Robert Bush 4:20 p.m., May 17
Doriot Negrette: Vocals | Joyce Rooks: Guitar (acoustic), Guitar (electric), Vocals | Sue Ferguson: Keyboards | Lisa Aston Emerson : Guitar (acoustic), Guitar (electric) | Irene Liberatore-Dolan: Drums | Cindy Brisco: Bass guitar
RIYL: The Motels, Patti Smith, the Bangles, the Go Gos
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- Musician Interview: "Harpo Hangs with Spinal Tap" · March 30, 2011
- Blurt: "King Fowley's Evil Empire" · April 28, 2010
Inception: San Diego, 1979
Influences: The Runaways, Fanny, Joan Jett, Suzai Quatro, Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, Patti Smith, the Motels
Formed in Spring 1979 and originally an all-girl band, the Dinettes were fronted by singer/songwriter Doriot Negrette. The band - á la Josie and the Pussycats - had a black girl in the group, singer/guitarist Joyce Rooks, at least for a while. Rooks had been in the Cockpits, also originally all-girl, though they later recruited male players like future Beat Farmer Country Dick Montana.
“I joined the Cockpits in 1978 by answering a Reader ad,” recalled Rooks in 2010. “I had a guitar and amp and a cello which I kept hidden, as it didn’t seem punk rock enough at the time.” The Cockpits played their first gig at Porter’s Pub at UCSD; after several membership changes, the group essentially morphed into the Dinettes.
Runaways mastermind Kim Fowley booked the Dinettes for his Battle of the Girl Bands at the Coo Coo’s Nest in Costa Mesa in late 1979, expressing interest in signing them to some unspecified label or rep firm. However, the band’s constant lineup shifts, and an aggressive fast-talking manager named Gene King led Fowley to instead pine for local Girl Talk singer Lauralei Combs (though they never signed a deal). The band also played at the first Western Front punk festival in San Francisco, organized by Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra.
In late 1979, the band released a single recorded at Accusound, “Poison” b/w “T.V.” They also recorded demos at Straighta Head Sound, and a live tape was later circulated from a November 1979 gig at the Deaf Club in San Francisco (which is indeed for deaf people). Rooks split in 1980, and the Dinettes later allowed men to integrate the group, though they ultimately split for good around 1981.
Rooks joined Trowsers, a ska/reggae band which Kim Fowley also had a fleeting interest in, as well as becoming a latterday member of the Penetrators. As a cello player, she turned up locally around 2003 in Cabaret Oscuro, with Bauhaus bassist David J (who was living in San Diego at the time).
In 2009, Doriot Negrette posted a message at www.cheunderground.com: “The Dinettes went on two cross-country tours and imploded in Atlanta, just before opening for Joan Jett. Joyce [Rooks], bless her heart and soul, had the sense to ditch us before the madness progressed to a fever pitch, before we even left San Diego. On the road, Lisa Aston Emerson (RIP) was taking acid everyday and becoming more mired in a psychotic haze. One of our roadies (RIP) maxed out on crank…it was so very WT and not at all what I’d had in mind.”
In April 2010, former Dinette Sue Ferguson recalled “Those were great times, and when I think back, we did not know just how important those times were. I went from the Dinettes to Private Sector, then a very brief stint with the Unknowns, then Dark Victory with Scott Harrington, then Shelf Life with Irene(Dinettes) and Richard from the Puppies, then Trowsers with Joyce. Whew! Just recently got together with the Dinettes, Lisa was missed as we all talked about those days.”
The surviving Dinettes were interviewed on camera in 2010 for a documentary film on vintage local garage bands, speaheaded by journalist and local music historian Eric Rife.
As of 2011, Sue Ferguson (now Ferguson-Delguidice) plays keyboards with her husband Mark “Harpo” Delguidice in a folk/rock/blues/Americana band called Harpco.