O.B. James 1 p.m., March 7
Sound description: Brandes's oeuvre includes everything from garage-punk to country-rock.
RIYL: Manual Scan, the Shambles, Oasis, the Zombies
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- Blurt · Nov. 24, 2004
Influences: The Beatles, the Yardbirds, the Everly Brothers, Status Quo, the Zombies, the Music Machine, Paul Revere & the Raiders
Although born in Tucson in 1962, Ray Brandes's major role in San Diego's music history is indisputable. In addition to more than two decades of his own music, he has served as both a conduit for local talent and a crucial lynch pin when it comes to the overseas reputation of our local music scene.
Brandes's accomplishments are particularly amazing when you take into account that he has been a teacher in San Diego for the past 18 years, with stints at Point Loma High School, San Diego School for the Creative and Performing Arts, Montgomery Middle School, and, currently, San Diego Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical High School. He and his wife, Raquel (whom he met while on tour in Spain), have a son, Lucas.
Brandes arrived in San Diego as a toddler in 1963. By the time he was a student at Point Loma High School, he had begun to play with various combos, performing at friends' parties. Graduating in 1980, within months of leaving school he had formed his first real combo, the Hedgehogs. With a repertoire based on the Beatles' "Live at the Star Club" set list, the band included future all-stars Ron Silva (the Crawdaddys/the Saturn V), Paul Carsola (the Tell-Tale Hearts), and Carl Rusk (the Nashville Ramblers). A big hit on the then burgeoning teen dance circuit, no official recordings were made, but live tapes do circulate.
And didja know his grandfather was Marilyn Monroe’s police escort during the 1959 filming of Some Like It Hot in Coronado? His Facebook photo album includes a pic of his granddad with the Hollywood icon.
By 1982, Brandes had joined the Mystery Machine. The band was led by Rusk, though Brandes sang, with Mark Zadarnowski (the Crawdaddys/the Shambles), Bill Calhoun, and David Klowden (both in the Tell-Tale Hearts) also aboard. Though the band only played three shows before splitting, they would provide Brandes with the first notch on his discography in 1983 when their song "She's Not Mine," a minor-key gem that was released on Voxx Records Battle of the Garages Vol. 3.
Within the year, Brandes founded the Tell-Tale Hearts, a 1960s-influenced punk/rhythm and blues band, with Calhoun and Klowden, alongside Mike Stax (later of the Loons/the Hoods) and Eric Bacher.
Considered among the leaders of the garage-rock movement, the group even appeared in People magazine, but surprisingly, save for a short jaunt to Springfield, Missouri, they never toured. They did, however, sign with Voxx Records, though the later '80s saw the original line-up of the group splitting.
His next group, the Town Criers, mixed folk-rock with country influences. The rotating line up, including Klowden and Zadarnowski, did some recording, though nothing has been released from those sessions. This group lasted through 1990, at which time Brandes began concentrating on solo work.
A short detour occurred when he became a member of the Shambles late that year, alongside Klowden, Zadarnowski, Bart Mendoza, and Kevin Donaker-Ring (Manual Scan). In addition to local shows, the band toured England in 1992. The mid-1990s saw a mini-revival of interest in the Tell-Tale Hearts, with demand for their music, particularly in Europe and Australia, at a fever pitch. While the group only reunited for a handful of shows, a string of discs was released.
All of this activity coincided with Brandes's first release under his own name, The Lonely Sock, via former Crawdaddy keyboardist Keith Fisher's label, Spun, in 1995. In 1998 he signed with Snap!! Records, based in Madrid. The label released his second album, Continental Drifter, in 1999, which received a nomination for "Best Pop Album" at that year's San Diego Music Awards.
In 2002, Brandes released his third CD, The Rise and Fall of Ray Brandes, again via Snap!! Records.
Confirming his status as a local music icon, in March 2006, noted rock author Paul Williams penned an article for the Reader, with Brandes as the main interviewee.
-- Written by Bart Mendoza for the San Diego Troubador, used with permission