Ken Leighton 5 p.m., Jan. 24
RIYL: Cactus Jim Soldi, the Monroes, Eve Selis Band, Rodney Crowell, Listen
Upcoming Local Shows
- "Channel Your Inner Jackson Pollock" · Nov. 7, 2014
- "March Intravaia Saw Jimi" · Aug. 1, 2012
Influences: Steve Earle, Mark Knopfler, Johnny Cash, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Taj Mahal, Bob Dylan, Don McLean, Emmylou Harris
Guitarist Marc Intravaia knew what he wanted to be the day he caught an historic local rock concert. “I saw Jimi Hendrix in 1969 at the Sports Arena. I had seen him the year before, when he gave a flat performance at Balboa Stadium, and I had to be talked into seeing him again. From the moment he stepped onstage, he was on fire and inspired. A few of the songs ended up on the live album Hendrix in the West.”
The longtime local player says a guitar once saved his life. “In 1970, I was riding with friends in a pickup truck and was in the middle seat when a drunk driver hit us from behind. I was holding my acoustic guitar between my knees, and the guitar was demolished, but the truss rod in the neck of the guitar kept me from going through the windshield. I was lucky and only suffered a minor whiplash, and I kept the guitar on my wall for years.”
One of his first bands was Kearny Mesa-based Marshmallow Highway, formed in the late 1960s with its definitive lineup of guitarist John Ruckle, drummer Rod Howard, and Intravaia on bass. “Bass was my first instrument, but it was borrowed...when I had to give it back, I switched to guitar. I was thirteen and in 7th grade. I wanted to be Jack Bruce, and John was a much better guitarist than me and still is, so I played bass for about a year.”
The band played at several venues around town, as well as events like the Battle of the Bands at Ozzie's Music on El Cajon Boulevard at 68th Street. “We played ‘Spoonful’ by Cream and ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’ by Vanilla Fudge,” recalls Intravaia, who cites their main visual inspiration as Jimi Hendrix. “The fancy shirts [we wore] were inspired by Jimi, though he looked hip and we looked dorky. I think the audience giggled when we came in.”
When the band split around 1970, Intravaia and Carey Fox formed Blue Jeans of Heredity, which then became Head County. Intravaia’s résumé really filled out when KGB-FM radio seemed to become the local heart and soul of all things rock ’n’ roll: sky shows, the Homegrown Hour, Gabriel Wisdom, Jim McInnes, the KGB Chicken, the dancing janitor commercials...
“Back in the ’70s,” says Intravaia, “I was in a band called Listen, and we were on some of the Homegrown albums. In ’75 and ’76, or so, we did KGB’s musical logos and played music for their commercials...I was the guitarist you heard when they played ‘KGB San Diego’ at the top of every show. KGB used to put on free concerts at what is now called Starlight Bowl, but then it was Balboa Bowl. Listen did a few of those [shows].”
“Jim [McIness, local DJ] even helped get us half hour spotlights about our band, like on the Sunday night shows. Back then, Jim was the guy who made KGB a really progressive radio station, and he really gave local bands a boost. I was 18 when we met, and I was in awe of DJs, of meeting the guys behind the voices on the radio.”
“Jim used to get up on stage and jam with us sometimes. The first time was ‘74 or ‘75, and I wasn’t even aware at the time that he was a musician.”
Intravaia’s guitar also anchored local one-hit-wonders the Monroes, albeit after their brief taste of fame with the 1982 new-wave hit “What Do All the People Know?” before he went on to play with Kenny Loggins, Kim Carnes, America, Suzy Bogguss, and B.J. Thomas.
Since 1991, the Kearny High School grad has been writing, recording, and performing with the Eve Selis Band, whose full-length Family Tree was nominated Best Americana or Country Album at the 2012 San Diego Music Awards. “I’d classify us more Americana than country,” says Intravaia, “with a mix of country, rock, blues, and folk — with lots of slide guitar.”
The Selis band frequently includes “Cactus” Jim Soldi and Sharon Whyte who, along with Intravaia have their own band, Cactus Twang & Whyte (Twang = Intravaia). Soldi played with Johnny Cash for four years and Ricky Skaggs for two years. She's frequently seen around town playing with Tim Flannery and the duo Berkley Hart.
Along with his wife Paula, Intravaia teaches music at the Sanctuary Art and Music Studio, originally based in Carmel Valley. They celebrated their 13th anniversary in 2012. “Paula and I drove out to Vegas with three kids in the backseat and got married at a drive-through wedding chapel. It’s been a joyous and crazy ride since then…does everyone know that true love is real? We are thirteen-plus years of living proof.”
His classic track “Can't Go Back To Cardiff” by Hyde, Intravaia, and Boyd (from a 1977 KGB Homegrown album) reappeared on volume 11 of the local band compilation Staring at the Sun, which dropped October 22, 2013, at the Casbah.
“[My wife] Paula and I just signed a lease for a 2,400 square foot commercial space in Sorrento Valley,” the guitar star announced in early 2014. “We'll open Sanctuary Art and Music Studio in April. Painting party this weekend!”