fresno Barn

Posted: Mon Sep 16, 2019 8:33 pm
by Clmarshjr
I grew up in Fresno in the 50s and 60s and spent many Saturday nights at the Big Fresno Barn. Dave Stogner was the standard band most of the time. The list of big names that played there is huge. It is very sad to see the old barn ready to fall down just standing in a dirt field.

Re: Big Fresno Barn

Posted: Thu Sep 19, 2019 11:22 am
by Scott Whitney
Been watching the Ken Burns "Country Music" documentary. I've done some research and learned Bob Wills, ringleader of the Texas Playboys used to play the Big Fresno Barn all the time when he resided in Fresno. (late 40's)

His home with 80 acres called the "BBB Ranch" was located at 6410 E. Clinton. (about a mile east of the Fresno Air Terminal - AKA Yosemite Airport) Bob's ranch was literally walking distance from the home I raised my children in.

I found some articles from 2013 indicating Granville Homes bought the property with plans to demolish the home and build new houses. A group of Fresno citizens was attempting to save the home by having it moved to another location. Does anyone know if this small piece of Fresno history was saved, or has it been lost to another cookie cutter housing tract? So much of Fresno history has been demolished. Sad.

Re: Big Fresno Barn

Posted: Wed Oct 16, 2019 11:08 am
by Lost Fresno
A couple of pictures for the Big Fresno Barn including a nice shot of the exterior and a great vintage sign.

Re: Big Fresno Barn

Posted: Mon Aug 31, 2020 12:19 pm
by Will
Does anyone know what year that Merle Haggard and Bonnie Owens took the stage at the Big Fresno Barn? I have found a banner that states Dec. 30, Merle and Bonnie were playing for $3.00 "New Years Eve" party entrance fee. I'm thinking Dec. 30 must of been friday or sat night...this would put it either 67-68 or 72-73? Does anyone happend to know what year Merle and Bonnie played a Dec. 30 show at the Big Fresno Barn????