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Sacramento Music Scene History
by Alex Cosper
Take a virtual tour of Sacramento at SacTV.com
The Sacramento music scene is full of great artists. The city is now firmly on the music industry map
with several major label signings and successes of recent years. In the
eighties Steel Breeze, Bourgeois Tagg, Club Nouveau and Tesla were the big news in the scene
as they each had national hits. Tesla continued to chart in the nineties before their temporary
break-up and then got back together in the new millennium. Also from the nineties on, the local
talent that went on to national success has included Cause & Effect, DRS, Cake, Deftones, Oleander and Papa Roach.
The history of the Sacramento music scene includes several other artists who either came close or made it to national stardom. The following are artists who were based in the Sacramento area either before, during or after being signed to a record label for national distribution:
Lynn Anderson - She was a famous country singer who had a big crossover pop hit in 1971 called "Rose Garden" on Columbia Records. That was also the year she won the Country Music Association's female vocalist of the year award. She was the daughter of country singer Liz Anderson and was born in 1947 in North Dakota, but raised in Carmichael. In the fifties she entered a Sacramento talent contest and won, which marked the beginning of her
music career. In the early sixties she was the receptionist at KROY, where she talked with industry people every day. She began charting with national country hits in 1966 on Chart Records. After several years on Columbia and
then Perminan Records, she signed with Mercury Records in the mid-eighties and continued to have country hits. All together
she's had well over 50 hits on the country charts. In 2004 Anderson put out a bluegrass album called Pure Country, which marked her first release in twelve years.
Beau Brummels - Originally from San Francisco, the sixties pop/rock group headed by Sal Valentino had three national hits on Tom & Raechel Donahue's Autumn Records in 1965: "Laugh, Laugh," "Just A Little"
and "You Tell Me Why." Sal eventually moved to Sacramento and continues to do shows in the area as a solo artist.
Bourgeois Tagg - Brent Bourgeois sang and played keyboards while Larry Tagg sang and
played bass. Other musicians included guitarist Lyle Workman, keyboardist Scott Moon and drummer Michael Urbano.
After being signed to Island Records, in 1986 "Mutual Surrender" was their first song that got played here and there around the country, although it got played heavily on Sacramento airwaves. Then they barely made the national top 40 in 1987 with a guitar ballad called "I Don't Mind At All" that many critics compared to Paul McCartney. Brent Bourgeois went on to hit the national top 40 in 1990 as a solo artist with the song "Dare To Fall In Love" on Charisma Records.
Cake - The quirky alternative/pop act were signed to Capricorn Records in the mid-nineties
and began getting national airplay in 1995 with the song "Rock and Roll Lifestyle." It came from the album Motorcade of Generosity, which spawned several hits on KWOD including "Jolene," "Mr. Mastadon Farm" and "Ruby Sees All." In 1996 they hit the national top 40 as well as the alternative top five with the song "The Distance" from their big selling album Fashion Nugget. Their next release was Prolonging The Magic in 1998 featuring the alternative hits "Let Me Go" and "Never There." With the demise of Capricorn Records in 2000, they were picked up by Columbia Records and had a hit in 2001 with "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" from the album Comfort Eagle. The band's fifth album in 2004 was called Pressure Chief featuring the single "No Phone." They have now sold several million albums. The group is led by singer/guitarist John McCrea. Other members have included guitarist Greg Brown, trumpet player Vince DiFiore, bassist Victor Damiani and drummer Todd Roper. Gabe Nelson returned to bass in 1997 after a three year absence. Xan McCurdy was added on guitar in 1998. Members prior to the band getting signed included drummer Frank French and bassist Sean McFessel.
Cause & Effect - The duo of singer/guitarist Rob Rowe and keyboardist Sean Rowley began
getting national airplay in 1991 with their techno/pop Depeche Mode-sounding song "What Do You See" on Exile Records. That year they were signed to BMG's Zoo Entertainment, who re-issued their debut album Another Minute. In 1992 another song from that album called "You Think You Know Her" barely made the national top 40. KWOD also played the tracks "Another Minute" and "Echoing Green" in light rotation. The following November Rowley died from an asthma attack while they were on tour in Minneapolis as the opening act for Information Society. Rowe kept the project together on Zoo and had another modern rock hit a few years later called "It's Over Now" from the album Trip as Keith Milo came in on keyboards. Richard Shepherd became the drummer in 1990 after the departure of Evan Parandes.
Chance The Gardener - The band, formerly known as Bone Games, were out of Davis and were
signed to Warner Brothers by the same A&R rep who signed Devo. In 1996 the label released their one album, The Day The Dogs Took Over. They had a rootsy Americana sound and the songs "Boise" and "Smoke" gained frequent airplay on KWOD in Sacramento, but that's about as far as they got on the radio. Later that year they were dropped when their A&R rep left
the label and Warner Brothers were forced to drop several new acts in order to re-sign R.E.M. for $80 million. Singer
Stu Blakey committed suicide by hanging himself shortly afterward. Two of the members, singer/guitarist Steve Bryant and
guitarist Greg Hain went on to form Toadmortons and created music in a similar vein.
Craig Chaquico - The guitarist joined the already nationally known San Francisco band Jefferson Starship in the mid-seventies and stayed with the group through the mid-eighties when it was known simply as Starship.
He then began to focus on his own jazz solo albums.
The Cramps - In 1972 Sac State students Erick Purkhiser and Kristy Wallace met
and started making punk music together. Erick bcame Lux Interior and Kristy became Poison Ivy. In 1973 they moved to
Akron, Ohion and then New York a few years later. In 1976 they formed the Cramps, whose music was called
psychobilly. They were an early punk rock band who played at the legendary club CBGB's. In 1977 they were signed to IRS Records,
owned by Miles Copeland. The Cramps played KWOD's Christmas show in 1993. They broke up in 2009 after the unexpected death of Lux Interior.
Club Nouveau - Producer Jay King, who also founded Timex Social Club, headed the group
which also featured Valerie Watson, Samuelle Prater, Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy. In 1987, having been signed to Warner
Brothers, they became the first act ever from Sacramento to have a number one single on the Billboard Hot 100. That song was "Lean On Me," a cover of the seventies Bill Withers hit. They had a follow-up top 40 hit called "Why You Treat Me So Bad" that year before disappearing from the national scene.
Mark Curry - In 1992 he was signed to Virgin Records, who released his single "Sorry About The Weather" from the album It's Only Time. It was played frequently on KWOD and got a few other spins around the country, but within a few years the one-time Sac High student was dropped by the label.
Steve Dahl & Teenage Radiation - Steve Dahl was KSFM's morning host when the station launched
its Earth Radio rock format in 1974. He had also worked on the air briefly at KROY-AM prior to that, although he originally started his radio career in Southern California around 1972. In the mid-seventies he moved to Chicago, where he became an even bigger morning radio star at WLUP. In 1978 he formed his band with fellow radio friend
Garry Meier. During this time disco music was starting to dominate the radio as even rock artists were shifting to the repetitive dance sound. After Rod Stewart had a number one hit in early 1979 with "Do You Think I'm Sexy," Steve and Gary decided to make of a parody of the song called "Do You Think I'm Disco." The record made fun of how disco was over-hyped
and promoted overt narcissism. The record climaxed with a hard rock sound as a remedy. It was released on Ovation Records with distribution from Warner Brothers that summer. Nationally-syndicated radio host Dr. Demento featured it in his "novelty top ten" in August 1979. Then in October the record barely missed the top 40, although it eventually sold 300,000 copies, which was a rare feat for a low-charting single. In 1998 Steve co-wrote a song for ex-Beach Boy Brian Wilson called "Imagination." Steve has remained a very popular voice on Chicago radio through the years.
Deathray - They were briefly signed to Capricorn Records in 2000 until the label folded that year. The band obviously benefitted from Cake, who were also signed to the label, as guitarist Greg Brown left Cake to join Deathray. Fronting the band was Dana Gumbiner, formerly of the very popular local band LGS aka Little Guilt Shrine, who had a KWOD hit in 1996 called "Jet, Jackie and J.C." from their album New Car Smell. Songs that could have been hits for Deathray had they gotten airplay included "Now That I Am Blind" and "My Lunatic Friends." The band continued to play locally as members have been involved in other projects as well.
D.R.S. - The name of this R&B group stood for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Members included Endo, Pic, Jail Bait, Deuce Deuce and Blunt. In 1993 they hit the national top five with a song called "Gangsta Lean" on Capitol
Records. It would be their only national hit, although it did make number one on Billboard's R&B charts.
Deftones - Led by singer Chino Moreno, they developed first as a funk/rock band in the early nineties, then as a hard rock/alternative band by the middle of the decade when they were signed to Madonna's label
Maverick Records. Other members include guitarist Stephen Carpenter, bassist Chi Cheng and drummer Abe Cunningham. Their first album Adrenaline came out in 1995 and began getting airplay with the song "7 Words."
Their next album in 1997 was Around The Fur, which delivered the rock and alternative radio track "Be Quiet And Drive." In 2000 their album White Pony entered the Billboard 200 album chart at number three and went
platinum. It included the rock and alternative hit "Changes (In The House of Flies)." They scored big again in 2003 with a more melodic hit called "Minerva" from their self-titled fourth album, another million seller.
Endeverafter - Michael Grant formed this Sacramento rock band in 2004 two years before they were signed by Epic.
They made the national rock charts in 2007 with the track "I Wanna Be Your Man," hitting the top 25. They toured with national acts such as
Motley Crue and Poison. After the group broke up in 2012, Grant joined L.A. Guns as their guitarist.
Fanny - As one of America's first all female rock bands, this group has been overlooked in the
history books, despite their amazing story. They were originally formed in high school in the early sixties as the Svelts, formed by
Jean and June Millington, who both came from the Phillipines and moved to Sacramento in 1961. By the end of the decade they were discovered
in Los Angeles by record producer Richard Perry and were signed to Warner label Reprise, who released three of their albums in the early
seventies as Fanny. In 1973 they switched to Casablanca Records and were produced by Todd Rundgren. They had a few minor hits on the
Billboard Hot 100 such as "Wild Thing" in 1974 and "Butter Boy" in 1975. Other members included Addie Lee, Brie Brandt and Alice de Buhr.
Far - This "emo" band featured the screaming raw emotions of singer Jonah Matranga. Their music has become
respected among the underground hardcore rock scene, but they've received little attention on commercial airwaves. After making a few local albums
they were signed to Epic/Immortal Records in 1995 and put out their
debut album called Tin Cans and Strings To You the following year. The album's single "In The Aisle, Yelling" was perhaps too hard even
for alternative or rock airplay at that time. After the Quick EP in 1997 they had a follow-up album called Water & Solutions in 1998,
which has become somewhat of a cult classic, featuring the standout song "Mother Mary." The band broke up in 1999 as Jonah moved on to another
project called Onelinedrawing. Other members of Far included guitarist Shaun Lopez, bassist John Guttenberger and drummer Chris Robyn.
The Features - They were on the verge of getting signed to A&M Records in the 1980s after their hugely
successful self-released local album Up Up Side Side in 1983. Led by Johnny Pride, the band included two members who had defected
from Steel Breeze, guitarist Waylin Carpenter and bassist Vinnie Pantaleoni. The Features had the same management as Steel Breeze, so they
had played many shows together. The band moved to Los Angeles to form Pride In Peril, who appeared in the Oliver Stone film The Doors after
Pride became friends with Val Kilmer. Pride moved back to Atlanta, where he is friends with the members of R.E.M.
Game Theory - Scott Miller formed Game Theory while attending UC Davis in 1981. They released a string of
albums on Enigma Records until the label folder in 1989. The band had moved to San Francisco in 1984. They were produced by R.E.M. producer Mitch
Easter during the mid 80s. Miller formed the band Loud Family in the early 1990s and released a string of several albums. He also authored
a book about the history of pop music called Music: What Happened? in 2010. He died unexpectedly in April 2013 after planning on a
new Game Theory revival project.
Jackie Greene - Before joining the Black Crowes on guitar in late 2013, Greene was known as a notable
Northern California musician who was born in Santa Rosa but grew up in Sacramento, where he worked at bars and did open mic shows. He issued his first solo album in 2002 called Rusty Nails, which
gained attention nationally among Americana fans and Phil Lesh, who spread his name in the music industry. He received more attention and radio airplay for his song "Honey I Been Thinking About You"
in 2004. He has toured nationally with several well known acts such as B.B. King, Mark Knopfler, Los Lobos, Ratdog, Huey Lewis, Buddy Guy,
Taj Mahal and Susan Tedeschi.
Lee Greenwood - Born in Los Angeles in 1942, his family moved to Sacramento during his childhood. He started his own band called the Moonbeams in high school. He later had a band called the Apollos in the
early sixties. Another band he played in before becoming a famous country singer was the Scotties, which featured Felix Calaliere, the future lead singer of the sixties hit act the Rascals. Lee began his string of country hits for MCA Records
in 1981 and would go on to have dozens of popular country songs. Some of his many number one country hits included
"Somebody's Gonna Love You," "Going Going Gone," and "Dixie Road."
Harvester - Orignally formed in Chico in 1993, this avantegarde pop/rock act wound up getting
signed to DGC/Geffen Records and had one major label release in 1996 called Me Climb Mountain, but did not generate
airplay or sales around the country. The band continued to put out albums the rest of the decade independently. Eventually the band morphed into Carquinez Straits and continued to play the local circuit. Members included singer/guitarist Sean Harrasser, singer/bassist Todd Steinberg, guitarist/singer Jed Brewer and drummer Jon Sebat.
Kak - In 1968 Epic Records released their self-titled album, but it did not gain much airplay outside of Sacramento on KZAP. It was a surreal psychedelic album that still stands up as one of the many buried treasures of the era. The song "Lemonaide Kid" is perhaps one of the greatest overlooked gems of all time. Although the band broke up in 1970, frontman Gary Yoder joined San Francisco rock band Blue Cheer on guitar and harmonica that year. The band, which came to be regarded as one of the first heavy metal acts, had hit the national top ten in 1969 with their cover of the Eddie Cochrane song "Summertime Blues." Yoder continued to perform in the Sacramento area as a solo artist through the 2000s. Prior to Kak, Yoder had managed Oxford Circle.
Knapsack - They were a Davis pop/rock band with an edge formed in 1993, who wound up getting signed to a little-known but national label called Alias Records just a few years later. The members were singer/guitarist Blair Sheehan, guitarist Sergie Loobkoff, bassist Rod Meyer and drummer Colby Mancasola. On Alias they put out three albums in which none were able to generate airplay except light rotation on KWOD: Silver Sweepstakes (1995), Day Three of My New Life (1997) and The Conversation Is Ending...Starting Right Now (1998). The band broke up in 1999.
Little Roger & The Goosebumps - Their one single didn't quite climb the charts nationally
in 1978 because it was pre-empted by a lawsuit while the song was steadily gaining airplay around the country. The song was called "Gilligan's Island (Stairway)," which was a novelty featuring the lyrics of the Gilligan's Island
Theme set to the music of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven." It was Led Zeppelin's publishing company who kept the song from growing into a hit due to Little Roger's failure to seek permission prior to releasing the record. The plaintiffs ordered the record to be taken off the market and all copies destroyed. The band was formed in the mid-seventies and became well-known in the Davis scene before spreading to Sacramento and ultimately gaining more popularity in the Bay Area. It was fronted by Roger Clark, who teamed up with San Francisco band Earthquake to record the instrumentation in London at Pete Townshend's studio. Other members included the late guitarist John Shield, who came up with the idea of mixing the two songs together, and violinist Dick Bright, who became an accomplished orchestra leader in the Bay Area and backed artists like Santana and Bonnie Raitt. After the smoke had cleared, the recording later appeared on a Blackheart/Mercury Records compilation called Laguna Tunes, compiled by producer Kenny Laguna.
Rose Maddox - (1925-1998) Her story is that of someone who rose in the music industry by starting out on radio. Rose Maddox, along with her brothers, scored a regular KFBK radio show beginning in 1939 after winning a contest at the California State Fair. This was in the era when many radio shows were hosted by bands who performed their songs throughout the show, in which young Rose Maddox was the leader singer of a family "hillbilly" band. The family was originally from Alabama and then moved to Modesto where they hosted their first radio show at KTRB when Rose was only eleven
years old. The KFBK experience made them a high profile Sacramento act, which eventually led to a record deal with Four Star in 1947 as Maddox Brothers and Sister Rose.
Rose Maddox, however, did not start to have hits on the national country charts until she went solo, which happened in 1959 when the band broke up. Her first successful major label release was on Capitol in 1959. It was called "Gambler's Love," and it penetrated the national country charts. She would have over a dozen other country hits in the next few decades through 1978. In the early sixties she sang
a few duets with Buck Owens on Capitol that hit the country top ten nationally. Those hits were "Mental Cruelty" and "Loose Talk."
Her biggest hit on the Billboard country chart was the top three smash "Sing a Little Song of Heartache" in late 1962.
Her career is documented in a biography by Jonny Whiteside called Ramblin' Rose: The Life and Career of Rose Maddox.
Mother Hips - The band was actually from Chico, but performed frequently in Sacramento
and became one of the biggest drawing local bands of the region. In 1992 they released an album called Back In The Grotto, which was released nationally three years later on American Recordings. KWOD supported the release by giving frequent airplay to "Hey Emilee," but the rootsy rock song did not generate much airplay elsewhere. Later in 1995 they put out their follow-up album called Part Timer Goes Full, which had another track that was played on KWOD but hardly anywhere else called "Shut The Door." American Recordings delivered a third album before dropping the band in 1996 called Shoot Out featuring "Honeydew," which was also spun on KWOD but not nationally. The band continued to play live and release recordings such as Gold Plated and remained a regional act with a strong following.
Mr. Big - Although the band was formed in San Francisco and then were based in Los Angeles, lead singer Eric Martin had grown up in Sacramento. He was a local music scene figure for several years in the Eric Martin Band, which signed with CBS and released a 1983 album called Sucker For A Pretty Face. He then signed with Capitol
as a solo artist and released the albums Eric Martin and I'm Only Fooling Myself in the mid-eighties.
Eric and Billy Sheehan formed Mr. Big in 1988 and put out their self-titled first release on Atlantic Records the following year. They ultimately hit number one in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1992 with the rock ballad "To Be With You" on Atlantic Records. It came from the band's second charting album called Lean Into It, which was a million seller that made the national top 20. The third album called Bump Ahead had only a modest showing, barely making the top 100. The band had two other top 40 singles before disappearing from the national scene after 1993. Those singles were "Just Take My Heart" and "Wild World."
Eddie Murphy - The famous actor, who rose to fame on NBC's Saturday Night Live
and then in blockbuster movies such as Beverly Hills Cop, had a big national top five hit in 1985 called "Party All The Time" on Columbia Records. Although originally born in New York in 1961, he bought a Sacramento home in the eighties. In 1989 he had another top 40 single called "Put Your Mouth On Me."
The New Breed - They were well received on the local circuit but didn't get much further than that except for a
single called "Leave Me Be" in 1966. It was distributed nationally on Mercury Records but did not become a hit. The band later evolved into a
regional act called Redwing in the seventies. Bassist and vocalist Tim Schmit went on to
enjoy national success with Poco throughout the seventies, then the Eagles at the tail-end of their run followed by a solo career in the eighties.
Night Ranger - The band actually was more of a San Francisco/Northern California band, but guitarist Jeff Watson
grew up in Sacramento. The rock band first hit the national top 40 in 1983 with a song called "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" on Boardwalk Records. They then moved to MCA Records and had a string of pop and rock hits in the mid-eighties that included top ten singles such as "Sister Christian" and "Sentimental Street."
Oleander - Singer Tommy Flowers attended Foothill High in the eighties before forming the rock band Jack in the early nineties. After several years of playing locally, they changed their name to Oleander and began getting airplay on KRXQ with the song "Down When I'm Loaded." In the late nineties they were signed to Republic Records, an imprint of Universal Music Group. In 1999 they went on to have a national top ten rock and alternative hit called "Why I'm Here" from the album February Son. The follow-up single "I Walk Alone" also gained significant national airplay in the rock and alternative formats. After the next album they were dropped from the label but continued to tour and record. Other members included guitarist Ric Ivanisevch, bassist Doug Eldridge and drummer Fred Nelson.
Oxford Circle - In 1966 this psychedelic group, managed by Gary Yoder, put out a single called "Mind Destruction" on World United Records, which was distributed nationally by Mercury Records. Unfortunately the record
did not go anywhere but Yoder went on to form Kak, who were signed to Epic Records. Drummer Paul Whaley and guitarist Dehner Patten also moved on to Kak. The only real claim to fame Oxford Circle had was that they regularly opened for the Grateful Dead.
Papa Roach - Actually from Vacaville, they performed frequently in Sacramento throughout the late nineties before getting signed to Dreamworks. In 2000 they blasted on to the national scene with the hit "Last Resort," which was a top ten rock and alternative hit from the debut album Infest. The album also produced the follow-up hit "Broken Home." In 2002 they sold well again with the album Lovehatetragedy, this time produced by Brendan O'Brien,
who had also worked with Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots and Rage Against The Machine. From this album came the hit
"She Loves Me Not." The band, headed by vocalist Coby Dick, put out an album in 2004 on Geffen Records called Getting Away With Murder." Members include singer Jacoby Shaddix, guitarist Jerry Horton, bassist Tobin Esperance and drummer Dave Buckner.
Papa's Culture - This pop/rock/reggae/soul band featuring Harley White and several other musicians were briefly signed to Elektra Records in 1992, but never gained national airplay in an era when such
an eclectic sound did not seem to fit any tightly-programmed radio formats. They were signed by an A&R rep who was the brother of pop/rock artist Randy Newman.
Timothy B. Schmit - Born in Sacramento in 1947, Schmit started out as a vocalist and bassist for the Sacramento
band The New Breed, who were briefly signed to Mercury Records in the sixties. His next gig was with the successful seventies country/rock
band Poco on ABC Records. He made a much bigger mark when he joined the Eagles at the height of their popularity for The Long Run album
in 1979 on Asylum Records in which he contributed vocals on the national top ten hit "I Can't Tell You Why." In 1984 he put out his own solo
release on Asylum Records called Playin' It Cool. Three years later he made a bigger impact on MCA Records with his album Timothy B,
featuring a national top 30 single called "Boys Night Out."
7 Seconds - They were perhaps the most celebrated punk/power pop band from the area,
although they originally made waves in Reno, NV. The band was briefly signed to Columbia Records in 1996 as KWOD
gave frequent airplay to "See You Tomorrow." The band's fans, however, are probably more familiar with the earlier and subsequent releases that did not get airplay. In the late eighties the band was distributed nationally when it was signed to Restless Records, which put out the albums Soulforce Revolution and Ourselves. Frontman Kevin Seconds went on to record solo projects as well as forming Go National with his wife Allyson. The couple also have run nightclubs in Downtown Sacramento including the True Love Coffee House.
Seventy Sevens - They were a three-piece Christian rock band fronted by singer/guitarist Michael Roe along with bassist Mark Harmon and drummer Bruce Spencer. They put out several albums in the eighties and nineties on Exit Records. One album, All Fall Down was picked up by A&M Records in 1984.
Kevin Sharp - This remarkable country solo artist had a huge number one country hit in 1997 called "Nobody Knows" on Elektra Records from his debut album Measure Of A Man. More country hits would follow such as "She's Sure Taking It Well" and "If You Love Somebody." Born in 1970 in Redding, CA, he spent his childhood in a small town in Idaho, then moved to Sacramento in his high school years, in which he was diagnosed with bone cancer. Through the Make A Wish Foundation he met producer David Foster, who became a close friend and helped Kevin launch his music career. After chemotherapy, radiation and other forms of cancer treatment, Kevin went into remission in 1990. Afterwards he became a national spokesman for Make A Wish. He has written a book about surviving his ordeal with cancer called Tragedy's Gift.
Soul Motor - This band achieved notoriety in several ways and were signed by CMC Records and distributed by BMG. Vocalist Darin Wood had already become a familiar voice in town through other bands with his aggressive blues/rock style while bassist Brian Wheat attracted fans of his previous group Tesla. The band's first self-titled album in 1999 spawned a controversial song called "Guardian Angel," which MTV refused to play due to its theme
dealing with murder. Other members included guitarist Tommy McClendon and drummer Mike Vanderhule.
Spiral Starecase - This jazzy pop/rock act marked the first time a Sacramento band ever
made the national top ten on the Billboard Hot 100. They did it with "More Today Than Yesterday" on Columbia Records in 1969. The band consisted of singer/guitarist Pat Upton, saxophonist Dick Lopes, bassist Bobby Raymond, drummer Vinny Parello and organist Harvey Kaplan, whose daughter Brenda K. Starr began having national hits in the eighties.
Brenda, however, was born and raised in New York.
Steel Breeze - They became local heroes in the early eighties once they were signed to RCA Records. Their first single "You Don't Want Me Anymore" hit the national top 20 in 1982, which immediately was followed up
by the top 30 single "Dreaming Is Easy." After that they disappeared from the national scene. The rock band consisted of
singer Ric Jacobs, guitarist Ken Goorabian, guitarist Waylin Carpenter, keyboardist Rod Toner, bassist Vinnie Pantleoni
and drummer Barry Lowenthal.
Sweet Vine - They were briefly signed to Columbia Records in 1997 but their self-titled album
did not get any airplay around the country. The band had a rootsy blues/rock sound and was fronted by Hans Eberbach. One thing that made the band stand out locally was that all six members sang vocals. Other members included producer Michael Barbiero, guitarist Nate Dale, keyboardist Frank Skaggs, bassist Jason Flohrer and drummer Steve King.
Tesla - They have been the most successful artist from Sacramento to date, selling millions
of albums. Originally called City Kidd, they were signed to Geffen in the mid-eighties and had big rock hits in 1987
"Little Suzie" and "Modern Day Cowboy" from the album Mechanical Resonance. The album sold over a million units, as did the next album The Great Radio Controversy in 1989, which generated the national top ten hit ballad "Love Song." The album also featured the rock hits "The Way It Is" and "Heaven's Trail." In 1990 they put out their live album Five Man Acoustical Jam, which also went platinum and featured a hit cover of "Signs," originally done by the Five Man Electrical Band. They continued to sell over a million units in 1991 with Psychotic Supper, featuring the rock hit "What You Give." The next album three years later was mostly a retrospective of earlier material called Bust A Nut but featured a new recording called "Mama's Fool," which became a rock radio hit. The band featured singer Jeff Keith, guitarist Frank Hannon, guitarist Tommy Skeoch, bassist Brian Wheat and drummer Troy Luccetta. After several platinum albums, they broke up in 1996 as Jeff Keith put together Sofa King, Brian Wheat played in Soul Motor and Frank Hannon moved to Moon Dog Mane. Tesla regrouped in the new millennium. Brian Wheat launched his own state of the art recording studio in 2004 called J Street Records in Sacramento.
Thin White Rope - This Davis, CA band made a bigger impact in Europe than in the United States in the eighties. They even became the first American indie band to cross the Iron Curtain and tour the Soviet Union in 1988.
Fronted by Guy Kyser, they created a hypnotic sound too surreal for American radio at that time. They were signed to Frontier Records in the mid-eighties and put out four albums before disappearing from the underground circuit. The first three albums were Exploring The Axis in 1985, Moonhead in 1987 and In The Spanish Cave in 1988. Their 1990 album Sack Full of Silver was distributed by RCA Records, but like all their other albums, did not chart in America,
not that they ever tried to fit in with the commercial world. With its smooth layered sound, however, several tracks including "Disney Girl" and "Down In The Desert" may someday be regarded as cult classics. Their music is a collection of great buried treasures in rock history. Other members included guitarist Roger Kunkel and drummer Jozef Becker. Kunkel went
on to play and record with Acme Rocket Quartet, a local favorite among the Davis scene.
Timex Social Club - Formed by Club Nouveau founder Jay King, the group was actually based in Berkeley, but because of Jay King, it is often referred to as a Sacramento act. The R&B group had one big single called
"Rumours" on Jay Records, which hit the national top ten in 1986 shortly after Club Nouveau had their big hit.
Wayman Tisdale (1964-2009) - He was an NBA basketball star in the eighties and nineties and then launched his successful
smooth jazz/r&b music career, turning his bass into a melodic lead instrument. For awhile he was signed to Motown Records, which released Power Forward in 1995 and
In The Zone the following year. He then signed with Atlantic Records, which released Decisions in 1998 and Face To Face in 2001 featuring the notable
jazz hit "Can't Hide Love." He has had several other releases on independent labels including Hang Time in 2004. Prior to his career with the Indiana Pacers,
Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns, he won an Olympic gold metal for basketball in 1984. He was originally from Oklahoma, where he returned. He died in Tulsa in 2009 following
a series of unfortunate events including cancer and knee amputation. He was planning to return to the studio the following week to record with Norman Brown.
Roger Voudouris (1954-2003) - The pop singer/guitarist made the top 40 in 1979 with a keyboard-driven pop song called "Get Used To It" on Warner Brothers Records. In Australia it was actually a number one hit. The album that featured the hit was called Radio Dreams. Roger had made it onto the music scene by establishing his McClatchy High band Roger Voudouris Loud As Hell Rockers in the early seventies. The band went on to open for the Doobie Brothers and Stephen Stills before Roger teamed up with David Kahne and they were signed to Capitol Records in the early seventies
as Voudouris and Kahne. The duo split up as Kahne went into producing and Roger was signed to Warner Brothers as a solo artist. Although he was unable to follow-up his American hit with any further success in the states, he did develop a following in Japan in the early eighties. Roger died in 2003 at the age of 48 of natural causes.
Scott Weiland - He sold millions of records as lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots, based in San Diego. Scott grew up in Folsom and attended Oak Ridge High. In 1998 be put out a solo album on Atlantic Records called
12 Bar Blues. In 2004 he joined some former members of Guns N' Roses and became the singer for Velvet Revolver.
Zoppi - Fronted by Bob Zoppi, who was briefly signed to Warner Brothers in the early nineties
in the act Agnes Stone, the band became an outlet for Bob's modern pop/rock songwriting. They were briefly picked up by MCA in 1999. The label issued a single called "One Sun" from the album Suspended which became a regional hit with lots of spins on 100.5 The Zone. The album was produced by Matthew Wilder, who had a hit in 1984 called "Break My Stride" and was more recently known for producing No Doubt. Band members have included Rick Vogelsang (guitar), Paul Vogelsang (bass),
Scott Reams (keyboards) and Bruce Spencer (drums). Other Zoppi songs include "Feed Love," "Ashamed" and "Distorted Views."
This summary of Sacramento artists who enjoyed national success is a growing work in progress that began in 2005.
For other notable artists of the Sacramento music scene (past and present), click here.
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