The Palominos

Thomas Zurek: Guitar (acoustic), Guitar (electric) | James Zurek: Bass guitar | Marc Balanky: Drums

Genre: Rock

Sound description: The Telecaster twang that permeated the 1960s West Coast honky-tonks, from the Blackboard in Bakersfield to the Bostonia Ballroom down in El Cajon.

RIYL: Buck Owens, Deke Dickerson, Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys

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Inception: San Diego, 2006

Ex-Band Members: Mark Merrell, Vocals

Influences: Wynn Stewart, Ralph Mooney, Bob Morris, Buck Owens, Roy Nichols, Johnny and Jonie Mosby


Steeped in pure, whisky-soaked honky-tonk, the Palominos bring to the stage an era that’s long gone but far from forgotten. It’s easy to picture the foursome in the 1960s, pouring out a toe-tapping sound alongside Buck Owens in a roadside nightclub named after the revered golden horse.

The band formed in early 2006, fronted by singing cowboy Mark Merrell, a ranch foreman by trade who formerly played with local band the Neverly Brothers.

Punk-turned-rockabilly Marc Balanky (Funeral March, the Scramblers) soon joined the band on drums. But it was brothers Thomas and James Zurek (on guitar and bass) who brought this little pony into the world after more than a decade of talking, dreaming, and letting life get in the way.

Thomas played short stints with the Grazers and the Barnyard Ballers while mastering the twanging telecaster that forms the bedrock of the Palominos' sound.

James, besides picking on his guitar and banjo, spent years building up a sizable collection of vintage country records, which in turn provides the audio blueprint for the band.

These two, with Merrell and Balanky at their side, turned a 1960s Bakersfield sound into a living, breathing original.

Donning vintage-inspired western wear and playing on period instruments, the Palomino boys bring an old-time sound to a modern-day crowd that hits the dance floor as quick as you can say “I’m drunk again.”

Singer-songwriter Mark Merrell (who also played with Whiskey Heart and the Neverly Brothers) passed away in September 2019.

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