San Diego native Gary Ra’chac spent several years working at Tasha’s Music downtown before becoming a singer-songwriter and radio personality. His songs have been recorded by Ray Brandes and Nick Castro & the Young Elders.
“Lyrically, I’d say my songs are half Gershwin and half gospel. Musically, call it proto-country folk punk or R&B psych. I think that covers it.”
Ra’chac produces the Vince Martell Rocks America radio show from his home in Bankers Hill, though the program hosted by the Vanilla Fudge guitarist airs on WNJC in New York City. He’s also dabbled in record production, music marketing, and journalism — having been an associate of local-bred rock-critic Lester Bangs. The list of local performers he’s worked with includes Chris Hillman (the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers), to whom Ra’chac presented a Lifetime Achievement award at the 2004 San Diego Music Awards.
He’s accumulated a lot of celebrity tales, and one of his favorites is that of June 13, 1970, the night Who drummer Keith Moon trashed a room at the Mission Bay Hilton Hotel.
“I had hooked up with the band on their first trip through San Diego about a year prior — and especially hit it off with Keith, with whom I shared a love of early surf music — so it was no problem for me to gain access. The band had rented out the entire fifth floor of the Hilton for an after-show party. And party we did, with Keith leading the grand march through the evening festivities. Yes, I did help Keith Moon drop a sofa, albeit a small sofa, from his hotel room balcony five floors up, to land on top of one of the Who’s equipment trucks.”
And that wasn’t the night’s capper. “At about 3 a.m., me, Keith Moon, bassist John Entwistle, their road manager John Wolff, and a few girls poured into a rented station wagon and went to the all-night drive-through of the Jack in the Box on Morena Boulevard. Entwistle and his girl were in the backseat with Moonie, who was shouting out our order to the clown head at the menu stop. I’ll never forget Keith’s jabbering at the poor nighttime employee trying to take the order, who to this day probably doesn’t realize his brief brush with rock-and-roll greatness.”
Ra’chac is currently in Big Bear with Strawberry Alarm Clock drummer/singer Randy Seol and bassist George Bunnell, editing and mixing an upcoming band album produced by longtime Alarm Clock collaborator Steve Bartek (Oingo Boingo, Danny Elfman).
WHAT’S IN YOUR MUSIC PLAYER?
1) Billy Ward & His Dominoes, featuring Clyde McPhatter and Jackie Wilson. “Billy, Jackie, and Clyde. Need I say any more?”
2) Faron Young, The Classic Years, 1952 to 1962. “The crying voice of country’s golden punk.”
3) Nicey Nice World, self-titled. “San Diego’s new sensation. You can’t get much better than mixing a theremin and a cello.”
4) The Music Machine, (Turn On) the Music Machine. “Some of the best album cuts of its time.”
SOMETHING YOU MISS?
“Well, the pre-renovated Gaslamp District in the late ’70s was my cultural Eden at the time, especially along Fifth Avenue from Broadway to Island. I used to hunker down at the Zebra Club, with its great jukebox and two pool tables, long before we made it into the punk hangout and venue it was later remembered for.”
GUILTY MUSICAL PLEASURE?
“Shalamar’s ‘Second Time Around.’ I don’t know why, but I like that tune.”
TELL US ABOUT PARTYING WITH LESTER BANGS?
“I was all of 15 or 16, and Lester was in college. We had been banging around on the guitar and spinning some records at his place when we decided to roll down in his old Triumph to the Mayfair market at the intersection of First and Main in El Cajon, where we picked up a bottle of Spanish Rose wine and headed over to a mutual friend’s house. I remember waking up a few hours later and noticing Lester sprawled out on a couch, clutching the empty bottle of wine in his hands. Without waking him, I tiptoed out the door and stumbled home in the dark.”
WHAT REMAINS ON YOUR BUCKET LIST?
1) “Surfing the big-wave breaks at Mavericks.”
2) “Slow dance with Christina Hendricks from Mad Men.”
3) “Party with Amanda Knox.” ■