Don Bauder 7:35 p.m., June 19
A Halloween party is planned for October 28 at the Moose Lodge in Spring Valley, intended as a benefit for Greg Willis (Palace Pages, Iron Butterfly, Candye Kane, King Biscuit Blues Band, Glory, Jerry Raney and the Shames), who suffered a stroke and needs help with expenses.
The show will feature the Farmers, a Glory reunion (featuring Jack Butler), Joey Harris and the Mentals, the Swingin' Kings, and Modern Rhythm. Legendary local DJ Jim McInnes will be hosting, so wear a costume and bring your dancing shoes!
Organized by Jack Pinney (Iron Butterfly) and John Gunderson (Modern Rhythm), and Rosa Lea Shiavone of Wicked Harem Productions, tickets are $15, with raffles and prizes are planned for the event running from 5pm to 10pm at Moose Lodge #1713, 9062 Memory Lane, Spring Valley.
"He's a working musician in the truest sense, and health insurance isn't exactly available to folks of our ilk," says Joey Harris. Anyone interested in sending donations can do so via http://www.helpgregwillis.org . "He's on the mend, but until he can get back in the saddle and on stage, we've set up a place here where if you feel inclined help a true legend in Americana music this is a place to do it."
Here's some background on Willis from his page in the Reader's Local Music Database (featuring material from multiple contributors):
Greg Willis' history as a bass player goes back decades in San Diego. He first rose to fame as one-half of the rhythm section behind Iron Butterfly (Jack Pinney played drums), a band that started in San Diego before moving north to Los Angeles.
Pinney and Willis were Iron Butterfly’s first rhythm section, having played with Danny Weis in the Palace Pages. Pinney was 18. At the time, Willis and Pinney (both had grown up in El Cajon) and Weis were still in the Pages, the house band at the long-defunct Palace, an all-ages club that once stood on the ground now occupied by the Home Depot near the Sports Arena.
By 1966, the Pages were in turmoil: the older members wanted to style and play lounges. The younger members, including Pinney, Willis, and Weis, wanted to grow their hair long and play harder rock. The Palace Pages split. The older guys (including Kerry Chater) went with Gary Puckett and started the Union Gap, and the younger guys formed Iron Butterfly.
Later, Willis and Pinney would reunite in another local band called Glory, which featured a young guitar slinger (and future Beat Farmer) named Jerry Raney as well as guitarist/keyboardist Jack Butler and singer Mike Milsap.
They appeared regularly at Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park, opened locally for Steely Dan and ZZ Top, and were reportedly the first local band to play both the Belly Up Tavern and San Diego Stadium.
Raney had come from the band Thee Dark Ages, while both Raney and Mike Milsap had previously been members of Blues Messenger, and Raney had played with Pinney in the Roosters.
Glory split in 1978. Willis and Pinney would reunite with Jerry Raney, in a band called the Shames. Willis also played in the King Biscuit Blues band and in the Mississippi Mudsharks before delving into a career as a side man that saw his familiar overall-clad figure on stage with dozens of local artists.
A notable Glory reunion happened at the downtown club Anthology on May 26, 2010, at a benefit for the California Music Project and for music education in public schools. Taking part were Jerry Raney, Jack Butler, Greg Willis, and Jack Pinney, who also performed with their respective bands, the Farmers, Private Domain, and Modern Rhythm. Original Glory vocalist Mike Milsap made a surprise appearance, for his first gig in over twenty years.
Willis was 63 in April 2012 when he suffered a stroke, most likely caused by high blood pressure. "I didn't have any idea I had high blood pressure," he says. "I'm completely surprised."
After the stroke happened in his sleep, "I couldn't stand up. I couldn't say words."
Patty Birchard, his girlfriend, tried to help. "He tried to get up and get dressed, and he couldn't." That's when she called her dad. He had a van. They would need to use it to get Willis to a hospital.
Willis spent the next three days at Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest. After, he was transferred to a physical rehab center near Alvarado Hospital for another two weeks. Therapists there helped him to learn how to walk, talk, and dress himself all over again.