Ken Leighton 6:30 p.m., Aug. 20
The Rockin’ Dogs
Sound description: The power of the MC5 and the Sex Pistols, the soul of Howlin’ Wolf and Hank Williams.
RIYL: Johnny Thunders, Gun Club, Noise 292, the Wallflowers, the Answers, Hair Theatre
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Inception: Poway, 1981
Current Status: Dave Ellison went on to form the Wild Desires, with drummer Jack Gamboa and bassist Andy Sidelinger. He’s currently an art director and designer living and working in the Los Angeles area. Sam Wilson played gigs as a member of the Wallflowers and later joined Hair Theatre, replacing guitarist Paul Allen. He now resides in the Midwest with his family. Cole Smithey is a film critic in New York. Jane Bunting’s whereabouts are unknown.
Influences: Johnny Thunders, Gun Club, Johnny Cash, T Rex, Howlin’ Wolf, Noise 292, the Wallflowers, the Answers, Hair Theatre
Proto-indie trailblazers the Rockin’ Dogs were a vital force San Diego’s early-’80s Ché Underground scene. From their beginnings in the North San Diego County suburb of Poway in 1981 until their demise four years later, their frenzied sonic attack combined with soulful singing and songwriting to forge a sound that transcended its components.
The nucleus of the seminal band comprised triple-threat singers/songwriters/lead guitarists Sam Wilson and Dave Ellison. Launching their partnership at age 14, Ellison and Wilson absorbed the influences of ’70s punk, as well as ’50s and ’60s rock and roll, country, blues, and folk music. They later began developing their own unique and complementary approach, designed to offer a loud and joyous answer to the sonic bombast of arena rock.
After weathering multiple personnel changes, the band arrived at its most lethal combination with the addition in winter 1982 of drummer Cole Smithey and bassist Jane Bunting.
By 1983, the Rockin’ Dogs were a fixture on the emerging Ché Underground scene, gigging with bands such as Noise 292, the Wallflowers, the Answers, and Hair Theatre. The group performed relentlessly throughout 1983 and achieved its greatest creative successes as live performers and songwriters. Ellison departed the band in early 1985, and the Rockin’ Dogs disbanded permanently later that year.