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As you may be aware this month on Ammunition Radio on IsGoodRadio.com (podcast can be found at ammunition.podomatic.com), January’s guest co-host Amanda Jones and I have been discussing the musical experiences of our youth. We both grew up in two different worlds, she being a Los Angeles native took advantage of everything it had to offer and has the stories to share that come with such an experience. I grew up approximately two and a half hours north of here in Bakersfield, that although only a short drive was a completely different experience.
This past Sunday (and also next Sunday), we invited our talented friend and drummer Mr. John Montgomery (Bottom 12, It, Resonant Heads, Year of the Dragon, Cakecutter, The VCR) onto the show to also discuss his experiences with the LA music scene and beyond as he’s been a working musician who’s also heavily involved in the licensing/publishing side of the music business.
Although, I am from the “born in the 80’s” generation, there were some parralels within all three of our music experiences and we’ve all seen many of the same bands (just possibly at different points in their careers) and share mutual friends with many of those members of those “old school” bands.
Although, I’ve been trying not to incorporate too much country into Ammunition, everyone that knows me well, knows that Country music is a constant with me, most of my first concerts were Country music shows (at now defunct places like Cadillac Ranch and Mesa Marin Raceway or the “historic” Fox Theatres, and later consistently at Buck Owen’s The Crystal Palace). The “Bakersfield Sound,” built primarily by Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and Wynn Stewart has always been a pillar of influence in the Country music genre. With the addition of the Crystal Palace, a who’s who of Country music was always “passing through.” Just like LA has a lot of film and musical history, there is a lot of country music history in Bakersfield. I was especially sad to hear about the closing down of the Buck Owen’s Recording Studios last year, and funny enough my childhood friend (who probably hangs out with my parents more than I do nowadays) Danny Garone’s band, the Iron Outlaws, ended up being the last band to record there.
You can see some footage of the final days of the studios in this documentary by N.L. Belardes for ABC Channel 23
Aside from that Country scene, growing up in Bakersfield there was definitely a fairly healthy music scene throughout my youth, (especially after the addition of Jerry’s Pizza in the early 90’s which had the teens and pre-teens taking busses from the southwest, and everywhere else in town, to downtown’s Chester Avenue for local as well as established primarily punk, power pop, and alternative rock acts.) I didn’t get to go to as many shows as I wish I could have. It’s true that many of those LA and Orange County bands and artists played Bakersfield primarily in all ages spaces like Jerry’s, only we got them sometime later and few and far between. One of the first things many musically inclined people who have either played in Bakersfield or been there for a show consistently ask me, is “What was that place that had the Pizza and was all ages?” Jerry’s Pizza?, “Yeah, that’s the place! We had such a blast playing there, we should go back and play there again, maybe a secret show or something.” I’ve heard that over and over and over in the last few years.
We didn’t have an LA Weekly/OC Weekly, LA Alt Press, or City Beat type of publication in Bakersfield while I was growing up that consistently told us who was playing, so our info came via flyers, word of mouth, or the local paper (The Bakersfield Californian). In that paper there was a regular contributor by the name of Chris Page who was actually a young guy whose column was initially named Under 21 (because he was) and later renamed 21 and Under (after he turned 21). He was also a bassist for a couple of different bands.
I met Chris briefly while I was in high school, when I participated in (and won the front page news story category) a Bakersfield High School newspaper competition (I was editor of the Front Page of our high school newspaper at the time). In all honestly, his column has been the only column by any newspaper contributor that I truly made an effort to read consistently, keeping that up until I went away to college. I didn’t really keep in touch with him and didn’t see him again until years later when I ran into him randomly when I was back in town during a break from college at a party when he stepped in to rescue me from his friend who was trying to hit on me and after that we stayed in touch sporadically until recent years.
He primarily reported on the local music scene and bands, every now and then doing write-ups and features on bands that at the time were up and coming like Weezer and Korn (who everyone in Bakersfield swears they knew prior to “Shoots and Ladders” just like everyone knows the Orgy and Adema guys) trying to put a slightly different spin on them to not do the same story on them that everyone else was doing.
I actually miss this kind of writing and consistency from a music writer, I never again followed anyone else as consistently (although I did come to look forward to Kevin Bronson’s Buzz Bands column in the LA Times, who you can still follow at www.buzzbands.la). Unfortunately, as I mentioned I lost touch with Chris and only last year learned that he’d taken his own life in 2008. You can read some nice words about Chris Page here written by Richard Chang of the OC Register.
Tune in this Sunday at 6:30 pm for Ammunition featuring Part II (on IsGoodRadio.com) of our conversation with Mista John Montgomery.