These SF Bay Area bands are listed by the first letter of their name. Scroll for Emily Bonn & the Vivants under “E” rather than “B”, for example, or select a name below to jump to the band’s description, site, and a video link.
(From zero to F) 77 el Deora, B-Stars, Bachelors, Barbwyre, Big B and his Snakeoil Saviors, The Bolos, The Bootcuts, Blue Diamond Fillups, Brothers Comatose, Buck Nickels and Loose Change, Chop Tops, Christopher Ford Band, Country Casanovas, Dave Crimmen Band, Emily Bonn and the Vivants,
(From G to M) Gayle Lynn and the Hired Hands, The Graveside Quartet, Hi-Road Players, Jay Lingo, Jeanie and Chuck’s Country Roundup, Jinx Jones and the Kingtones, Joe Goldmark and the Seducers, Laura Benitez and the Heartache, Lonestar Retrobates, Loretta Lynch, Los High Tops, Los Trainwreck, Lost Weekend, Midnight Trio, Misisipi Mike and the Midnight Gamblers, Miss Lonely Hearts, Mitch Polzak and the Royal Deuces, The Muddy Roses,
(From P to “Shout Outs”) The Patsychords, Pine Box Boys, Polka Cowboys, Possum and Lester, Porkchop Express, Red Meat, RevTones, The Rumblestrippers, Rusty Evans and Ring of Fire, The Saddle Cats, Shut-Ins, Supermule, Texas Steve and the Tornadoes, Toshio Hirano, Vic S and the Big Moments, West Coast Ramblers, Whisky Pills Fiasco, Yard Sale, Shout Outs for Visiting Bands and Other Bay Area Bands
77 el Deora features an urban alt-country sound powered by Jenn Courtney’s vocals and the songwriting and telecaster of band leader Maurice Tani. Their style of alt-country ranges from rockin’ country to acoustic and sultry, as it does when they play as a duo. This “Bad Boy” video represents their up-tempo side.
The B-Stars are a C/W band with a mix of twangin’ covers and originals that has kicked it into a higher gear since adding steel guitar to their mix. Greg Yanito fronts the band while Eric Reedy contributes on stand-up bass and vocals. This video of “Chicken Fried” was captured live at the Verdi Club.
The Bachelors play vintage rock and rockabilly at The Saloon in North Beach, and this is San Francisco’s go-to gig for Monday night live music on. The Bachelors, a trio with Brent Byers on bass, Jinx Jones on guitar, and a cast of semi-regular drummers, have been playing for 20 years. Their marketing remains ultra-low profile: no videos, no CDs, no posters, no email list, no merch and no website. They do have a tip jar though, every dollar of which goes to support good music on a Monday night.
Barbwyre is a north county band, founded as a duo by Jon Mitguard and Dana Rath, nd has developed into an all-American, four-piece honky-tonk band. Barbwyre performs eclectic original songs and selected covers. One set might include a rollicking rocker, a ballad featuring sweet vocal harmony, and a haunting, beautiful instrumental. Their video catalog is limited, but here’s a dated “Out to Pasture” is from a house concert without their drummer.
The Better Haves are a six-piece country band fronted by two couples, which accounts for the band’s name. Hank Maninger and Lynne Maes have teamed up with Greg Yanito and Anne Arnhym, plus a steel player and a drummer (definitely not a couple) to play ’50s-’60s country like “I’ll Come Running.” Maninger currently fronts Stompy Jones, a successful swing band, so Better Halves shows are rare.
Big B and his Snakeoil Saviors served a tasty mix of western boogie and swing, originally as an eight-piece band, with Big Ben Buettner and Adrienne Pfeiffer sharing vocals, plus a piano and two horns and steel guitar. Lately they’ve been appearing monthly as a four-piece at Cheeseboard Pizza in Berkeley. It isn’t easy to pay a big band, but hopefully that configuration will be back, if rarely.
Blue Diamond Fillups are a rockabilly 4-piece that features Flash Ricketts on vocals with Jonnie Zaentz on lead guitar. Usually fast and furious, they can take a breather for songs like “This Magic Moment.” The band also produces some excellent videos including “Drive Like Lightening Crash Like Thunder” which shows vintage wheels tearing up the track while the BDF’s tear up the song.
Bluenotecats are a 3-piece rockabilly band that plays primarily in Sonoma and Napa counties. The band’s leader, Dalton Piercey, also produces the annual Rockabilly Roundup in the North Bay counties, a one-day Fall event that includes bands, vintage cars and other necessities of rockabilly life. Here they are covering an Eddie Cochran song, “Ooh My Head.”
The Bolos are Don Burnham’s four-piece country band. He’s best known for his Lost Weekend big band, but has been writing more of his own material and sometimes needs to travel faster and lighter to perform it, as the low-overhead Bolos allow. In this video, guest Bolo and band wife Sara Burnham sings lead on “Honky Tonk Merry-Go-Round.”
The Bootcuts are a band that can vanish for spells, but never really breaks up. They sport a triple-threat, all-female front line of Cristal Guderjahn, Meg Ryan and Lori Hersey who deliver their home-grown alt-country sound. The perform “I Got My Baby” in this video.
Brothers Comatose are a 5-piece band playing a DIY style of hard-driving acoustic Americana influenced by Wilco, bluegrass, the Rolling Stones, and the California dream. Founded by brothers Ben and Alex Morrison, this band has been climbing the food chain with tours, festival appearances and fans seemingly coming from across the music-going spectrum. They cover “Dead Flowers” in this video recorded at the Hardly-Strictly Bluegrass Festival.
The Chop Tops are a hard-rocking rockabilly trio with Gary “Sinner” Marsh on lead vocals/stand-up drums, and Shelby Legnon blazing away on his green Gretch. They have a strong catalog and one that’s surprisingly varied; no rockabilly ghetto for these boys. Anchored in the present with strong respect for the past, Marsh lets the band’s audiences know that’s how it is. Here they give their audience a “moron check,” then slamming into Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox.”
The Christopher Ford Band reconfigured itself into a country band after 16 years of pounding the boards as a blues band. They play a mix of country and blues tunes, and a country-flavored ’80s cover of Depeche Mode’s “Your Own Personal Jesus.” Ford’s nom du radio Quarterman Jack Champion, hosts a Saturday show on Radio Valencia, a live broadcast variety show, and more as described in this HWS profile.
Country Casanovas play country and ’50s-’60s covers, favoring the honky-tonk side of country. Norm Collins fronts the band and dreams of finding a manager who will make them successful enough to be able to play full-time. This band isn’t very big on self-promotion. There’s never a guarantee, for example, that they’ll show up to a gig with their CDs, but that’s also part of their charm.
The Dave Crimmen Band is a rockabilly and vintage rock trio fronted by Big Daddy “D,” pictured here on the Rockabilly Hall of Fame stage at Viva Las Vegas. A word to the wise: do not to yell “Freebird” during a show because Big Daddy knows every agonizing minute of it. DCB has the largest CD catalog of anyone on this page, and while his CDs are all original tunes, his shows feature mainly covers from vintage performers he has admired for years. Here he is performing Ricky Nelson’s “Stood Up.”
Emily Bonn & the Vivants resist classification by drawing on music from across the Americana spectrum. They are at home sharing stages with singer-songwriters, country or bluegrass bands. This acoustic quartet features guitar, accordion, fiddle and stand-up bass. Emily Bonn writes most of the songs, including this one Cajun-flavored number,”Riot at the Rite Spot,” which celebrates a now-departed SF bar at 17th & Folsom.
Gayle Lynn & the Hired Hands started as a outlet for music teacher Gayle Lynn Schmitt’s songwriting and singing, and has developed into a band that conveys the energy that it’s members draw from their enjoyment of playing together. She also has a children’s music band, the Toodala Ramblers, and can be found every December adding to the festivities at Shut-Ins Xmas shows. As for country weepers, she’s got ’em. The sadness comes out even in an up-tempo number like “Twist.”
The Heel Draggers play a mix of honky-tonk, alt-country and a little western swing. Ayelet Arbuckle can put a song into vocal overdrive when the need arises, and she also knows how to pull back. The band plays it’s cozier shows with a smaller line-up where Will Forte takes over the vocals. This video of Red Foley’s “Cheatin’ on Your Baby” finds the band resurrecting a gem from the past.
Jay Lingo fronts a country group that’s doing well in and around Santa Cruz. We haven’t seen much of the band north of the Santa Clara county line; in fact, his site hasn’t been updated since 2012, so whether the band still exists is something HWS is working on finding out. In the meantime, here, from Lingo’s limited video catalog, is a taste of what to expect.
Jeanie and Chuck’s Country Roundup is a versatile band, equally at home with country or bluegrass, that can change gears to suit their audience. Jeanie and Chuck Poling are strong supporters of roots Americana, hosting bluegrass jams every first Wednesday at Plough and Stars and producing shows at the cozy Velo Rouge Cafe in SF. Here they are on a rare old country duet, “Yankee Go Home.”
Jinx Jones & the KingTones is a rockabilly/honky tonk trio. The guitar is the key to understanding this band as Jones, a.k.a., The Professor, can really deliver the goods on the ol’ six-string. Whisky Pills plays bass and Jamie Lease plays drums. Here he is, though with different players at a one-off live radio show performing “Honky Tonk Playgirl.”
Joe Goldmark & the Seducers is a vintage honky-tonking quartet that plays every third Sunday at the Riptide in SF. Joe Goldmark’s pedal steel defines the band, which doesn’t phase guitarist Hank Manniger or anyone else on lead vocals, including the band’s many friends, who might show up any time. Here is a version of the Seducers with Brandi Shearer on lead vocals performing CSN&Y’s “Helpless.”
Kit & the Branded Men. Christina “Kit” Lopez and her musical partner Glen Earl Brown Jr. are deep into the Bakersfield sound, yet aren’t shy about picking up the tempo with a rockabilly tune or slowing it down with a weeperto pick it up with a rockabilly tune or bring it down with a weeper. Here they are doing “I Ain’t Foolin.” For more, check out their regular shows at Speisekammer in Alameda where you never know who’ll be sitting in next.
Lariats of Fire have restarted after a long hiatus following the loss of their original drummer. Jason Greenwald and Peter Marietta are up front, singing, playing and writing most of the four-piece’s songs which tend to be more about urban experiences than cows, trucks and drinking, well, maybe not the drinking. “The Stranger” celebrates expecting the arrival of a newborn.
The Lonestar Retrobates are an 8-piece western swing band headed by Mylos “Boogie” Sonka (vocals, guitar, pedal steel, fiddle) and featuring trumpeter Ray “Idaho Slim” Green and Emily Bonn on vocals. They play cowjazz, honky-tonk, bop, swing and whatever else they can get away with as long as people are hittin’ the dance floor. “Bottle Baby Boogie” finds that the announcement of another baby on the way isn’t always good news.
Loretta Lynch doesn’t play much owing to its members’ commitments to jobs, parenthood and the other distractions of life. This alt-country collective — Heather Davison, Val Esway and Ari Fellows-Mannion, in order at the right of the picture — deliver the songs, most of which they write. Here’s a jaunty murder ballad called “Missin’ Kissin’.”
Los High Tops play high-octane sets of rockabilly or surf songs, and unlike “surfabilly” bands, Los High Tops play one style or the other and aren’t into mash the two styles into the same tune. They’re a South Bay Band, and at this point are the only band playing the Santa Cruz to Gilroy circuit playing any rockabilly. They have music videos, but for something different, check out their contribution to low budget rockabilly capitalism.
Los Train Wreck play a special type of Americana show every second Tuesday at El Rio in SF. This all-pro group hosts a monthly live band karaoke night that that welcomes just plain folks with a song to sing, musicians who are trying out new material, and members of working bands often doing songs that don’t fit with their regular groups. Kathi Kamen Goldmark, ran it until her untimely passing in 2012, but it has been popular for so long that it continues with musical director David Phillips keeping the musical order, and bassist Paul Olguin managing the batting order. Is your name on the sign-up sheet?
Lost Weekend boasts a line-up that varies between 7-15 members plus who knows how many friends of bandleader Don Burnham that show up to play. Along with Burnham, Pam Branden (Belle Monroe & her Brewglass Boys) sings Cindy Williams and beyond in their mix of cow jazz/bop/swing tunes. Here they are ripping into “Six Pack to Go.”
Lucky 7 Honky Tonk Band is a new band that favors ’60s honky tonk and like-minded avenues of Americana. True to their name, they are a seven piece band fronted by Danny Morris and Joan Reuter (Whoreshoes). Also, being new, they do not have a site or Facebook page that could be found at this writing, but they do have YouTube videos.
Midnight Trio might be laboring in Livermore, Visailia and other Bay Area outlands, but that didn’t stop this rockabilly trio from playing Viva Las Vegas or releasing their first CD in 2011. Brian Covey fronts the band while Matt Olivares (bass) and brother Mike Covey (drums) hold down the bottom end.
Misisipi Mike & the Midnight Gamblers is Mike Wolf’s latest band. He tried a few since Misisipi Rider, and popular band fronted with Cree Rider ended when Rider moved east. Bands came and went so he made signing a blood-oath a condition of becoming a Midnight Gambler and sure enought some pretty good guys took him up on it. He also confiscated their passports. MM&MG’s sets run mainly to originals like this “Ballad of Cree and Me,” a tribute to his former band, Misisipi Rider.
Miss Lonely Hearts is fronted by Wyatt Hesemeyer who writes difficult to categorize California country songs. The band itself is like a cross between the Brothers Comatose and Devil Makes Three. They describe themselves as, “Five dudes, copious liquor, and a fine shoe collection. The stuff dreams are made of,” and here, for a better understanding, is their video of “Pretty Polly.”
The Muddy Roses are best described as two lead guitars and a wall of women, at least three of them, beltin’ them out. Their brand of Americana draws from sources that cross folk, country, blues and good ol’ rock and roll. This video of “Ashes of Love” also gets points for good editing.
Q: “How many female singers does it take to sing “Crazy”? A: Apparently all of them. The Patsychords are crowd pleasers and fun, and a band formed around singer Margaret Belton to deliver Patsy Cline tunes and more. “Lovesick Blues“
Pine Box Boys songs are about someone dying, someone who did die, or someone who will die. Sometimes they kill off several people in the same song. Well, what else would you expect from a band named after a cheap coffin? Lester T. Raww fronts the group along with his soul mate Possum Carvidi. The entire concept might sound like a one trick pony, but their best trick has been to rise above all that through strong playing. The front line also takes the stage as Possum & Lester (also listed on this page). Here’s “Mr. Skeleton.”
The Polka Cowboys are well-established at the most unlikely hillbilly music venue in the Bay Area, and possibly the world. Find them at Champa Thai, which does have a nice stage, PA and dance floor, and is located in an El Sobrante strip-mall, just up the road from Richmond. Thai food, dancing and hillbilly music — y’gotta love the Bay Area for treasures like this.
Contrary to its name, Possum & Lester isn’t a duo; it’s a band fronted by Possum Carvidi and Lester T. Raww of the Pine Box Boys. The Pine Box Boys are dedicated to murder songs, so they needed a Possum & Lester band in order to perform their songs about drinkin’, druggin’, and wenchin’. Who says these boys can’t grow? Here’s their wench-friendly “Tattooed Lady.”
Porkchop Express started out as a few pals kicking back and drinking beer at frontman Collin Conoley’s place. The next thing they knew they were an alt-country band playing gigs and making CDs. The rumor that they had been kidnapped by Muslim extremists for being the Great Satan’s pork band, and that upon receiving the ransom demand, their families responded, “Keep ’em!” is false, according to Conoley who was returned safely. Here’s a brief video medley of tunes from their “Fault Lines & Good Times.”
Red Meat, which has been together for well over a decade, plays high-cholesterol honky-tonk. Scott Young writes most of the songs with Jill Olson adding a few of her own. Both sing and both have turned songs over to frontman Smelley Kelley for the “Smelley Touch” (not available in any store). Here, Jill sings lead on “Thriftstore Cowgirl.”
The RevTones are a hard-driving rockabilly trio from Fremont. Randy Schmidt fronts the band and writes most of the songs. Marcus “Hot Rod” Edell keeps the beat on the biggest, baddest, bluest drum-kit is all of rockabilly. Check out “Much Too Much“
Royal Deuces are the rockabilly incarnation of the versatile Mitch Polzack. He also plays in bluegrass, Cajun/zydeco, swing and country, but is careful to keep each style to its own band rather than working them into a mash-up. His rockabilly trio features a mix of rockin’ covers and originals with a country-ish track or two just to mix things up. Here’s a medley of tunes from Viva Las Vegas 2010.
The Rumble Strippers play a mix of covers and originals. Johanna Sorrentino fronts the band while Roxane Chicoine,and Eden “Heart Attack” Uscilowski keep the beat on bass and drums. They toss a number of roots Americana flavors, heavily seasoned with rockabilly, into their musical stew of songs like their “Johnny McDougall“.
Rusty Evans & Ring of Fire. True, Rusty Evans can out-Johnny Johnny Cash, and deliver all of the crowd pleasers, yet they aren’t only a tribute band. RoF’s CD releases, for example, feature originals and covers of non-Cash tunes. Guitarist Danny Uzilevski is this band’s secret weapon as he add a great deal of color to familiar songs. This promo video focuses on Cash songs.
The Saddle Cats are four western swing pros. Band leader Richard Chon swings one of the meanest fiddles around. Bobby Black is in the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame for a good reason. Their line-up also features Bing Nathan, who has played stand-up bass with everyone from The Saddlecats to famed conductor/composer Igor Stravinski. “Moanin’ Blues” captures the ’Cats western swing stylings.
Wherefore the Shut-Ins? Mike Roper and John Poultney are the ring-leaders of America’s finest hulabilly band, but other priorities have made band sightings rare, so when a show appears on the HWS calendar, go or wait until Xmas. Their regular Christmas shows at The Riptide and Bazaar Cafe put the ‘risk’ back in Chriskmas. To be enjoyed by all, these are also the antidote for people who are tired of same-old, same-old Xmas songs, as in this bottle-in-a-brown-paper-bag version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”
Texas Steve is set to tear it up after having moved to SoCal, and now back in the Bay Area. Texas Steve & the Tornadoes is an older and wiser evolution of 2000s-era Texas Steve and the Git Gome Trio. The rockabilly roots remain and have been broadened in honky-tonk and vintage rock directions, and propelled by a mix of originals, covers and energy. “I’ve Got It Bad“
Toshio Hirano is the Bay Area’s Japanese cowboy. Born in the Land of the Rising Sun, he was bowled over by the music of Jimmie Rogers as a teen. He performs at Amnesia every month, singing songs, sometimes solo and sometimes with accompaniment, by Rogers, Hank Williams and other country favorites. He’s no novelty act. On the contrary, his sincerity which has won over many a Mission hipster in addition to his fans who return to see him month after month. This video background piece has more.
West Coast Ramblers are an all-pro western swing/bop/cowjazz group that arrived much like a new star emerging from the ether. This five-piece centers on the collaboration of Steve Walz (Stillmen, vocals, rhythm) and Lee Jeffriess (Big Sandy, steel guitar), and western swingin’ and boppin’ is their style. Listen to their latest on Soundcloud, watch the video of “I Lost My Gal in Memphis” and find them on Facebook.
Whisky Pills Fiasco is a trio influenced by rockabilly, alt-country, punk and a few other Americana styles in between. Whisky Pills himself sings lead and slaps the doghouse. Johnny Fiasco is on drums, Danny Fiasco plays lead guitar, and this trio, like many others grows in size when they get into a studio. They can also get soulful, as they do here on Bob Dylan‘s “You’ve Got to Serve Somebody“
Yard Sale is an acoustic trio with a strong singer-songwriter approach to Americana; not that they’re folkies, though they do pass the lead vocals singer-in-the-round style during their live shows. Melanie DiGiovanni (Catheads, accordion), Jill Olson (Red Meat, bass) and Denise Funari (guitar) all write the songs and supply well-crafted arrangements. Their CDs have a fuller sound since they call their friends into the studio to add instrumentation as needed. “Don’t Drive Like and Ass“
Shout Outs for Visiting Bands and Other Bay Area Bands
The GoldDiggers (Rockin’ Roots), The Jenny Kerr Band (Rockin’ Roots & Blues), Houston Jones (Homegrown Americana), The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit (Oakdale’s finest), Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Boys (SoCal), Deke Dickerson and the Ecco-Phonics (SoCal), Dave Alvin (Downey), Dave Gleason (Ventura), Dry County Drinkers (Sacramento), Nickle Slots (Sacramento), Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue (New Orleans), Lucky Tubb and the Modern Day Troubadours (Texas)