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When Amyl Was in the Band

The Legendary Mighty Raw Tones Experience and Revue has been playing San Diego for over 30 years. The rock/blues band’s current lineup has been together “easily 20 years,” says Point Loma guitarist/surfboard-shaper Scat, who explains how the four current members got together:

“[In the late ’70s] we used to play down in O.B. in a garage – just high school buddies – and we’d get delirious and play on really crappy equipment, and in the morning we’d get up and go surf. Then [guitarist] T-Bone came in, and he actually knew songs and he made us play songs; before that it was all free-form and wild.”

Scat says sessions included experiments with amyl nitrite; they’d inhale vapors and record what they played for the 30 seconds of intense high that the compound (meant to treat heart diseases) would elicit.

“We would play at Halloween [parties] all the time. People would get completely obliterated and pass out on the floor in costumes, and they’d last till two or three in the morning. I’d be lying on my back playing ‘Gloria’ because I was out of it.

“And this other band that [bassist] Dave and [drummer] Tim were in – the Evasions, a surf band – they would be playing on the other side of Point Loma.… None of [the Evasions] were loadies like us, but they’d always call the cops on themselves so they could hang out with the chicks. And then they’d all come over to [our] parties that’d last all night. Anyway, I snagged them out of that band.”

And so today’s Raw Tones were born. Band members never tried to make a business of their act; they performed for the pleasure and were more dedicated to surfing. Their recordings were crude, never mixed in a studio, not intended for release.

“We never knew anybody that [recorded] or had any money to go pay someone to do it.… It turns out, when you’re recording you got to do the same thing over and over – it’s pretty tedious, and that’s not me.”

A couple of months ago, the band “produced” a disc of songs recorded and mixed on the soundboard at Dream Street in O.B.

“Tim had a time slot that had been paid for, so we gave the [sound man] 15 bucks and he said, ‘Okay, I’ll record you guys.’ But he didn’t listen to it, I don’t think. He didn’t have headphones; he just watched the lights [that indicated levels].”

Not as a result of rising fame due to the recording (the session is only on a few discs and not scheduled for release), the band landed a gig in Vegas that they played a couple of weeks ago (okay, it was a house party).

“The people in Vegas had heard us play at a Halloween party for some yacht-club people at a house at the end of Rosecrans Street. They wanted to have a big party, and they didn’t know any bands in Vegas.… We asked for what we thought was an outrageous amount of money [low four digits], and they said ‘yes.’ Should have asked for double that, because I blew a tire on the way home. I probably came out a little ahead, but not much.”

– Noah Cina

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The Legendary Mighty Raw Tones Experience and Revue has been playing San Diego for over 30 years. The rock/blues band’s current lineup has been together “easily 20 years,” says Point Loma guitarist/surfboard-shaper Scat, who explains how the four current members got together:

“[In the late ’70s] we used to play down in O.B. in a garage – just high school buddies – and we’d get delirious and play on really crappy equipment, and in the morning we’d get up and go surf. Then [guitarist] T-Bone came in, and he actually knew songs and he made us play songs; before that it was all free-form and wild.”

Scat says sessions included experiments with amyl nitrite; they’d inhale vapors and record what they played for the 30 seconds of intense high that the compound (meant to treat heart diseases) would elicit.

“We would play at Halloween [parties] all the time. People would get completely obliterated and pass out on the floor in costumes, and they’d last till two or three in the morning. I’d be lying on my back playing ‘Gloria’ because I was out of it.

“And this other band that [bassist] Dave and [drummer] Tim were in – the Evasions, a surf band – they would be playing on the other side of Point Loma.… None of [the Evasions] were loadies like us, but they’d always call the cops on themselves so they could hang out with the chicks. And then they’d all come over to [our] parties that’d last all night. Anyway, I snagged them out of that band.”

And so today’s Raw Tones were born. Band members never tried to make a business of their act; they performed for the pleasure and were more dedicated to surfing. Their recordings were crude, never mixed in a studio, not intended for release.

“We never knew anybody that [recorded] or had any money to go pay someone to do it.… It turns out, when you’re recording you got to do the same thing over and over – it’s pretty tedious, and that’s not me.”

A couple of months ago, the band “produced” a disc of songs recorded and mixed on the soundboard at Dream Street in O.B.

“Tim had a time slot that had been paid for, so we gave the [sound man] 15 bucks and he said, ‘Okay, I’ll record you guys.’ But he didn’t listen to it, I don’t think. He didn’t have headphones; he just watched the lights [that indicated levels].”

Not as a result of rising fame due to the recording (the session is only on a few discs and not scheduled for release), the band landed a gig in Vegas that they played a couple of weeks ago (okay, it was a house party).

“The people in Vegas had heard us play at a Halloween party for some yacht-club people at a house at the end of Rosecrans Street. They wanted to have a big party, and they didn’t know any bands in Vegas.… We asked for what we thought was an outrageous amount of money [low four digits], and they said ‘yes.’ Should have asked for double that, because I blew a tire on the way home. I probably came out a little ahead, but not much.”

– Noah Cina

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Comments
1

Loved reading the "raw" truth about the Raw Tones. One summer in OB back in the early 70s I lived through the birth pangs of Scat's lead guitar stylings as he wore the grooves off the Allman Bros' "Eat A Peach" album while he tuned in his inimitable lead licks.

Later, the formative Raw Tones let me sing a verse or two from "Johhny Be Good" with them during the calmer moments of some of their garage practice sessions. I'm still proud to bear an original Raw Tones decal on my guitar case.

Forget employing dj/mixers for social occasions. Hire live musicians. Raw Tones in Vegas? Better book them quick. A live party band is the only way to celebrate life's important festivities.

Oct. 19, 2008

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