Five years ago, half of the band died with founding guitarist Dennis Danell. Weeks after his death, as Mike Ness contemplated pulling the plug on Social Distortion, some 16,000 fans paid tribute to Danell. And a very intimidated friend was asked to fill Danell's shoes for the night. The guitarist was Jonny Wickersham, who'd first heard Social D at age 14 while locked in a youth camp after getting caught slashing tires. He used to hang with Social D with his old band, The Cadillac Tramps. Now he's partly why the band is still alive.
CityBeat: Was it an easy move for you to join the band?
It was a difficult thing to get used to doing. Finally I was able to just remind myself that Dennis was a founding member of the band and remind myself I'm just filling in. Even at this point, I still look at it that way. He was the other half of Social D, as far as we were concerned back in the day-it was Dennis and Mike, y'know?
Tell me about that first night at the memorial concert.Christy, Dennis' wife, walked up to me when we got there and, in everything she was going through, she was able to be aware of what I would be going through. Which I thought was incredible. She's got the weight of the world on her shoulders. I thought it was cool she even took a second to acknowledge that it would be a hard thing for me to do. Out of everybody-there was 16,000 people there-but she was the only one I was really concerned with. She made me feel a lot better.
Why do you think Social D's been able to thrive for so long?I think there are two major contributing factors. One is Social D's role in Southern California punk rock. It's one of the bands that never broke up and stayed honest to what the band wanted to play. When the band did "Prison Bound," people were questioning the band-"What are you guys doing, going country?!" But he just did it anyway, and it turned out great. Second, Mike's written all of these songs that people have grown up listening to and they can relate directly to their lives. It brings back memories.Social D plays two sold-out shows at Soma, March 18 and 19.