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June 2024
Vol. 23, No. 9


San Diego Songwriters, Part 1: J.J. Cale

by Bart MendozaNovember 2011

Escondido musician / songwriter JJ Cale may have only had one hit in his 50+ years  (“Crazy Mama” #22 / 1971) but there is no doubt that he is one of the great songwriters of the 20th Century. If he had only written the classic “Cocaine” he’d be a legend, but throw in tracks like “After Midnight” “Call Me The Breeze” and “Cajun Moon” and it’s clear he’s in a class of his own.

His first single was released in 1958 (“Shock Hop”), hitting his stride with a series of albums beginning with 1972’s, Naturally.

Cale has been a particular influence on Eric Clapton, who has covered several Cale tunes over the years, including 1970’s #18 hit “After Midnight.” Meanwhile another of Clapton’s Cale covers, “Cocaine” was a massive FM radio hit in 1977, when he released it on his Slowhand album and again in 1979 when it was released as a single from his live album, Just One Night. That time it climbed to #30 on the U.S. charts, though Canada rated it at #3. A live version would go on to be a In 2006 Clapton collaborated with Cale on the album, Road to Escondido, scoring a Grammy in 2007 for “Best Contemporary Blues Album.” On March 15 of that year Eric Clapton performed at The San Diego Sports Arena and to the delight of the audience, he was joined by Cale for a five song acoustic set:

“Anyway The Wind Blows,” “After Midnight,” “Who Am I Telling You?,” “Don’t Cry Sister,” and “Cocaine”.

The show was reportedly recorded for possible future release, but so far the only thing out there is this brief clip:

Clapton of course has been no stranger to San Diego. His earliest appearance locally was October 20, 1968 with Cream, again at The Sports Arena. That show was also recorded by their label.

Cale’s latest album of original music is 2009’s Roll On. Yes, Clapton makes an appearance.

J.J. Cale wrote what for whom?
Additional to our earlier entry on the Cale / Clapton collaboration, here’s some info for those inquiring about who has recorded his songs. He is certainly, along with Jack Tempchin, one of the greatest tunesmiths to ever call San Diego home. This list does not include any of the tracks from the Clapton / Cale album, “Road to Escondido.” Also keep in mind that many of these recordings have been issued numerous times.

Song Title Best KnownVersion Other recordings By
“After Midnight” Eric Clapton


Armand & Bluesology, Chet Atkins, Maggie Bell, Daddy Mack Blues Band, John Duffey, Danny Elfman, Jerry Garcia, James Micheal Joseph, Larry McNally, Sergio Mendes, Woody Moran, Phish, Pretty Lights, Bub Robert, Merle Saunders, The Seldom Scene, The Shirelles, Ben Sidran, Lex Vandyke, Cornelis Vreeswijk , Bob Wilber Quintet, WIRE, Peter Zaremba Love Delegation
“Ain’t Love Funny” Christine Lakeland  
“Anyway the Wind Blows” Bill Wyman & The Rhythm Kings Brother Phelps
“Borrowed Time” Christine Lakeland  
“Bringing it Back” Kansas  
“Cajun Moon” Poco 50 Cent haircut, Ross Allen, Beat Beggars, Hanne Boel, Randy Crawford, Electric Blues Duo, Juvenators, Cissy Houston & Herbie Mann, Maria Muldaur, Bernard Oattes, Chris Spedding, Kieran White
“Call Me the Breeze” Lynyrd Skynyrd The Eddie Adcock Band, The Allman Brothers, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Bobby Bare, Les Claypool, Johnny Cash, David Allen Coe, Larry Cordell & Lonesome Standard, Mason Daring, Alan Price, Mason Proffit, Artimus Pyle,The Ramblers, Smokehouse Band
“Call The Doctor” Jimmy Gordon  
“Clyde” Dr, Hook Blues Plus, Waylon Jennings, Harvey Reid, Cornelis Vreeswijk
“Cocaine” Eric Clapton Beautiful People, Brighton Rock, Chi-Chi Favelas And The Black And White Band, Nazareth, Bub Roberts, Jack Saints, Lex Vandyke, Pickard & Bowen, Puddle of Mudd, Andy Taylor, Black Robot
“Crazy Mama” The Band The Band, Larry Carlton, Billy Ray Cyrus, Mac Gayden, Goshorn Brothers, Lee Hazelwood, High On the Hog, Richard Manuel, Hurricane Sam, Redbone, Johnny Rivers.
“Daylight” Jamie Oldaker  
“Devil in Disguise” George Thorogood  
“Don’t Cry Sister” Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown Beat Beggars
“Don’t Go To Strangers” John Slaughter Blues Band Hanne Boel
“Downtown L.A.” Gaye Delorme Talk to the Cat
“End of the Line” Jeff Achison  
“Endless Plain of Fortune” Alan Grandy  
“Everlovin Woman” Georgie Fame  
“Everybody’s Talking About The Young” Leon Russell  
“Hey Baby (You’re Looking Real Good)’ Billy Branch  
“Hold On” Talk To The Cat  
“I Got the Same Old Blues” Lynyrd Skynyrd Don Baker, Captain Beefheart, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Bryan Ferry, Peter Green, Freddie King, L.A. Blues Authority, Steve Young
“If You’re Ever in Oklahoma” The Bluegrass Alliance Drew Emitt, Front Porch String Band, Yonder Mountain String Band
“I’ll Make Love To You Anytime” Eric Clapton Scott Holt, The Jason Sinay Band
“Keep Me Hangin On” Don Baker  
“Lady Luck” Beat Beggars  
“Lies” Asha Putli Tom Principato
“Like To Love You Baby” Junior Markham  
“Like You Used To” Toni Price  
“Livin Here To” Tom Principato  
“Louisiana Women” Waylon Jennings  
“Louvelda” Tony Joe White  
“Madame N’aime Pas” Frances Cabrel  
“Magnolia” Deep Purple Don Baker, Beck, Turin Brakes, Jose Feliciano, Flash Terry and the Uptown Blues Band, Jai, Dan Lund, Jamie Oldaker, Poco, Joe Simon, Chris Smither, Pat Travers, Tony Joe White
“Mojo” Talk to the Cat  
“Mona” Hank Shizzoe  
“Motormouth” Jamie Oldaker  
“Never Stop” David Kitt  
“No Time” Dr. Feelgood Beat Beggars, Gaye Delorme
“Out of Style” Talk to the Cat  
“Passion” Talk To the Cat  
“Propane” (Parody from “King of the Hill”) Pinkard & Bowen  
“Ride Me High” Widespread Panic  
“Ride The River” Eric Clapton  
“Right Down Here” Asha Putli Talk to the Cat
“River Runs Deep” Clyde Cotton Band  
“Riverboat Song” Kelly Thibideux Denis Farley
“Rose In The Garden” Jimmy Gordon  
“Run” Spiritualized  
“Runaround” Talk To The Hat  
“San Diego” Harry Manx  
“The Sensitive Kind” Santana Bryan Absher, The Spencer Davis Group, Donovan, Mick Capone & Friends, Petra Introvic, Elliot James, John Mayall, Talk To the Cat
“Tijuana” Henry Mank David Lindley
“Travelin’ Light” Eric Clapton Widespread Panic
“Trouble In The City” Caroline Wonderland  
“Tylia Nakti” Blues Makers  
“You Forget to Answer” Nico  



Airika — EP

One of the most visually interesting artists in San Diego, Airika’s five track EP is well above the standard singer-songwriter fare. Her songs are basically ballads, somewhere between Kate Bush and classic seventies pop, but that’s just the starting point— Airika’s vocals are wonderfully emotive, with excellent arrangements on the songs— strings, synths, church organ, chimes and more can be heard here. This is adventurous tunesmithing complete with electronica, dance rhythms, piano balladry and showtune flair. Some of this may be tough to reproduce live, but this recording is really well done.
The Cynics — Spinning Wheel Motel (Get Hip)

Garage punk heroes the Cynics have been rocking the globe for three decades, but on the evidence of their latest disc, Spinning Wheel, they haven’t lost a bit of manic energy or vocal snarl. The album opens with the monster sounding riff of “I Need More” and it really doesn’t let up from there. Favorite is “Rock Club” a driving  barely restrained number highlighted by a great efficient solo from Gregg Kostelich, but “Zombie Walk” comes close — it’s meandering reverb drenched blues riff works perfectly with Michael Kastelic’s in your face vocals and harmonica workout. There are a couple of less bombastic numbers such as “Circle, Arcs and Swirls” and the title track — they offer a nice contrast in the overall, guitars on ten with distortion, sound of the disc. The closing track “Junk” is a superb jangle rocker, probably the most pop oriented tune here — complete with chanted background vocals. I could see this one having been a hit in 1971 and I mean that as a compliment. Die hard Cynics fans can rest assured Spinning Wheel Motel is a welcome addition to thier discography, but anyone who just wants a solid rock album — good tunes to play loud — will enjoy this album

Produced by Jim Diamond. Recorded at Ghetto Recorders, Detroit, MI. Mastered by Wesley Garland and George Ingram.

Mosaic Quartet — Color Me In

With three concert pianists in this indie rock band, you’d be right to expect something special and the Mosaic Quartet delivers. Musicians who relocated to San Diego specifically to form a band — two from Ohio, one from Boston, the Mosaic Quartet has recorded nine radio friendly tracks, opening with a killer cinematic piece, “City Walls,” showcasing an eclectic sound tied together by wonderful melodies. The clear single is “Undone,” which echoes both eighties post punk sensibilities and dance rhythms ala latter day Depeche Mode, but there’s also the modern rocker, “Rush=(Superhero)4” – topped with sterling production , this one’s made to play loud. Color Me In is a solid debut, made better by the fact that there is nothing cookie cutter about these songs. Rock to ballad, swirling piano to rock beats, this is an album that invites listening, with more to discover with each play.

Produced by Alicia Champion.

The New Kinetics — Contact (Aural Gravy)

Good old fashioned garage rock, filtered by the likes of T-Rex, The Small Faces and The Kinks, it doesn’t get better than this. The group (from San Diego’s South Bay) drips attitude from the opening track, “How the West Was Won,” with singer Birdy wringing more angst out of the repeated phrase “come on” than some bands manage in a whole career. Each track builds on the previous one, while elements of punk, powerpop, new wave, mod and rock weave in and out. Yes, the New Kinetics wear their influences on the their sleeves, but in this case that’s not a negative, as the they have the spirit, energy and song writing skills to back it up. Whether you are a fan of any of the above mentioned genres or just looking for a band with a serious kick, this album won’t let you down. Great band, great songs.

Produced by Mike Kamoo and the New Kinetics. Recorded at Earthling Studios.

The Rubinoos— Live in San Francisco 1992 (Air Rube)

A live album recorded in 1992, bootleg quality sound, but heaven sent for fans of the Bay area power poppers. 13 tracks, highlighted by a version of “If I Had you Back,” as well as a cover of the Raspberries “Tonight.” The bonus of four demos and radio sessions, including a cover of the Reflections soul classic “Romeo and Juliet” and a doo wop version the Eternals “Rockin in the Jungle.” Absolutely essential for powerpop diehards.

Recorded by Tommy Dunbar at Slim’s in San Francisco.

Whitton — Rare Bird

Piano led pop from Whitton, with a sound somewhere Anya Marina and Judy Garland. There is definitely a yesteryear vibe running through the ten tracks here, somewhere between the 1920’s and 1940’s, with a touch of Elton in there as well. It’s compelling stuff, from opener and single “Turn off The Light,” a jaunty mid tempo number, to torch song, “Pity Party.” All that’s missing on the latter is the clinking of cocktail glasses in a smoky basement jazz bar. Swing fans are directed to “B Sting,” an uptempo number sure to pack a dancefloor — great horn arrangements, especially the trombone solo, but the backing vocals also add a lot of magic. 1940’s big band fans will be all over this one — it’s soundtrack ready. Meanwhile “Til the End” sports 1920’s touches and a great counter melody running through it’s chorus. A simple clean production that pits banjo on the left, horns in the middle and piano on the right, accent’s the vocals. Touches like the clarinet intro in “Nothin’ At All,” make this a nice listen. Superbly arranged and wonderfully sung, Rare Bird will be of interest to pop and jazz fans alike.

Produced, co-written arranged and engineered by Ian Coyne. Recorded at Ian Lounge. Mixed by Michael James Mastered by Chris Bellman.

Steven Ybarra — Best Days (K&S Records)

Probably the most radio friendly album I’ve heard in awhile. Modern country radio should be all over this, as well as A/C. Best Days just explodes from the speakers, from the first power chord. Christian pop-rock leaning towards modern country, Ybarra turns in music with an excess of melody and hooks. Songs like “Run to You” are driving and jangly at the same time, while lyrics range from the overt, such as gospel tinged “You Are Holy,” to more inspirational numbers like the title track. I can definitely hear a Tim McGraw or Keith Urban type scoring with one of these tunes.

Produced by Steven Ybarra, Tom Malkiewicz, Dran Michaels, Tyler Logan.



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