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Gary Calamar Takes Us on a Nostalgic Tour of His Own LA With New Singles ‘Little Tokyo,’ ‘Prince of Pico Blvd’


Gary Calamar is a multi-tasking musician. He’s a popular DJ on KCRW, and by day he’s a GRAMMY-nominated music supervisor on successful film and TV projects.

Gary also hosts the monthly Mimosa Music Series at the Federal Bar in North Hollywood. But through it all, he keeps on writing.

Gary Calamar photo courtesy KCRW

Gary Calamar is a shining light to pop songwriters – Photo courtesy KCRW


From Yonkers to LA

Gary just released two singles, one called “Little Tokyo,” and on the flip side “The Prince of Pico Boulevard.”  They’re fun and they capture the subjects lovingly.

“My daughter, Zoe, has been asking me to check out Little Tokyo,” Calamar told “I’m a fan of Little Tokyo through her.”

Gary’s originally from Yonkers, N.Y., but over the years has come to adopt Los Angeles as home. It’s where he settled with his family, and his surroundings and his family are the inspiration for his work.



The Day Job

The low-key, white-haired but youthful music enthusiast is smart enough to know that even at his stage of the game — with five GRAMMY nominations under his belt and a great career in music — he can’t quit his day job.  And as music supervisor on some of the most interesting TV shows and productions, who would want to?

Gary is president of Go Music and he has received five Grammy nominations as producer and music supervisor for his work on HBO’s Six Feet Under and True Blood. He’s overseeing Man In The High Castle, Wayward Pines and Good Girls Revolt right now.

It was his work on True Blood that convinced him he’s heading in the direction with songwriting.

“I was working with Bethany Cosentino and Iggy Pop on a song called ‘Let’s Boot and Rally’ for True Blood and Iggy told me I should continue on with songwriting,” Calamar recalled. “So I’m going to continue on.”

A few years later, his 15-year-old daughter picked up where Iggy left off and had repeatedly expressed to Gary her deep desire to visit Little Tokyo.

Gary spins the discs for KCRW and is a music supervisor by day - Photo courtesy KCRW

Gary spins the discs for KCRW and is a music supervisor by day – Photo courtesy KCRW


Upbeat Tunes

“We finally got around to going to Little Tokyo,” Gary said. “Just everything in Little Tokyo is fun. It’s really colorful and and everybody was really nice. The costumes I saw in the stores and the Japanese pop music, there’s enough to write a song about.”

The result is an upbeat pop song about the two of them “hopping on the Kawasaki” and going to a vibrant part of town.


Gary: The Prince of Pico

As for his song “Prince of Pico Boulevard,” Gary said he was inspired to write the song by some of the great personalities of the day.

“I grew up in the time when there were a lot of cool DJ names, like in New York we had Cousin Brucie, and KCRW is on Pico Boulevard, so I came up with this fun mock title for myself, which I never used on the radio. But it sort of evolved from there. I used my imagination. And if you listen to the song, you can tell it’s inspired by Lou Reed and Velvet Underground.”

It’s Gary’s love for Los Angeles got him going in his recent direction, along with some prodding by his daughter.


‘Perfect Version of Me’

“It’s a double-A side single,” Calamar said. “I wanted to do songs about Los Angeles. The “Little Tokyo” song is a true story, about my daughter, Zoe, who’s 15. She wanted to go to Little Tokyo and I got inspired.”

The songs are produced by John Would, who Calamar says has a great studio in Echo Park. He’s a multi-instrumentalist and he’s Calamar’s producer.

“Instrumentally, he’s a great musician,” Gary said. “So as we’re going he might try a guitar riff that we’ll use. He produces, mixes and engineers.”

The “Prince of Pico” moniker is more about Gary’s goals from childhood than his adulthood at the radio station and behind the controls.

“It’s about a perfect version of me,” he said.

“I drive a Plymouth Barracuda and travel on the highest roads
I’m the irridescent knight who will break up the fight
Diffuse the bomb before it explodes
And they call me the Prince of Pico Boulevard

“Well I came from boogie downtown and made my way west to the coast
I could tell you some stories of past glories but I don’t like to boast
And though I got some holes in my well-worn kicks I will always give you a buck
I’m the local beautifier I’ll put out the fire in a sticky situation I’ll help you get unstuck “

Gary is no stranger to recording. He released an EP prior to this, called You Are What You Listen To, a six-song collection produced by Would. His songs are catchy and he blends irony with wit and makes it appealing and not preachy. One of our earlier favorites is “Looking For a Job.” 

Gary Calamar California Rocker

One of Gary’s earlier works, ‘Looking for a Job’


Mimosa Music Sundays

Gary’s monthly Mimosa Music Series brings in musicians — some well-known and others not as well-known — to do what everyone likes best: Play music.

“We used to do them out of my house. We’ve had Donavan, Roseanne Cash, John Doe, John Hyatt, and it just got too big for the house. We moved it to the Federal Bar.”  The next Mimosa Music get together is next week.

Check out Mimosa Music Series on Facebook

Check out Gary’s music on iTunes

Gary said he’s inspired by those who have stuck with it.

“Beck was playing little tiny clubs,” Calamar said. “He was playing little clubs as a  scruffy guy and he’s done very well for himself. He’s risen from nothing to go on and win a GRAMMY.”

Gary said in the music business, dedication pays off.

“It’s not easy today,” he said. “Follow your muse and your dreams and do what satisfies you, and hopefully you will make it pay off. Have a backup plan and continue to write.”

‘Tighty Whiteys,’ Featuring Frontman Ron Young, Bare Their Soul With Upcoming Malibu Gigs in 2016

Tighty Whities Pictured here: Joey Malone, Ron Young and Bruce Witkin - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Tighty Whiteys Pictured here: Joey Malone, Ron Young and Bruce Witkin – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Renowned LA Musicians Pay Their Tribute to the Soulful Sound of the ’70s


Got Soul?

You can get some as The Tighty Whiteys, with frontman Ron Young and some stellar musicians, will be the featured band at Casa Escobar Malibu in 2016.

As the name might indicate, the Tighty Whiteys are not just a bunch of white guys with some rhythm.  The band is comprised of some of LA’s most well-known talents: The gravelly voiced Young of Little Caesar fame; Joey Malone on guitar; Bruce Witkin on bass; Rob Klonel on drums and Kevin Lawrence on keyboards.  For those who love funk and soul of the early 1970s, this is the band to see.

Formerly called The Blue-Eyed Devils, the talented Tighty Whiteys will jam at the happening Casa Escobar, located inside the Malibu Inn, on Jan. 16 and Feb. 13.


“We changed the name because there was a supremist group out there with the same name and we didn’t want to be associated with that,” Young told “We’ll change the name as soon as I can figure out how to do it on Facebook and still have folks receive our notices.”

Young and his Tighty Whiteys are not alone in the name dilemma as others have had issues with identity related to Facebook lately.

See California Rocker Story: Facebook F***s Cheetah Chrome

Selections include hits from The Temptations, Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder and other greats.  The music has a special place in the hearts of the guys. The Tighty Whities share a passion for funk and soul but various projects, other bands, and life in general, have sidetracked the group.

Tighty Whities - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Tighty Whiteys – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“We’ve been playing together off an on for three years,” Young said. “We’ve been on hiatuses for tours and projects sometimes derail us. The bass player, Bruce, plays in the Hollywood Vampires and that held us up a bit, so things like that play a role in how often Tighty Whities can play.”

“Since we are ‘Back on the horse’ again with playing, we’ll be looking for additional dates …we’ve committed ourselves to do more as it’s so much fun for us.”

Young is known for his work with the band Little Caesar, which has a strong LA following and recently returned from a European tour.  How did the Tighty Whiteys get together?

Tighty Whities Kevin Lawrence - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Tighty Whiteys Kevin Lawrence – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

“We got together after Little Caesar worked with Bruce on our American Dream release,” Young said. “Bruce produced it and we released it on his Unison Music label. We wound up becoming very close friends. Bruce has played with Joey Malone since high school.”

Coincidentally that’s the same high school attended by their other pal, none other than Johnny Depp.

“That’s where the Hollywood Vampire connection comes in,” Young said.  “Bruce, Joey and Johnny grew up together and played in a band together in Florida in the ’80s.”

Young, who seems to know almost everyone (and he is continually swarmed by people who know him too) had a drummer in mine in Rob Klonel, an old friend of both Witkin and Young; and keyboardist Kevin Lawrence was a friend of Witkin as well.

“We all were heavily influenced by the players, songs and grooves of early Soul, R&B, Motown and Funk and wanted to pay tribute by covering the material we do,” Young said.

“All that music was so influential to so many great rock n roll artists,” Young said.  “And we’re no different in that love and adoration.”


L.A. Guns — And Rock’s Young Guns — Play for Fair Pay at Whisky a Go Go

L.A. Guns Among Bands That Rally for Radio Royalties

L.A. Guns bassist Kenny Kweens, left, Michael Grant, right. - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

L.A. Guns bassist Kenny Kweens, left, Michael Grant, right. – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA — L.A. Guns and a range of bands performed at the Whisky a Go Go Friday night to support the Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015.

With a lineup mixed with veteran and young performers, musicians got out the word that radio needs to pay if they play. As things stand now, musicians don’t receive any money from AM-FM radio play.

Sponsored by MusicFirst and artists rep SAG-AFTRA, L.A. Guns headlined the awareness event, supported by bands Vudu Fly; Mr. White; Takin’ Nam3z; The Wyldz; Ithaca; and Ashes Of Eagles.

MusicFirst, with the support of SAG-AFTRA, is promoting and looking for support for a congressional bill that enables musicians and artists to be paid when their music plays on the radio. It also is looking for parity across music platforms via Internet and satellite.

Vudu Fly Featuring Aaron Quick on Washboard Slide Guitar - Photo © Donna Balancia

Vudu Fly Featuring Aaron Quick on home-made Washboard Slide Electric Guitar – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“We have a music economy, if you love music you want people to take a chance and develop,” said Dan Navarro, SAG-AFTRA vice president, recording artists. “They can’t do that if they’re not getting paid.”

The Fair Play Fair Pay bill closes the AM/FM performance rights loophole, makes all radio services pay a fair market rate for all music (including pre-1972 music), and streamlines payments to music producers. Please support the act by signing HERE

Navarro said with so few ways for musicians to earn a living today in view of new technologies, and illegal downloading and file-sharing, radio plays an important component.

“To earn a living from making music is their dream, it’s every artist’s dream to be successful in the art that they love,” Navarro said. “Radio isn’t paying royalties, it’s not promoting the artists any more, this must change.”

Ted Kalo, executive director of MusicFirst said, “We’re asking people to write their congressmen and support this bill that enables artists to earn their fair share when their music is played on the radio.”

Nick Brodeur of the Mr. White band - Photo © Donna Balancia

Nick Brodeur of the Mr. White band – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

For more information go to the MusicFirst website.

As for the rockin’ music on Friday night, the youngsters arguably outshined the veteran musicians at the Whisky.

“We love playing here, we’ve played here a lot,” said middle-schooler Maxx Henry, the drummer for the band Mr. White, a three-piece group from Irvine.

Supported by their parents and friends, the guys really have some talent with lead guitarist Nick Brodeur electrifying the audience, supported by his amazingly composed bassist brother, Will Brodeur and wildly talented drummer, Henry. If you added these guys’ ages together it wouldn’t be more than 45.

Mr. White the band clearly has a story to tell. Stay tuned.

Another young band, Takin’ Names, supported the evening with some rockin’ tunes, some familiar, and some originals, that the audience enjoyed.

Alex Dhee of The Wyldz is among the most compelling international rockers - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Alex Dhee of The Wyldz is among the most compelling international rockers – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The rest of the lineup brought originality, as Ithaca showed off their chops as well as their long hair and toned physiques; Wyldz came all the way from France to show how it’s done, and Ashes of Eagles kept the audience engaged and did it with a smile.

San Diego County-based Vudu Fly has an interesting sound, complete with a lead vocal guy who doubles as a slide guitarist — only this slide is made from a cigar box.

“My dad and I make electric guitars out of cigar boxes,” said Aaron Quick of Vista, Calif. He played one of his prized instruments to close out the Vudu Fly set.

For more information on Vudu Fly, check out their Facebook page.

The Wyldz probably were the most visually compelling of the bands during the night.  That’s not because of creative costuming, but solely because of guitarist Alex Dhee, whose guitar play and wild athletics steal the show. It doesn’t hurt their appeal to the girls that The Wyldz have French accents.

L.A. Guns - Flexibility, Not Mystery is Key to Success - Photo © Donna Balancia

L.A. Guns – Flexibility, Not Mystery is Key to Success – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Headliner L.A. Guns certainly bring the stage presence of a veteran group. With two of the early  members remaining from the 1980s band, guitarist Michael Grant and bassist Kenny Kweens bring a new flavor to a fun act from the past. The band has seen its share of members come and go, and for them, flexibility has been the key to financial longevity.

“As artists, it’s important to have as much control over our music as possible and to be compensated for our work at all times,” L.A. Guns said in a release. “The current AM/FM loophole takes advantage of not only bands like ourselves with deep music catalogs, but also up-and-coming artists who are just entering the industry. By forcing radio stations to step up, this bill levels the playing field. So let’s get it passed in Washington and support the next generation of rockers.”

See more at on the Fair Play Fair Pay Act here.

The current lineup of L.A. Guns consists of Phil Lewis on vocals and Steve Riley on drums as well as Michael Grant on guitar and Kenny Kweens on bass.

## #FairPlayFairPayAct

Rock Show — Not Freak Show — at California Institute of Abnormalarts

Jewel Steele of Stereo Love - Photo © Donna Balancia

Jewel Steele of Stereo Love – Photo © Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – When popular Los Angeles bands Stereo Love, L.A. Story and Rebel Hotel have a rock show at a freak show museum, you get big bang for the buck.

The three bands blew away the embalmed bodies — as well as the warm bodies — at the well-known freak show museum California Institute of Abnormalarts in North Hollywood last week.

“We thought this would be a really cool place to book a show,” said Judd Steele, who with his two daughters are the band Stereo Love. “We have a different approach to rock and roll.”

Stereo Love is getting quite a bit of attention not only for being fun rockers but rockers with a family angle.

“We get a lot of mileage out of the family thing,” said Steele.  “But also it gives me a way to be close to my family and today it’s really important to connect with your kids.”

Rebel Hotel has an interesting story and could represent one of the most international bands playing Los Angeles today.  Frontman Ricky Ohrn is Swedish, Aaron Lee is British, Satoshi Ichiyanagi is from Japan and drummer Carl Marinelli is from the U.S.

“We have a bit of international flavor,” said Ohrn, who brings a supercharged attitude to his music.  The guys are on our list of favorite rockers.

CIA - Rebel Hotel - Photo © Donna Balancia

CIA – Rebel Hotel – Photo © Donna Balancia

Erik Hatchett is an interesting component of the band L.A. Story.  He’s an entrepreneur, an investor, a surfer and really has fun when he performs.

“We love bringing our music to the crowds,” Hatchett said.  He’s big into charity work and is quick with a smile when he talks about giving back.

Catch L.A. Story at the Whisky A Go Go Saturday night at Cruefest, a benefit to fight cancer.

As for the host venue, The California Institute of Abnormalarts is much more than the “Best Place to Find a Dead Clown.”

It’s a cool music and historical venue in North Hollywood.

“We’ve always had an interest in freak shows and attractions,” said CIA co-owner Carl Crew.  “People love it here and we get some great bands.”

At CIA - LA Story Photo © Donna Balancia

At CIA – LA Story Photo © Donna Balancia

You can’t miss the North Hollywood attraction, its outside is painted in wild circus colors with a smiling clown face summoning you inside.

Inside, there is at once a tribute to punk rock and circus arts, including skulls, embalmed bodies, a fairy and notably the only dead clown on display in Los Angeles.  Or anywhere that one can think of.

The CIA is worth a visit.  Give a call.  For more information check out the Facebook page HERE.



Big Ups, Small Wigs, The Herms Bring Controlled Chaos to The Echo Club

Small Wigs at The Echo - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Mikki Itzigsohn of Small Wigs at The Echo – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA — It was a mixed bag of cool performances at The Echo, with Small Wigs, The Herms and Big Ups in a triple-header designed to knock your head off.

Small Wigs have a good singer in Elvis Kuehn and an experienced bassist in Mikki Itzigsohn.  With Matt Zuk on guitar and Max Kuehn on drums, together they’re an interesting group with an unassuming surfer-rock style.  Itzigsohn has been around the block once or twice in the musical arena and has played with some bands in the Southern California area.

The band is just getting off the ground, and has been together for a bit now with a lead single “New Wig,” which is super catchy.  Good things to come.

The Herms at The Echo - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Herms at The Echo – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Herms, originally from Northern California, have taken up residence in Los Angeles and it was a good move because their music is welcome in L.A.

“I love Northern California, but they take everything too seriously,” said frontman Matt Lutz. “Here, people like to play music and have fun with it.”

Clearly that was the idea behind the performance at The Echo the other day.  The guys enjoy themselves while playing music that is pretty intense, going back and forth between a standard beat to blasting wild, free form, fast avant-garde compositions.  And the audience loved it.

The Herms are fun and worth checking out, some of their songs include Record Machine, Volleyball, Now Everyone, $ Shot.  The guys drift between surfy and mellow to rapid-fire and frenetic.  It’s an enjoyable show.

Big Ups at The Echo - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Big Ups at The Echo – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Big Ups is big fun.  These guys have a cool disdain towards almost everything, but the self-deprecating humor really underscores some serious poetic talent.  Frontman Joe Galarraga of Big Ups gets you laughing and then takes you to some really deep places.  While we’re not exactly sure where we’re going with the performances — which is part of the fun — we know there are a couple of topics from Galarraga that relate to his life … and his mother’s life too.

What we like the best about Big Ups is the way Galarraga moves around the stage and how he communicates with his band mates.  The guys are comfortable with each other. And Galarraga is comfortable wrapping the microphone cord around his hand, his head and then uncoiling like a snake and sneering and yelling at the crowd assembled.  The crowd takes it in stride, smiling, with  some people reciting the words to the well-written and thougtful lyrics.

Big Ups at The Echo - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Big Ups at The Echo – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Them Guns Hit Bullseye with Attaloss, What-A-Funk, at Hollywood’s Viper Room

LOS ANGELES – The musicians in the band Them Guns may each have a different focus, but when they play together, their sound hits the target.

Them Guns performed to a packed crowd at The Viper Room Friday. They supported headliner Attaloss at the Sunset Strip venue.  Italian band What-A-Funk opened and The Passenger closed.

The synth-rock band from Los Angeles is a tight group of friends who each have a unique musical background. And soon they’ll be so big you’re not going to be able to get in to see them.

Them Guns - © Donna Balancia

Them Guns – ©

Them Guns is Chuck Holiday on bass, Chris Hudson on drums, Nava Rone on lead vocals, and Kyle Hamood on keyboard. Their musical paths have all been different, but their talent and work ethic has brought them together.

With a good-looking frontman who can really sing, a wild-style bassist who gets down, a keyboardist who plays better than many veterans in the business, and a drummer who brings passion to his craft every time, Them Guns rock the house.

The gang of four native Californians have played all types of venues across California and outside of their home state as well.

A few accomplishments of Them Guns:

– Recently they played the at the premiere party for the film “Shut Up and Drive,” which screened at Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Their music was used in the movie.

— They’ve played several music festivals and independent gigs

— They have a couple of cool videos

— There’s a full-length CD called From The Shadows, that blows doors.

Them Guns © California Rocker

Them Guns – Photo © California Rocker

“We love what we do so we’re happy with the way things are coming along,” said bassist Chuck. “We love to play and we love our fans.”

And there are loyal fans who follow the guys, which as anyone will tell you, is the most important thing for a young band.

It was a roundabout bit of good fortune that brought the group together.

Drummer Chris, and frontman, Nav, met in high school. They went their separate ways. Kyle and Nav met in northern California at a club and were working on music there together. Chris and Chuck were playing together in LA. Chris filled in on occasion as the drummer of choice for Kyle and Nav, and when the time was right, Them Guns was formed.

Them Guns is a little different than other bands in several respects. For one thing, they have a unique sound that’s almost a throwback synth rock-dance rock style. They pay homage to good ol’ fashioned rock n roll.

“We didn’t want our albums to sound over-produced so that when you come to the show it sounds different than on the album,” said Kyle. “And we discussed that with our producer, Bill Gaal, and he agreed.”

Gaal has produced a range of artists and worked with the guys to create a super album, From The Shadows, a must for any lover of Rock ‘N’ Roll.

Them Guns Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Them Guns Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“The music comes first,” said Nav, who added that the band enjoys the process of writing and recording music. “We’ll find a riff or something we like and build on it.”

“But we don’t jam,” said Kyle. “We come to the table with an idea or something that we’ve already been working on.”

And while the recording may be part of the drill it’s the interaction with the audience that turns the guys on.

“We definitely have fun when we tour,” said Nav. “The fans are really great and we thank them for coming out.”

What’s appealing, fans say, is the comeraderie and the resulting music. The four musicians are quite different but they complement one another.

“If you were to sum it up, Chuck is like a spikey punk guy with his bass, Chris is this rad, tatted blonde guy who kills it on drums, Nav is the sexy frontman with an amazing voice and Kyle is the smart keyboardist,” said one female concert-goer. “They’re different from each other but they are all buds and they have respect for each other.”

Them Guns rock the house - photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Them Guns rock the house – photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The guys are working on a new EP with a few songs tracked already. But the album From The Shadows is something that should be purchased, and it’s highly encouraged that lovers of music see their show because that’s where the heart of Them Guns’ music lives.

“Like any band, we’ve been through a lot of ups and downs,” said drummer Chris. “We’re good for each other. We just keep getting better and better so we’re excited about our future. It’s all about the music and the fans. And more than anything, we really love what we do.”

For more information check out the Viper Room website and Them Guns’ Facebook page.

Little Caesar And The Rise of Biker Rock: Interview With Ron Young

Ron Young of Little Caesar - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Ron Young of Little Caesar – Photo for California Rocker © 2015 Heather Harris

Photos © Heather Harris; Donna Balancia asks Ron Young, the dynamic frontman for Little Caesar, the important questions.

DB: Your band put on a great show last week at Paladino’s. What are your touring plans for the summer?

RY: We are headed over to Europe mid-June. We start out in Spain for a Motorcycle rally. Then we head to Holland, Belgium, France, Germany and then back through Spain.

DB: Is there a new release we can look forward to?

RY: We are working on new material we will hopefully finish when we return from tour. We will probably release an EP online … actual CDs are a way of the past. It also helps us get new material out faster and directly to our fans. Things have changed!

DB: How are the new guys working out with the band overall?  What talents do they bring?

RY: The new guys, Carey Beare on guitar and Pharoah Barrett on bass are working out great. They are both incredibly talented and have a long touring and recording history.

Ron Young of LIttle Caesar - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Ron Young of Little Caesar – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Carey plays with Deanna Carter as well and that country blues sensibility fits us really well. His influences in blues-based rock really helps as well. Pharoah is a killer bass player and singer. I toured with him up in Canada when I did a tour with the Four Horseman years back. 

DB: How did you ever develop your style?

RY: I always loved Blues, R&B, Soul and the the Rock and Roll it influenced. The combination of guys in the band bring  such great elements. Loren is the “punk rock” Keith Richards in the group and brings a great edge to our songs. We emerged in LA during the “hair band” explosion and it really wasn’t any of our “cup o’ tea.” We were gritty dudes riding motorcycles and loved more traditional blues and soul based Rock…which was not the mantra of Pop Metal bands on the Strip in the Eighties. We put the band together to not lose our minds and to pay tribute to the type of Rock we grew up on in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s.

DB: What is the significance of Detroit in your history?

Loren Molinare of LIttle Caesar photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Loren Molinare of Little Caesar – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

RY: Loren is from Detroit and was a big part of the scene back there. He was in a seminal Punk/Hard Rock band there that did shows with Bob Seger, the MC5, and the Stooges. Mitch Ryder and his take on RnR was a big influence as well.

DB: Who are some of the bands you used to follow in your the formation days of Little Caesar?

RY: We loved to do shows and listen to bands like Junkyard, Rhino Bucket, Little Kings, Bulldozer etc. They were very honest and gritty bands that side stepped the make up and hairspray like we did. We all played in great joints like Raji’s, The Scream, the Shamrock etc. There was a great communal scene in those days.

DB: Why did you cut your hair?

RY: For me, long hair became a parody. As I grew older it felt like leaving it long was a desperate attempt to cling to my youth. I have silvery curly hair and I would have looked like Santa if I let it stay long. I’m not a big fan of hiding my age behind L’Oreal blue black hair dye. RnR should exude confidence, and when you age and dye your hair it looks obvious and insecure to me. 

Pharoah Barrett - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Little Caesar at Paladino’s – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

I cut my teeth on the great innovators of Blues and Country Rock like Johnny Burnette, Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent.  Short slicked back hair looked very cool to me and was a tribute to the real roots of Rock music….plus, it’s not a pathetic attempt to try to convince our fans that I am still 29 years old. This isn’t 1988 anymore.  Our fans know that too and have evolved in life and fashion….except if you hang out at the Rainbow four nights a week. That place is in a great time warp lol.

DB: How do you come up with song ideas and what inspires your songwriting?

RY: I write all the melodies and lyrics. I will take a guitar riff or chord progression and do my thing over it. Will we openly say things like, “let’s write Bad Co feel type tune, or a “Stonesy” song. We make no claims to be innovators. We have such a love for great Rock that was innovated by earlier bands, if we can capture an essence of some of our idols and hybrize them all together, we figure it will be a song that’s good to listen to.

Little Caesar Set List

Little Caesar Set List from Paladino’s

DB: If you four dream bands for whom you would open who would they be?

RY: Bad Co, AC/DC, The Stones and Skynyrd … Who we did have the great honor and pleasure to open for in ’91 with our buds Junkyard.

DB: How does living in California influence your style and the band?

RY: I hate what the music scene has become in California. “Pay to play” has ruined live music in LA. It’s very hard to do a good show with other good bands that people want to come and see. Now if a band has $500 to get on an opening slot, the promoter takes it and doesn’t care if the bands sound good together or if they have talent. We rarely play in LA because of it … But the weather is great if you want to go see something like that!

DB: I hear that you are an amazing talent also when it comes to fabricating, engineering and creating. How did you ever get involved with making cool things? Did you make the microphone you were holding the other night?

Ron Young of Little Caesar - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Ron Young of Little Caesar – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

What makes that microphone you had different and/or better than others?

RY: I DO love to fabricate. I build custom cars and bikes, I do custom metal work like gates and architectural pieces and I’m building a custom home as we speak. I did “make” that mic. It’s the next level in an evolution of various designs of my vocal mic. The mic capsule is a Telefunken M80 mounted inside a chromed Shure Beta 56a housing with a Sennheiser ENG wireless block transmitter. It’s a very crisp yet warm mic … similar to a condenser … but with really good rejection … Too nerdy and techy for ya?

The Outre Bowls Over Crowd at Hollywood’s Lucky Strike

Danielle Souza of The Outre - photo by Donna Balancia

Danielle Souza of The Outre – photo © 2015 by Donna Balancia

The Outre Rocks Their Release Party Sunday

Danielle Souza knows how to put on a show — she and her band, The Outre, bowled over the crowd at Lucky Strike Live Sunday night.

Their killer sound and enthusiasm sets them apart.

The Outre has a cool front woman in Souza and kicks out some rock with a touch of metal, bringing alive the songs that are on their self-titled EP.

“We love what we do and we enjoy performing,” Souza said. “I know you wouldn’t believe it, but I’m really an introvert.”

Souza and her band were extraverted Sunday night, performing the tunes off their new recording.

The Outre will be at The Viper Room April 28.

Eric Bradley of The Young Royals - photo © 2015 by Donna Balancia

Eric Bradley of The Young Royals – photo © 2015 by Donna Balancia

The Young Royals

Another nice surprise of the night was the fun group The Young Royals, who show a flair for the dramatic and get the crowd moving.

The band is comprised of Eric Bradley, Shannon Bizzy, Jason Sarocco and Ryan Brown.

We’ve never been to a show where the band taunts the audience with medieval threats, but we liked it!

Two crowd favorites were “Falling Off The Bone,” and “Roll Me Over.”

The LA-based band has a few cool videos up on its website that are worth checking out.

Woman Power: Celebrating International Womens Day At The Mint

Todd N Todd photo by Donna Balancia

Todd N Todd photo by Donna Balancia

The Mint had its own version of International Women’s Day as four distinctly women-oriented bands took the stage.

Well, let’s say all four bands were influenced by women.  Three of the bands had women out front or playing in them.  One guy seemed to have issues with women and we got to hear him sing all about them. The dating mishaps, the skanky encounters and the desperation.

Todd, of Todd N Todd is a gifted guitarist who catches you off guard with his talent and outgoing nature.  But then he writes and performs these songs about women that no guy — apparently except him — would or should ever date.

One notable tune was Myra, which was originally written about someone else, Todd said in introducing the breakup-inspired retitling.  He renamed the song after the breakup with the subject.

And during his set he did make mention that some of the women in his audiences weren’t fond of his merch — or maybe the words to the songs — but the music does resonate with passion.  For that he is appreciated.

Campfire Cassettes photo by Donna Balancia

Campfire Cassettes photo by Donna Balancia

The Campfire Cassettes, who look so All-American — with Angie Parrish and her adorable poofy dress and black patent pumps — and her partner,  Jonathan Buchanan with his square-hair, cute-guy  style.  Drummer Bobby Woo keeps the pace as the group performs the quick-hit experiences life has dealt them.

Standing in the back of the room was a nice brunette gal who made mention that she went to high school with Parrish. “In Wisconsin.”

Ok, so that accounts for the apple pie appearance.

And that’s when the cute trio broke out into a rendition of “Fuck Me Like a Ukulele.”  One of the songs in a surprising and lively set.

In actuality, Buchanan’s history has led him to write to the quirky songs that illustrate everything from the pursuit of an amazing relationship to putting up with others’ faults.  The music is refreshing and the performances are fun and short — with most songs lasting about a minute and a half.

Maria de Pilar’s style was a bit different than the other bands that performed.  The petite brunette is a woman, and she did have a ukulele, but that’s where the similarity ends.  Her spicy Latina style gives the audience a little extra spice.

Maria del Pilar performs at The Mint  -- Photo by Donna Balancia

Maria del Pilar performs at The Mint — Photo by Donna Balancia

She has come up with a great mix — combining of 80s synth-pop with a look similar to that of Miami’s favorite daughter, Gloria Estefan, this talented songstress keeps the party rolling.

Her bandmates help make the sound a reality and add to the smiles and some theatrics.

del Pilar played some of the songs that have made her name among fans and newcomers alike. She recently issued a re-release of her album Songs + Canciones.

One of our favorites is Motivation .

Another woman-powered band, whose drummer banged out a ripping beat Saturday was the band, Nightime.  Drummer Alejandra Arellano said she loved to make music.

On her way out of the Mint, she said playing her drums the best she can was the least she could do.

After all, it was International Womens Day.

James Williamson Brings Re-Licked ‘Superband’ Show to LA

James Williamson with musician Mario Cuomo

James Williamson with musician Mario Cuomo – Photo credit Heather Harris


James Williamson’s response to challenge is change.

Williamson took select Stooges songs, recruited top talent to record the vocals, and created the latest “Superband” of Alternative A-listers.


The resulting album, Re-Licked, is different than any recording Stooges fans might have predicted.

And now, Williamson’s latest band is taking its act on the road — at least once.

On Jan. 16, the group which includes The Kills’ Alison Mosshart and Dead Kennedys former frontman Jello Biafra, will perform cuts from Re-Licked, appropriately enough, at Bootleg HiFi on Beverly in LA.

Alison Mosshart of The Kills California Rocker

Alison Mosshart – photo credit Heather Harris

“I’ll probably never be able to do it again, although a lot of people are already asking for it and we haven’t even done it yet,” Williamson said of the upcoming performance. “We had bounced it around a lot. Everybody on the album kept saying we should do this live, but the logistics of getting them all together is pretty daunting.”

Williamson and his bandmembers, drummer Michael Urbano, bassist Dan Rothchild, and keyboardist Gregg Foreman will back up Mosshart; Biafra; Lisa Kekaula of the BellRays; Joe Cardamone of The Icarus Line; and Jesse Malin, formerly of D Generation.

Re-Licked is comprised of lesser-heard songs written by Williamson and the Stooges’ famous frontman Iggy Pop. And as is typical of any rocker-turned-techie-turned-rocker again, Williamson has broken the songs down, assigning each a decidedly new role, and surprisingly welcome gender-neutral cachet.

“I feel really lucky to have these people performing and the guys are good, but the women are unbelievable,” Williamson told

James Williamson The Women of Re-Licked - California Rocker Soundcloud

Williamson: Stooges were like The Little Rascals in one regard


Next week’s superstar performance of the only (for now) Re-Licked show will be a defining moment that the audience can enthusiastically support, perhaps without comparisons to rarely heard, prior renditions of the underground-circulated songs.

Oddly, the standard mark of the new “superband” phenomenon — consider The New Basement Tapes comprised of Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, Taylor Goldsmith and Shannon Giddens — seems to be the absence of (and simultaneous tribute to) the most central figure.  In the case of The New Basement Tapes, the band created and recorded music for the writings of Bob Dylan. That was followed by a terrific one-off performance in Hollywood.  SEE #TNBT VIDEO

James Williamson, Iggy and the Stooges in 1973 - California Rocker

James Williamson, Iggy and the Stooges in 1973 – photo credit Heather Harris

So, of course, the obvious drawback with the Re-Licked show is that Iggy won’t be on hand to sing his own songs.

But on an evening when not only Williamson and Iggy’s mutual friends are all on stage together, across town in West Hollywood, Handsome Dick Manitoba’s Dictators will be out from New York to play. So one can always hope.


They say, “Change is good,” and it may take a while to realize that, and at the very least, change is inspiring.  Much in the way that the entire Re-Licked effort is inspiring — on several levels.

For one thing, Williamson’s gargantuan task of assembling the talent and scheduling  them to record could require a degree in social engineering and advanced calendar management.  He already has the degree in technology, obtained when the Stooges were in flux and the band’s future uncertain.

For Re-Licked, Williamson traveled near and far tracking down leads on artists, such as Carolyn Wonderland whom he thought could be appropriate and agile enough to interpret and appealingly present some challenging material.

Stooges in 1973 - California Rocker

Stooges in 1973 – photo credit Heather Harris

It’s unfortunate that in their day, the Stooges songs that would be on Re-Licked didn’t get a lot of play, but like Kekaula singing Iggy’s “I Gotta Right,” that could actually work in the artist’s favor.

So one common trait Williamson shares with partners on this project is confidence.

With the reviews and the distribution of the March, 2014 recording well in hand, the show then becomes the central focus.

“Most promoters wouldn’t be able to afford this cavalcade of stars coming from all over the world to do a show,” Williamson said. “As it turns out we’re doing a few songs for the Carson Daly Show so we’re already in LA to do that.

“I just said to some of the people coming, ‘Hey we’re already here why don’t we just do a show?’ and everybody wanted to do that, and they decided to stick around for an extra day and do it and that’s how it happened.

For Re-Licked, James Williamson assembled an 'Alternative A-list' - California Rocker

For Re-Licked, James Williamson assembled an ‘Alternative A-list’ – photo courtesy James Williamson

“All these singers came because they wanted to do it,” he said. “I’m very flattered they’d spend their time, energy and talents on my record.”


While it may not have been there during its own time, over the last three decades, there has been a growing wave of respect for 70s-era music. Stooges music in particular has found its place among an enthusiastic and younger audience looking for a different sound.

James Williamson on Raw Power - Interview with

“We’re kind of like the old blues guys,” Williamson said of the Stooges’ resurgence. “When I was growing up we had Eric Clapton, Cream, The Rolling Stones, we thought they were cool and everything, then we came to find out they weren’t the guys, the real guys were the blues guys. And we went to see them while they were still alive. That’s sort of how it is for us now. They recognize us as the guys that were authentic original sources of that music.”

Lisa Kekaula California Rocker

Lisa Kekaula – photo credit Heather Harris

Naturally, the respect of younger artists for the music and style of the Stooges emerges as enthusiastic collaborations.  It could be argued that Iggy, who more than held his own as a solo act, was an innovator in the area of era-spanning collaborations.  Among the bands and artists with whom he has collaborated are Sum 41, Green Day, Peaches, Cat Power, Kesha and many others. He will be working two shows in June with The Foo Fighters.

Williamson, on the other hand, seems to be oblivious to the age of the musicians with whom he’s working, saying that he is working with the most active musicians in the business.

“I honestly feel lucky not only to attract these people but to get these performances out them and these musicians,”  Williamson said. “You can really tell on this album the people were excited to do it.  It comes across, the enthusiasm is there and that’s a kind of magic you can’t predict and you can’t expect to get it.  You’re just lucky when you do.”

Go HERE more information on the Re-Licked show at Bootleg HiFi 

###JamesWilliamson ###

The Forest Rangers Take Audience Beyond Motorcycles

Billy Valentine and Forest Rangers by Donna Balancia

Billy Valentine and Forest Rangers rev up the audience – VIDEO HERE Photo and Videos by Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA in WEST HOLLYWOOD — For a bunch of tough motorcycle guys, the Sons of Anarchy house band, the Forest Rangers, really know how to make some beautiful music.

And music that people from all walks of life who came to The Troubadour Sunday night really enjoyed.


Not only did the multitudes of Sons of Anarchy fans who were on hand enjoy the show — about 80 percent of the audience knew all the SOA characters by heart — but it was an exciting performance for those who don’t own a motorcycle or love the Sons crew.

“I’ve only watched about one episode of the show,” one concert-goer said. “But I know the music is amazing and the guys in the band are great.”

Franky Perez and the Forest Rangers photo and video by Donna Balancia

Franky Perez and the Forest Rangers – Photo and Video by Donna Balancia

The musical director for the record-breaking FX TV show, Bob Thiele, worked with his partners on Sons of Anarchy to create the Forest Rangers, comprised of some very talented musicians.


While Sons of Anarchy just concluded its 7-year run for FX, judging by the number of die-hard SOA fans on hand at the Troubadour Sunday night, the legacy will definitely live on.

Until the wildly anticipated and long-rumored “prequel” series hits the small screens, SOA fans will be able to live vicariously through the music.  And The Forest Rangers band has captured that audience — plus more.

The group gave a good idea as to what we can expect on its new album due in February: A mix of new songs and some well-loved and well-known tunes, including everything from crooning ballads to screaming funk by some heavy-hitter names.


Franky Perez sings This Life

Franky Perez listens as the audience sings #SOA theme song This Life – Photos and Videos by Donna Balancia

On Sunday night, Billy Valentine and Franky Perez shared lead singer duties at the Troubadour show, calling up soulful renditions of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower,” and new tunes including “Blue Angel,” that had the packed house jamming right along.

The band even awarded Bob Thiele a leather vest (?) with the name of the band emblazoned, along with signatures of the show’s cast and crew.

In the audience were some of SOA’s most beloved actors, including Emilio Rivera and Charlie Hunnam, who were swamped by screaming fans, mostly in their late-20s to mid-40s.

The Forest Rangers at The Troubadour

The Forest Rangers at The Troubadour – Photos and videos by Donna Balancia

Clearly the music on the hit show was one of the most attractive qualities of the production.  The other attractive qualities were all on hand — girls and guys — actors; fellow musicians, friends of the band, and longtime fans of the longest-running show on FX.

“We came to cheer them on,” said Tina, an actress on the show. “They’re doing a great job and we came to see them play.”


The Forest Rangers have what it takes to collect a wider audience than solely the fans of the TV show.  The appeal of the band is the diversity in the tunes, strong and unique performances of cover songs, and a great camaraderie that looks like it will last for the long run.

— Photos, videos and story by Donna Balancia

The New Basement Tapes ‘One Night Only’ Concert

The New Basement Tapes LIVE Donna Balancia

The New Basement Tapes Live in Concert – Photos and video © Donna Balancia

Johnny Depp and Haim Join ‘Superband’

By DONNA BALANCIA — The New Basement Tapes proved work and friendship can indeed mix, performing a “one and only” show that knocked the socks off a curious LA audience in Hollywood Thursday night.


The band, comprised of Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens, Taylor Goldsmith, Jim James and Marcus Mumford played the songs each had co-written to Bob Dylan lyrics discovered in Dylan’s upstate New York home.

It was a night not to be forgotten for the crowd at the Montalban Theatre in Hollywood, as the group performed songs including “Kansas City,” “When I Get My Hands on You,” “Card Shark,” and others off the new album “Lost On The River.”


Produced by T Bone Burnett, Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes brought together the supergroup and their lively performance in a “one night only”-billed affair.

The New Basement Tapes musicians were also joined onstage by the sisters Haim, and Johnny Depp.


Shep Gordon, Mike Myers Talk ‘Supermensch’ at Landmark Theatres

Shep Gordon California Rocker

Shep Gordon, photo courtesy Supermensch

LOS ANGELES — Shep Gordon didn’t want to have a documentary done on his life.  But it took an operation to change his mind, along with 15 years of begging by Mike Myers.

“I didn’t see the value in it but over the years our relationship developed to a place where I had total trust in him,” Gordon said of Myers who produced and directed the documentary Supermensch.  

The International Documentary Association screened Supermensch at Landmark Theatres in the Westside Pavillion and Myers and Gordon were on hand for a question-and-answer session following the film.

Fame is a dangerous achievement, Gordon reminds us throughout the film.  As the manager for everyone from rockers like Alice Cooper and Blondie to celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, fame is something Gordon knows well.  Both he and the director of the film take the topic seriously, calling fame the “toxic waste” result of being successful.


Gordon and Myers got to know each other through “Wayne’s World,” and Myers said he became interested in Gordon, a guy who stayed out of the picture to let his clients have the spotlight.  Many years later — and after Gordon suffered a life-threatening injury and was lying in the hospital — Myers said “Now do you want to do it?” and Gordon responded: “Yes!”

Jimi Hendrix California Rocker

Jimi Hendrix suggested Gordon become a manager – photo courtesy of Supermensch

While there was subsequently some hemming and hawing a few weeks after he was back on his feet again, Gordon finally went along with Myers’ dream project.

Myers said Gordon is his mentor and is a “fascinating progressive capitalist and ethical hedonist.”  The onscreen interviews prove he’s also a great storyteller with a lot to say.

“I’ve always felt honesty is what gets you through anything,” Gordon said. “I realized in my occupation, I could really hurt people and I would tell them.  A consequence of celebrity is fame and it’s very hard not to hurt yourself.”

Gordon points out all the friends and clients he’s had who have been victimized by the pitfalls of fame. Fame has cost people relationships, sobriety, and in many cases, their lives.  Neither he nor Myers understand the more recent trend of trying to just “become famous” without the creative aspect behind it.

“Celebrity used to be a celebration for achievement,” Myers said. “But it is a declining currency.  It’s a serious problem when the goal is to be famous.”

Gordon said whether you’re a singer, actor, poet or chef there’s a rejection factor most people won’t live with.   

He told the audience to embrace every rejection and to always forge ahead, because after all, he said, “It only took 12 people to start Christianity.”


For Holidays, Rob Zombie, Top Musicians, Release on Vinyl

Rob Zombie Photo by Kathy Flynn

Rob Zombie getting into the vinyl craze – Photo by Kathy Flynn

LOS ANGELES — Just in time for holiday gift-giving, metal musician Rob Zombie is the latest artist to announce his music will be released on vinyl.

The musician-filmmaker will release four albums on picturedisc vinyl through Universal Music Enterprises in the second week of December, in time for the holiday push.

Vinyl sales are skyrocketing, according to a recent report by the Recording Industry of America. The report indicates in the first half of 2014, total music sales came to around $3.2 billion, $146 million of which is attributed to sales of “records.”

Increases in vinyl sales are generally attributed to awareness of the marketing holiday Record Store Day, and renewed interest from collectors.  Record Store Day is April 18, but many special releases will be available on Black Friday.

Zombie’s The Sinister Urge, Hellbilly Deluxe, Educated Horses and Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor will get picturedisc releases on Dec. 12.  Bruce Springsteen, Led Zepplin, The Beatles, Jack White and Soundgarden are other artists who have limited edition 2014 holiday releases out on vinyl.

Zombie has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide, according to Universal Music Enterprises.  His films, including the 2007 remake of classic horror flick Halloween, have grossed $150 million total worldwide.

The metal musician is a founding member of 1980s group White Zombie and Hellbilly Deluxe, released in 1998 marked the foray into his solo career.

The latest project for the metal-filmmaker is 31, which he is crowdfunding with a campaign on

Zombie is also working on studio album, expected to be released after January via T-Boy/UMe.

California Rocker Nominated for Best Entertainment Blog

California Rocker Award by Donna Balancia

California Rocker, in its first year, has been nominated for Best Entertainment Blog by the LA Press Club

LA Press Club Tabs California Rocker Mag Among Tops

LOS ANGELES — California Rocker, the West Coast-based sister publication of East Coast Rocker, has been nominated for Best Entertainment Blog by the Los Angeles Press Club, it was announced Friday night.

Produced by Donna Balancia, California Rocker covers emerging musicians and established rockers in the Golden State.

“It’s a challenging era for journalists, as it is for musicians,” said Donna, who also produces East Coast Rocker.  “The nomination to Best Entertainment Blog in our first year of operation means a lot, especially coming from such an illustrious panel of editors.”

In addition to covering technology and music industry news,  California Rocker covers new and established musicians, who today more than ever, need the support of publications and music publicity.

“Musicians give their all to their audiences and receive nothing in return, especially in the early years,” said Donna.  “Some musicians don’t receive recognition until late in the game.  California Rocker was created to help the young artists and to pay homage to established musicians.”

Send music news to

The Los Angeles Press Club holds its annual awards ceremony on Nov. 23 at The Biltmore in downtown Los Angeles.  For more information go to the website for the Los Angeles Press Club.

Photographs by Jamie Hince on Display at Morrison Hotel Gallery LA

Allison Mosshart and Jamie Hince' dog Archie is part of photographic show on display at Morrison Hotel Gallery

—  Archie and The Kills’ Alison Mosshart  —                                      Photo by Jamie Hince ©

By DONNA BALANCIA – LOS ANGELES — Echo Home, the photographic works of Jamie Hince of The Kills, will be presented at Morrison Hotel Gallery from Nov. 1 through Nov. 11,  and at Bookmarc in Los Angeles.

The Kills will be in Los Angeles for a Halloween show with Queens Of The Stone Age at the Los Angeles Forum the night before the opening.

The photos in Hince’ photo show, Echo Home, will be on display and available for purchase at Morrison Hotel Gallery located inside the Sunset Marquis Hotel.

A reception for the public will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 1, at Bookmarc on Melrose Place in Los Angeles.  Proceeds from the event benefit the non-profit organization, Rational Animal.

The Kills support QOTSA at LA Forum on Halloween

The Kills support tour mates Queens Of The Stone Age at the Forum on Halloween

Rational Animal reached out to The Kills for their help supporting the charity’s latest project. Hince was moved to support the group and created the photograph of bandmate Alison Mosshart in bed with his dog, Archie.

The photo is a modern-day homage to Terry O’Neill’s photograph of Bridget Bardot and her dog in bed.  The image of Mosshart and Archie has been used to promote fundraising for Rational Animal.

The Kills are known for dynamic music and fun and compelling performances.  The group was founded in 2000.

Rational Animal will debut its series of notecards, Artists with Animals, at Bookmarc.  The set of 10 cards features legendary artists and their pets.

Bookmarc was founded by Marc Jacobs in 1984. It is has supported 75 charities and uses the platform for humanitarian efforts.

Morrison Hotel Gallery was created by ex-record company exec Peter Blachley, music retailer Richard Horowitz and music photographer Henry Diltz with author and director Timothy White.

Interview: Martha Davis and The Motels at The Mint

Martha Davis and The Motels

Martha Davis and The Motels – Photo Courtesy Martha Davis

Honesty in the Music is Martha Davis’ trademark

By DONNA BALANCIA in Los Angeles — Martha Davis of The Motels said while the 1980s were fun, she works hard to create new music today and keep up with the times.

“Of course the 80s were great, but it would be silly to try to recapture the past, wouldn’t it?” Davis asks as she casts her famous green eyes over to Marty Jourard, the sax player who’s been by Martha’s side since the band started.

Marty smiles and nods, and goes back to polishing his saxophone. From all appearances, Martha Davis and The Motels — one of the most influential bands of the last 30 years — are enjoying it all.

Backstage, before her show at Los Angeles hotspot, The Mint, Martha is happy to talk about the road her band has traveled. The Motels toured the world, performing their hits, “Only The Lonely,” “Suddenly Last Summer,” and a host of others. Her passionate voice comprised the soundtrack for a bevy of 80s youth angst films, most of them starring Molly Ringwald.

But for the Patrick Nagel-esque beauty who never wanted her face on the cover of her albums, her work is about today. When asked how she stays so young, she points to the other band members in the room, most under 30. “Look at them. That’s how I do it.” Marty gives a wink.

Martha Davis and The Motels Carved out their Credo

“The record company was ready to kill me for not putting my face on our covers,” Martha said. “But I wanted our music to be the focus, not my looks. I wanted it to be about the music.”

It’s been a wonderful journey for Martha, who has brought her bands around the world since the early days of performing at Madame Wong’s in Los Angeles, the hotspot that gave rise to some of new wave’s most notables: Oingo Boingo, The Police, Black Flag, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

But underneath the facade of bright colors, puffy hair and checkerboard Vans, The Motels were carving out their credo to stay true to their music.

It has worked.

Martha Davis and The Motels

Martha Davis and The Motels – photos by Donna Balancia

“Back then I never thought I’d still be performing today,” Martha said. “I never thought about anything, we were kids, we never thought about tomorrow.”

Her new band has been with her longer than the original group. The Motels recorded three albums and were around eight years. She’s been with the new band for 12 years and Martha Davis and The Motels is planning a European Tour and a new album.

While the music business today is immensely different from how she came up, her advice would still be the same.

“The first rule is, “Write, write, write,” she said. “Don’t worry about what you look like. It’s important to learn your craft.

“And there’s something to be said about making music with other people,” Martha said. “Today, you can take your computer and go in your bedroom and make music. And while that’s great, there’s something special about putting together a band … Taking the odd jobs to keep it going and getting together with people.”

See Martha Davis and The Motels perform “Only The Lonely” at The Mint

Martha said social media is a great gift, but there was an excitement about the “guerilla-style” promotion they used to do.

“We would put up the posters around town and then run from the cops when they chased us away. It was fun.”

As her band is a mix of veteran performers and younger up-and-comers, so is her audience mixed in age, Martha said.

“We get all ages, but there is a fondness for the eighties, or as we call them, the ‘Won’t Go Away-tees.'”

There is a new album coming, the name of which hasn’t come to Martha just yet. But the crowd that packed the house at The Mint Tuesday night got a sampling of some of the new tunes.

“We like to try out new things,” Martha said. “And that’s what it’s all about. You have to do what you love, and be honest with yourself.”


Donna Balancia is the producer of California Rocker and East Coast Rocker.  Contact her at

Merle Haggard Headlines 2014 Ink-N-Iron Fest

Merle Haggard headlines Ink-N-Iron fest

Ink-N-Iron Fest

LONG BEACH — It’s everything a lover of tats, cars, music and girls could want, all in one big location.

The 10th annual Ink-N-Iron Kustom Culture Festival will be held aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach and features performances by Merle Haggard; The Buzzcocks; the Suicidal Tendencies and others.

The festival started out in 2003 as a tattoo enthusiast event, but over the years has grown to attract thousands of ’50s culture and hot rod fans, as well as top-name acts.

For more information go to

Record Store Day in SoCal Scores a Hit with Collectors, Music Lovers


Across the globe, limited and special editions abound during annual vinyl celebration


Photo by Donna Balancia - Record Store Day Carlsbad California Spin Records California Rocker

Spin Records’ owner Ken Kosta and his staff look forward to Record Store Day each year. – Photo by Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – CARLSBAD — Record Store Day has evolved into the busiest day of Ken Kosta’s year as the owner of Spin Records in Carlsbad annually brings on extra staff to handle the onslaught of record collectors shopping for a limited edition.

As lines of customers stretched out the back door of his well-known Southern California landmark, many more customers rifled through the thousands of vinyl LPs in the stores bins.

“They’re here to collect everything, anything,” said Clinton, one of Ken’s store managers on duty. “Next to ‘Black Friday,’ this is the busiest day of our year.”

Special limited releases intrigue buyers to come from near and far, by bike, by foot and by car to record stores on Record Store Day.  The 7-year-old holiday has come to be known for its Record-Store-Only releases of limited editions.  Collectors and vinyl lovers alike are treated to a few weeks of promotions leading up to the annual celebration.

The stats on vinyl’s appeal are undeniable as the vintage technology makes a comeback.

Spin Records Carlsbad California Rocker - Photo by Donna Balancia

Record buyers pour over the collections at Spin Records in Carlsbad, California on Record Store Day. – Photo by Donna Balancia

“There continues to be encouraging growth in digital album sales,” said  David Bakula, SVP Nielsen Entertainment. “Digital albums now comprise 43 percent of all album sales, up from 38 percent at this time last year. Also, while a small percentage of the overall album sales, vinyl LPs continue to be an amazing growth story with sales up over 33 percent over last year’s record-setting pace.”

Clinton said vinyl represents most of Spin Records‘ sales, of course, and said it accounts for as much as 3 percent of all music sales nationwide.

“There is a nostalgia factor and people think the sound is better on vinyl,” Clinton said. “Our regular customers wait for this day all year.  It’s always packed.  You should have been here an hour ago, the line snaked around the block.”

#SpinRecords #RecordStoreDay2014 @donnabalancia @califrocker


Hetfield, Hagar Headline Benefit Show at Fillmore

hetfield hagar california rocker

Hetfield and Hagar benefit concert for pediatric cancer at fillmore west california rocker

SAN FRANCISCO — Metallica’s James Hetfield and Sammy Hagar will headline a benefit for Acoustic-4-A-Cure on May 15 at the Fillmore in San Francisco.

Performing at the first-year event are Heart’s Nancy Wilson, Billie Joe Amstrong, Joe Satriani and others.

Proceeds from the all-acoustic event will go to the Pediatric Cancer group at UC-San Francisco’s Benioff Children’s Hospital.

Hagar said in a statement that he has seen first hand the work the group is doing and he and Hetfield were able to quickly recruit a strong lineup for the cause.

For more information and tickets click here 


How Rock Stars Pick Their Guitars: Stevie Salas

California Rocker: How Rock Stars pick their guitars

The Idolmaker is the Stevie Salas signature model for Warwick-Framus

By DONNA BALANCIA — Stevie Salas has worked with world-class musicians but stays true to his humble Southern California roots.

He was selected to play guitar for Mick Jagger, has toured with Rod Stewart and will jam with George Clinton at SXSW in Austin.

“This is my third signature model in 25 years,” said Salas, whose extensive work as musical director for 19 Entertainment and the hit show American Idol inspired the name of the guitar.

“People have told me they think it’s the most beautifully crafted guitar and that’s not because they were talking to me and it’s my signature guitar.  It is extremely good quality. I wanted something different, something that wasn’t a ripoff of a Stratocaster or a Les Paul.”

Stevie Salas California Rocker

Stevie Salas

Sleek in its purple and black with gold tone, the Idolmaker, like the Oceanside-born rock star himself, purposeful with quality, and just a little bit flashy. The neck wood is maple, the fretboard is Tigerstripe Ebony with Indian Feather Inlay, a reminder of Salas’ Native American heritage.  It is a carved body top, the bodywood is 1-inch AAA Quilted Maple top with Mahogany body.

Particularly interesting to Salas is Warwick’s devotion to the planet: The company is known to purchase its wood from sustainable sources.

“A few years ago,  I met Hans-Peter Wilfer, who owns Warwick,” Salas said. “I like his views.  Since I have a Native American background, I wanted something that was environmentally friendly.”

Salas said he took a tour around the production facilities in Germany, met the head of production, designer Marcus Spangler and was impressed with what he saw.

Check out Stevie’s website CLICK HERE




Bob Ezrin Tells NAMM Attendees to be Precise on Music Terminology

Bob Ezrin - Photo courtesy of Nimbus School of Recording and Media

Bob Ezrin – Photo courtesy of Nimbus School of Recording and Media

Industry must call music ‘art.’  After all, Ezrin says, ‘A rose by any other name would NOT smell as sweet’ —

By DONNA BALANCIA – ANAHEIM – Legendary producer Bob Ezrin told music retailers Thursday that the industry must continue to build its talent pool in order to thrive.

Prior to his keynote address to kick off the 2014 National Association of Music Merchants Show in Anaheim, Ezrin told East Coast Rocker that the more time the industry wastes worrying about ancillary issues, the less time it will spend on its most critical function:  To inspire and educate.

“If we spend time worrying about things like how to get the music out, the less time we will have to make insanely good music,” Ezrin told California Rocker prior to delivering his speech at the annual event that draws thousands of industry members from around the world.

His morning keynote speech drew an audience of several hundred music retailers, many of whom forged through rough winter weather to attend the conference in sunny Southern California.

Using cool-sounding words doesn’t cut it for Canadian-born Ezrin, whose experience with “cool” is vast, having worked with hundreds of top musicians since the 1970s.

“When we talk about the future of making music, we have to watch the language we use,” Ezrin said.  “Someone said to me, ‘It’s about the ‘content.‘  No it’s not. ‘Content’ is for cereal boxes, not the art. If it’s called ‘content,’ you diminish the value down to breakfast cereal…When you talk about it with mist in your eyes …Now you’re talking about music.”

Ezrin spends much of his time in philanthropy.  He is co-founder with Garth Richardson and Kevin Williams of Nimbus School of Recording Arts in Vancouver.

Another word Ezrin can’t stand: “Monetization.”

Bob Ezrin: "Another word I hate: Monetize" - Photo courtesy of Canadian Music Hall of Fame

Bob Ezrin: “Another word I hate: Monetize” – Photo courtesy of Canadian Music Hall of Fame

“I don’t want to talk about business models, or the ‘monetization’ of anything, that’s a dirty word.  Unless what we make is great, nobody’s going to pay for it. ”

How will the industry make money?

“The best thing we can be doing is insure a march to excellence, to empower, inspire, to promote people who are straining to do something unique,” Ezrin said. “And to encourage them. Music is the very special creation of very special people whose entire lives and everything they’ve ever done, seen, felt or touched goes into what they do. That process is magical.”

Ezrin said: “There is a certain amount of technique involved. So how do we become insanely great? One of the things to do, whenever you set out on a journey, you need to make a list of things Not to Do, and a list of things To Do.  One of the things to do is to make a ‘Not to do’ list.”

Ezrin warned not to “Get caught up in toys, tricks, technology, packaging, positioning or any of those things before you have something to market,” he said.

Our society is perhaps too caught up in “chasing cool,” or “the latest” in tech and that viral or other song phenomena will happen without that tech factor most of the time, he said. Using the success of the catchy “Who Let The Dogs Out,” as an example, Ezrin said, “I’m sure that person was not sitting at a computer screen or at a conference like this.”

Ezrin said: “At the end of the day when somebody like Psy comes around, it travels around the world.” He said, the market is “extremely rational. The stuff of real value does get supported and earns something for somebody. And the stuff that’s not so good, typically doesn’t.”

He said formulas don’t count, unless you’re making a widget and what happened before won’t predict the future.

Bob Ezrin and Donna Balancia

Producer Bob Ezrin with Donna Balancia – Photo by John Daly for

“Art is only something artists can manage,” said Ezrin. “A craftsman is someone who can create and build code .. And an artist is someone who creates something that is different.

He said: “A rose by any other name would not  smell as sweet. If you called roses ‘kumquats’ it would not be the same.”

The music, and not the “content” or the calling it of such, is the key.

“It’s not technology or modality of delivery, it is the special creation of special people that especially touches the hearts of others,” that should be the concern of the industry.

The first line of offense in inspiring youths of today to take up an instrument is to put down the smart phone, Ezrin said.

“Kids, they hear things and kids are incredibly curious, thoughtful about what they see, even with their heads down things get in,” he said. “You need to inspire and educate.  Take them to a concert.  They may be on (the smart phone) but they internalize and maybe they’ll say, ‘I want to do that.”

Jason Mraz, Raining Jane and Bushwalla in Oceanside

Jason Mraz and Bushwalla in Oceanside

Jason Mraz and Bushwalla – © Photo by Donna Balancia

Mraz teams with Pals for Feeding The Soul Foundation

OCEANSIDE, Calif — Jason Mraz and friends put on an upbeat show with the Feeding The Soul Foundation Sunday night in North San Diego County.  Proceeds support the Scleroderma Foundation.

Before a crowd of local devotees, and accompanied by Mraz’ pal Bushwalla, the night started off with a tribute to community, complete with jokes, lighthearted banter, and even a catchy version of the neighborly  “Mr. Rogers” theme song.

Held at the quaint Star theatre in downtown Oceanside, roughly 400 people paid $40 a ticket to see Mraz and Raining Jane, with whom, Mraz said, he is producing an album to be released in May.

During the evening he played his hits “Three Things” and “Lucky” and finished with the chart-topping “I’m Yours” to an enthusiastic crowd.

“We have been following him around San Diego for a long time,” said John McIntyre of Vista.  “Jason has been playing the cafe circuit here for years.  He has a positive message.”

Opener and official headliner Michael “Leroy” Brown and accompanist Chris Joiner played a range of blues, funk and tunes including even a famous cover or two.

Raining Jane, the four-member all-girl band, was the scene-stealer with melodic harmonies and indie-pop style.  The girls showed not only can they take a joke, they can make some pretty good ones, too, with Mraz often the target of their barbs.

Mraz, Leroy, and friends is an enjoyable evening that would be suitable for a wide age range and for an audience that wants to hear performances from the heart.

Joan Jett: Social Media Would Have Killed The Runaways

Joan Jett on Social Media

Joan Jett: Social media would have killed The Runaways

By DONNA BALANCIA — Joan Jett said the pressure of 24-7 social media scrutiny has completely changed the music business.

Before a live studio audience on the CBS daytime show “The Talk,” Jett said artists today must have a different approach to marketing and promotion.

“If social media was at the level it is now I don’t know how long The Runaways could have survived,” she said. “In my day there was something called ‘mystique.’  Now if you put everything out there, it’s like ‘On to the next.'”

Jett said “I Love Rock and Roll,”  and “Crimson and Clover” made in 1981 with The Blackhearts were met with skepticism and 23 rejection letters.

“They told me, ‘Lose the guitar’ … all sorts of criticism,” she said. “And it makes me wonder, do they listen to the tapes we’re sending?”

Jett started playing guitar at the age of 13 and was touring the world with The Runaways by 17.  The first all-girl band was well received in Scandinavia, Norway, “England was OK and America pretty much laughed at us.”

Social Media Mystique

Jett said musicians are being watched all the time via social media, which may not always be a good thing.

When asked about her opinion on Cyrus, she said: “It all comes back to the music. Miley made a good record and the charts are showing it.”


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