These SF Bay Area bands are listed by the first letter of their name. For example, look for Mitch Polzak and the Royal Deuces under “M” rather than”P” or “R.” Select a name from below to jump to the band’s description, site, and a video link.
(From A to F) B-Stars, Bachelors, The Better Haves , Bitter Diamonds , The Bolos, Blue Diamond Fillups, Brothers Comatose, Buck Nickels and Loose Change, Carolyn Sills Band, Connie Champaigne and the Sparkling Wynettes, Country Casanovas, Frankie Boots and the County Line
(From G to M) Gayle Lynn and the Hired Hands, Hi-Ball Hot Shots, Jay Lingo, Jinx Jones and the Kingtones, Joe Goldmark and the Seducers, The Jukebox Charlies, Laura Benitez and the Heartache, Lonestar Retrobates, Los High Tops, Los Trainwreck, Lester T. Raww’s Graveside Quartet, Lost Weekend, Maurice Tani & 77 el Deora, Midnight Trio, Misisipi Mike and the Midnight Gamblers, Miss Lonely Hearts, Mitch Polzak and the Royal Deuces, Moonshine Maybelline, The Muddy Roses
(From P to “Shout Outs”) Pine Box Boys, Polka Cowboys, Porkchop Express, Possum and Lester, Red Meat, RevTones, Rusty Evans and Ring of Fire, The Saddle Cats,The Sam Chase, Shut-Ins, The Triple Shots, The Vivants, Whisky Pills Fiasco, The Vivants.
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. Regrettably, the economics of music have made five-to-six-member B-Stars appearances rare but the Hi-Ball Hot Shots, a “B-Stars Lite” trio featuring Yanito and Reedy can afford to play. This video of “Chicken Fried” was captured live at the Verdi Club.
The Bachelors are San Francisco’s go-to gig for a Monday night, playing vintage rock and rockabilly at The Saloon in North Beach ever since God was a teenager. Brent Byers leads the band and plays bass, Mitch Polzak sings and plays lead guitar, and Randy Odell beats the traps. Their self-promotion is rock bottom: no videos, no CDs, no posters, no email list, no merch and no website.
The Better Haves are a country band fronted by two couples. Hank Maninger and Lynne Maes have teamed up with Greg Yanito and Anne Arnhym, plus drummer Les James to play ’50s-’60s country like “I’ll Come Running.” With four vocalists on the front line, this band can mix it up.
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. They’ve been appearing monthly as a four-piece at Cheeseboard Pizza in Berkeley.
Blue Diamond Fillups are a rockabilly trio that features Jonnie Zaentz on vox and 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.
The Bolos are Don Burnham’s six-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. Here, better half Sara Burnham sings lead on “Honky Tonk Merry-Go-Round.”
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.
Buck Nickels and Loose Change play easy country-rock, soaked in North Bay wine with steel guitar on the side. “Makin’ Wine in the Valley of the Moon” has been a hit on Hicks with Sticks’ radio appearances, no doubt because of its local flavor.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
Maurice Tani and 77 el Deora features an urban alt-country sound powered by the songwriting and telecaster of band leader Maurice Tani. Their style of alt-country ranges from rockin’ and country to acoustic and sultry. A downsized edition of the band plays as a duo with Mike Anderson on bass. This “Bad Boy” video represents their up-tempo side.
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 Players to Be Named Later is not the name of Mike Wolf’s latest band. Hicks with Sticks just made the name up because it’s difficult to follow the variations that have followed Misisipi Rider. The name will be updated as soon as something stucks which, given his talent in playing and songwriting, is bound to happen. Meanwhile, this “Ballad of Cree and Me,” pays tribute to 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.”
Mitch Polzak and the 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 Muddy Roses, a four-piece fronted by Rebecca Ainsworth and Elizabeth Lewis, finds influences that cross folk, country, blues and good ol’ rock and roll.
Muddy Roses on Facebook
Muddy Roses on Reverbnation
VIDEO: Muddy Roses at Dolly Parton Tribute
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 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“
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“
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), JonEmery & the Dry County Drinkers (Sacramento), Nickle Slots (Sacramento), Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue (New Orleans), Lucky Tubb and the Modern Day Troubadours (Texas)