San Diego’s Rock and Roll History

I recently discovered this bit of treasure for anyone interested in the history of San Diego’s music scene. It’s a CD Compilation called Look Out! The San Diego Scene 1958 – 1973 Rock & Roll, Garage, Psych and Soul From America’s Finest City.

A treasure trove from the rock-era San Diego music scene

Released in October 2020, this is a top-notch assemblage, put together with respect and loving care by San Diego musician and local music historian Andy Rasmussen. The generous 33 cuts showcase a wide range of pop styles from the era. A 36 page booklet of liner notes by Mike Stax provides short histories on each of artists as well as a cornucopia of band photos, record labels and other promotional items.

Most of these bands remained local, though some members went on to bigger careers, most notably The Outcasts’ Gary Puckett who had several national hits in the 1960s when he formed Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. Jerry Raney, who later went on to success with another well known San Diego band, the Beat Farmers, is represented here with his songwriting, singing and lead guitar work for the band Glory. A band called The Survivors featured the mysteriously disappearing singer-songwriter Jim Sullivan, who released two well-received major label albums in the 1960s. Joel Scott Hill of The Strangers and The Invaders later played with both Canned Heat and The Flying Burrito Brothers. And I’m personally intrigued by Willie Kellogg, who seems to have been the most valuable drummer in town, showing up in many of the recordings.

Aside from the famous names, what’s really fun about the CD is learning more about the local music scene during this era, when Ozzie’s Music Store (which I do remember) used to hold a Battle of the Bands concert once a month in their parking lot. Clubs where bands played had names like Shangri-La, Cinnamon Cinder, Circe’s Cup, Funky Quarters, Halo Hop and the Candy Company, to name a few.

Much of the material here is of its time, but the performances are top-notch and, given the recording tech of the time, well recorded, all honorably restored and re-mastered by Mike Kamoo. Find Me a Moment by The Brain Police could easily have been a big pop hit in the psychedelic era. The Caterpillar Crawl by The Strangers is an aggresive Dick Dale/Ventures-style guitar instrumental. Ervin Rucker brings Stax Records soul to She’s Alright while Hootchie Part 1 from the Ray-Nears provides some nifty sax-fueled funkiness. And the doo-wop Unemployment from Steve and the Holidays is a real hoot. In short, the CD is a lot of fun and a great bit of San Diego musical history as well. Kudos to all involved.

You can purchase your own copy of the CD via BandCamp. All proceeds go to the San Diego Music Foundation with $1500 raised so far.