Assassin was formed in the summer of 1983 by guitarists Thom Beebe and Vinnie Cavarra who worked together at Guitar Trader.
“We were talking to [KGB DJ] Jim McInnes about forming a band,” remembers Beebe. “We were going to do a spoof on [’80s-era club bands] Blitz Brothers and Bratz. He suggested we call ourselves the Brat Brothers. That idea,” he remembers, “lasted about a week.”
But Beebe, already a veteran of 1970s rock outfits Circus and Child, felt there was potential in the Brat Brothers lineup — he and Cavarra on guitars, Leroy Vega on drums, bassist Neil Foote, and Pete Papps handling vocals.
After a brief stint with Neil Foote, the band settled into its classic early lineup with the addition of Chicago native John Osmon on bass.
During the mid-eighties, Assassin opened for headliners like Poison, Alcatrazz, Grim Reaper, Precious Metal, and local metalheads Riot.
“It felt good,” remembers Osmon, “because we were in Spandex at the time.” He laughs. “We wore mostly women’s clothes and used inhuman amounts of Aqua Net hairspray.” These days, Osmon plays bass in a Sammy Hagar tribute band.
“Rock and roll was a lot of fun back then,” says Osmon. “The venues were different. There were more of them. And the crowds were just full of loyal fans. It was a ball.”
By the end of 1985, Assassin had received several label offers, but was holding out for just the right deal. While working towards that goal, Pete Papps left in January of 1986 to form Red Alert, and the band brought in L.A. vocalist Marc Anthony. With some new material, Assassin continued on a short while longer before problems with their new singer forced the band to implode.
“I really think we had a shot at it,” says Beebe. “We were like that group in Almost Famous...we were on our way, no doubt. But there were two main problems. First, our original singer was in it for all the wrong reasons. Being a rock star, partying, and scoring chicks was more important to him than being a true musical artist. So we replaced him. That was a train wreck, because the second guy had an unquenchable coke habit.”
According to Beebe, “Our producer-manager Charlie Bryant, who had set up all of our L.A. connections with the major labels, was accidentally shot and killed in a club parking lot...we had been in [the club] together.” He explains that Bryant was a mentor and a guiding light and, along with then-Padres pitcher Eric Show, an investor in Assassin. “It was a random accident,” says Beebe. “But when Charlie died, that really killed our thunder. With him not being there, we lost direction.”
Much later, in 2009, Deep Shag Records founder Michael Reed released an album of Assassin songs. "The first concert I ever saw was Assassin, at a little hard rock club in La Mesa, and my ears rang for days," says Reed. "I ended up working there, but the place caved-in to liquor, curfew, and child labor laws, and I ended up taking over promotional duties and running the fan club for Assassin instead."
Reed contacted former band members and discovered an unreleased Assassin album, recorded in 1984 and eventually secured for the 2009 release on the Deep Shag label. "This is a lost rock classic that can now lay claim to its rightful place in music history," says Reed. "Assassin were balls-out rockers in the same vein as Ratt, Rough Cutt, and Jake E. Lee. The band was legendary at home, respected overseas, and now they're finally getting some long overdue attention."
As for the former members:
Pete Papps - When Pete left Assassin, he formed Red Alert with Danny Robinson and played all the major Los Angeles clubs. Red Alert was together for about a year. He later moved to Phoenix where he became manager and part owner of a topless nightclub. After 16 years, he sold his interest in the club and bought rental property in Texas as part of a family business venture. He now splits his time between Texas and Arizona.
Vinnie Cavarra - After Assassin, Vinnie played in a few different San Diego bands: Blacklist with John Osmon & Leroy Vega and BG Hunter with John again. Vinnie left for Oregon in 1993 and has been playing regularly with the band Toyz. He has a custom design tile business and owns the media company Sound Environments, Inc, as well as owning Blossom Gulch Studio in Coos Bay, Oregon.
Thom Beebe - After Assassin, Thom formed the group Copperhead that lasted until 1994. He played a drug dealing thug in the 1990s television drama Renegade while it was shooting around Mission Beach. In 2004, he formed a metal/blues band called Gun Metal Blues that evolved into the power trio YBS. In 2008, he began operating Guitar and Bass Land / Skin City Drums in the old Blue Meanie building in El Cajon at 1164 N. Second Street. The store later moved the heart of historic downtown El Cajon at 168 E. Main Street. As of 2012, he and his wife PK are in the band Steampunk Willie.
John Osmon - After Assassin, John played in a few different San Diego bands: Blacklist with Vinnie Cavarra & Leroy Vega and BG Hunter with Vinnie again. He still lives in San Diego and currently plays with a Deep Purple tribute band (Deeper Purple) and a Van Halen/Sammy Hagar tribute band (OU812).
Leroy Vega - When Leroy left Assassin, he joined Stress and played on their 1988 EP (available on the CD reissue of the Stress album Killing Me Night & Day on Deep Shag Records). He has recently moved back to San Diego and is again playing drums after a long break.
Dave "Bundy" Imondi - Dave still lives in San Diego and has never stopped playing music. He is currently the drummer in the Deep Purple tribute band OU812 along with former Assassin bassist, John Osmon.
In April 2010, the band reunited for an anniversary performance at 4th & B.