After 13 years, seven albums, one reissue, one Spain-only vinyl release, three vinyl 7-inches, six American tours, one Japanese tour and enough rock 'n' roll lifestyle for you, me and Keith Richards.... The Dragons have called it quits. Lead vocalist Mario Escovedo has been working on his solo album, with the help of drummer Jarrod Lucas. Bassist Steve Rodriguez is busy with his shoe company, TUK Wholesale. After the band's three remaining shows-September 17 at the Casbah, plus one in L.A. and one in Las Vegas (natch)-guitarist Ken Mochikoshi Horne will return home to Japan. Come bittersweetly pump fists with the whole San Diego music scene at their final show.
"I had collected weekly radio surveys in my youth and somehow managed to save them for 30 years," remarked David Leonard, author of a new book Aircheck: The Story of Top 40 Radio in San Diego. "When eBay came along, I would surf the categories of things that might appeal to me. I came across a page listing Top-40 radio, and in time, some San Diego station surveys were offered. I started buying them for nostalgic purposes and to grow my humble collection."
That radio ephemera now forms the visual heart of Leonard's book. The minutely detailed information isn't for the casual reader, as Leonard makes little attempt to spin the information into any sort of narrative. But for music history buffs, the info is fascinating, including the minutiae of San Diego radio stations and their promotions, plus detailed information on pretty much every DJ who ever spun a platter over the air. It also includes radio signal coverage maps, in case you've ever wondered which stations can be heard in which communities.
In his research, Leonard says he "exhausted Internet and published resources," and then contacted former on-air personalities and management staff at radio stations-present and past-to flesh out the information.
"It was amazing how willing and open they were to talk about their radio experiences," Leonard said. At that point, he still had no intention of writing a book on the subject, but the sensitivity of time and compelling nature of the stories led his hand. Many of the old radio pros he interviewed died either before he had a chance to glean their stories, or passed away soon after.
"My inspiration came [directly] from developing access to radio personalities, hearing stories that were worthy of documenting and realizing that the time was running out to have an opportunity to get their story or perspective about the events from the 1950s through 1970s," Leonard explained. "Plus, [collecting the information] was fun, and still is."
Leonard, who is still an avid follower of radio, cites one major difference between the airwaves then and now.
"You will find that during the era Aircheck covers-given the size of San Diego, station coverages, contests and format advances-radio air personalities had star power that was not experienced anywhere else. Completely the opposite in San Diego today." For more info on Aircheck, go to home.earthlink.net/~leonarddla.
Soul to Soul
"I'm trying as much as possible on my project to involve San Diegans," said David Peck, the Grammy-nominated co-owner of San Diego's rare music video purveyor Reelin' in the Years Productions. "People like [CityBeat art director] Tom Gulotta have done graphics, Randy Hoffman has taken photographs, [and] we use local studios. It's something we take pride in and try to do whenever possible."
Taking localism a notch higher, Peck has brought blues singer Earl Thomas into the studio to record a new theme song to conclude an updated version of legendary '70s documentary Soul to Soul, which showcases some of the era's top American soul acts, as well as a performance by Santana in Ghana and a live scene with Ike & Tina Turner that Peck says is "so raunchy, I thought we'd have to slap on an advisory sticker."
"The original closing credits were maybe a minute long," Peck said, noting that after working on the updated version, there was a much longer cast of characters to thank. In doing research for the film, Peck discovered that there was a song called "Soul to Soul" that wasn't in the film, but was included on a version of the soundtrack that had long been out of print.
"We wanted to make a song that didn't sound out of place in the film, and that also contains elements of the music heard in the film," Peck explained. "It had to be exciting, with a little Latin funk, a little soul, a bit of gospel. Earl Thomas was the perfect choice."
Others heard on the track recorded at Signature Sound Studios include Four Eyes members Larry Grano and Mark DeCerbo, as well as former Bride of Funkenstein Janice Edwards.
"I was after this [film] for years," Peck explained. "There were a lot of artist [release forms] and so on to deal with, but it was more than worth it. I think this film really covers an important moment in African-American history. It needed to be out there for the world to see."
This week, Reelin' in The Years also releases the third volume of their award-winning American Folk Blues Festival series, featuring the likes of Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy.
It's still not too late to cast a vote for your favorites at this year's San Diego Music Awards. Anyone can vote online at www.sdmusicawards.com. Voting ends Sept. 15. Performers have also been named for this year's awards ceremony, held Sept. 28 at Humphrey's by the Bay: The Album Leaf, Deep Rooted featuring Mr. Brady & Johaz, Tristan Prettyman, AJ Croce, The Locust, and Scarlet Symphony. Also, on the bill are Lifetime Achievement Award recipients-jazz saxophonist Charles McPherson and bluegrass legends the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers, which featured a pre-Byrds Chris Hillman. New this year to the awards hoopla is The PB & Jam San Diego Music Festival being held Sept. 26. Nearly 60 local bands including Steve Poltz, The Accident Experiment, Common Sense, Hot Like A Robot, Buckfast Superbee, Goodbye Blue Monday, Momma, Irradio, Agua Dulce, Berkley Hart, Al Howard And the K23 Orchestra, The Q, This Holiday Life, The Shambles and Able Minded Poets will play at 12 clubs throughout Pacific Beach, all for the low price of 10 bones. www.sdmusicawards.com
Scariest piece of artist merchandise making the rounds right now? Why that would be Down There thongs marketed by acoustic troubadour, Dave Howard.
Jason Mraz continues his domination of the TV airwaves this week, with a Sept. 10 appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, followed by a spot on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live later that same day. He'll then play a full set on PBS's Austin City Limits Sept. 11.
Mark DeCerbo and the newly reconstituted Four Eyes turn up on KUSI Sept. 12.
They were once Vertibird and now-after threat of lawsuit by Mattel, who had a helicopter toy of the same name in the 1970s-they're Momma. But the music remains the same great melodic indie rock. The trio will host a CD-release party for their debut album Copter Sept. 11 at Java Joe's. Bassist Jack Reynolds is also now moonlighting with the Truckee Brothers.
Singer-songwriter Liz Janes has a new album out this month, Poison & Snakes, and has contributed artwork to a new book of poetry, Cowboy Psalms and Fat Haikus from her husband and Soul-Junk member, Michael Kaufmann. The album was inspired by the poems, so it's a full circle project.
Three One G Records' upcoming Birthday Party tribute album, The Birthday Party as Heard Through the Meat Grinder of Three One G, will include locals such as Cattle Decapitation, Kill Me Tomorrow and The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower as well as national noisemakers Birdland, Melt Banana and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Black Heart Procession frontman Pall Jenkins has a new side project called Mr. Tube and the Flying Objects. It sounds a bit like a distorto mariachi band with an impressive Cabaret Voltaire collection, playing the seedy parts of Tijuana. Good? We're not committing. Interesting? Yes. www.mrtube.com. In related news, Three Mile Pilot, the one-time San Diego champs that included members of Black Heart and Pinback, will be recording a new album that will probably be released on Touch & Go Records later this year or early next.
Louis XIV had a successful tour with band du jour, The Killers. Reportedly the Las Vegas chart-toppers dug the ex-Convoy garage rockers so much that they invited them out on another series of dates. In related news, Louis XIV frontdudes Brian Karscig and Jason Hill are expanding their Pineapple Recordings operation, adding a few new rooms to their existing studios and also serving as an indie record label. The first release on Pineapple Recording Group will be local band Emery Byrd-the self-titled EP sounds damn good, fake Limey accents and sweet-toned harmonies and all. If HillScig continue such work, San Diego's next "sound" will sound a lot like a pub in Liverpool. Hill and Karscig also hope to put out a future record by Texas' Deathray Davies.
Who says liberal punks aren't patriotic? M-Theory Records (whose owner sports a very anti-Republican-looking mohawk) is doing its part to get its loyal hipster patrons off their asses and vote. If having a say on who sends troops to war isn't enough, through Sept. 30 the South Park record store is offering a 20-percent discount on non-sale items to anyone who brings in proof that they've registered to vote.