California Rocker

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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’

By DONNA BALANCIA

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 CaliforniaRocker.com. “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

By DONNA BALANCIA

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.

tighty-whities-escobar7-nov7

“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 CaliforniaRocker.com “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.”

 

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