“Kim Fowley is seeking groups, solo artists, composers, and lyricists who dream of international stardom,” read the large display ads running in the Reader circa late 1980. Several photos of the man behind jailbait rockers the Runaways accompanied each ad, including one of him with Jimmy Page, along with a request for cassettes, bios, photos, and “a summary of your career goals.”
Thirty-eight years old at the time, Fowley (whose half-brother is San Diego County Treasurer Dan McAllister) was considering a permanent move from L.A. to San Diego and had already been scouting the city for his next all-girl band for nearly a year. His interest was first piqued by locals the Dinettes, who — á la Josie and the Pussycats — had a black girl in the group, guitarist Joyce Rooks (at least for a while in ’79). Fowley booked the Dinettes for his Battle of the Girl Bands at the Coo Coo’s Nest in Costa Mesa, expressing interest in signing them to some unspecified label or rep firm. However, that 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).
“I spent a good portion of my formative years in San Diego,” he told local Kicks magazine in November of 1980. “The kind of music I’m producing now, most of it sells and is released outside of the continental United States. I can record records in, let’s say, San Diego, and get them out all over the world without having my acts go through the psychological rape of playing the horrible L.A. clubs.… Right now, if you’re a San Diego band and want to have an American record out, you have to move to New York, L.A., or Nashville and start all over again at the bottom.”
For Fowley’s local talent search, he said, “I’m looking for people to work with who, in the past, have held back selling themselves to the San Diego rock community, either because they don’t think there is a rock community in San Diego or because they have bigger ambitions than being the most popular thing from National City to Leucadia.
“It’s necessary for a band to have charisma, and it’s necessary for a band to have a Kim Fowley in there someplace. The behind-the-scenes people are as much a part of rock ’n’ roll as the guys onstage.… Kim Fowley is a necessary evil.”
Fowley — colorfully portrayed by Michael Shannon in the new Runaways movie — ultimately opted to maintain his evil empire near L.A.