Hellbilly Fest promoter Garry Thayer can’t figure out what the hell he was paying the fairgrounds for.
  • Hellbilly Fest promoter Garry Thayer can’t figure out what the hell he was paying the fairgrounds for.
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Newly appointed Del Mar Fair trustee David Lizerbram says he wants the fairgrounds to host more major music events. That’s just not going to happen, according to promoter Garry Thayer, who organized the Hellbilly Fest Car & Bike Show II, September 24, at the arena on the fairgrounds. Over 1900 people paid $30 to see Wanda Jackson, Junior Brown, Big Sandy, and 14 other bands.

“Every band got paid,” said Thayer, who says his band budget was over $25,000. “We had people from Australia, the U.K., Oklahoma, Nebraska... We had, like, eight or nine car clubs and over 500 classic rods and bikes. There was not a single fight. Not one incident.”

But Thayer says the fairgrounds is not promoter friendly. He had to pay $17,000 to the fairgrounds, which included rent and security. Although Thayer paid for the guards, he says some didn’t care about doing their job. “I know a lot of people snuck in the back gate. They just said they were vendors and they’d let them drive right through. And even though we had wristbands, they would just let anybody backstage [without wristbands].” Thayer estimates hundreds got in for free.

Thayer says the good will from those who attended will help him pack his fest next year, but, he says, the way the fairgrounds does business makes it impossible for outside promoters to make money.

“They have a 100 percent control over everything. They control all the food and beer concessions. No one else can come in. I just wanted a couple food booths, but they told me that all these other people had to come in who took up a bunch of my prime real estate. I didn’t have any say, even though I rented the space.” Thayer says the unwanted food stands took valuable space away from his sponsors and other booths.

But Thayer says the biggest racket was the beer garden, which was slammed all day long. “They killed it. Those people were drinking hard. Pabst Blue Ribbon was my sponsor, but the fair is sponsored by Coors. I had to fight with them just to get them to carry 16-ounce PBR cans, which cost them, like, 75 cents and which they sold for $8.50. I tried to get them to sell tall boys, but they wouldn’t do it. They stocked so little PBR that they sold out by 1 o’clock. So, all these people had to drink Corona or Heineken, which is not rockabilly.

“On top of the $17,000 I gave them in rent, they must have made another $30,000 in alcohol sales. This chick in San Diego put on an anti–Hellbilly Fest party the same night at her house because they didn’t want to pay $8.50 for a beer.”

Thayer got none of the alcohol sales from his show. “A lot of people told me that if I would have gotten a cut, I wouldn’t be owing anybody. As it is, I didn’t make my bottom line. All these people selling beverages wouldn’t even have a job if it wasn’t for promoters like me, and here I go away empty-handed.”

Thayer also had to cough up $1700 to the fairgrounds for backstage catering. “I got chips, salsa, dip, a veggie plate, two cases of Coors and two bottles of wine for Wanda Jackson. I had one guy who was a big Junior Brown fan who wanted to come down from San Francisco and cook 21 lobsters for Brown and his friends backstage, but the fair said no.”

And then there was the Mojo Nixon dictum. “Mojo was the MC. They told me I had to tell him he could not curse on stage. That really put a damper on him. He was not as crazy as he usually is. They even went over my Facebook from my show last year and told me I couldn’t have a T-shirt vendor sell ‘Lucky Fuck’ T-shirts. It’s, like, ‘What the fuck am I paying you all this money for?’”

The event was supposed to raise money for charity. “St Jude’s [Children’s Hospital] got screwed because there were no proceeds. All I got for them was a hollow-body guitar donated by Gretsch and signed by Wanda Jackson and Junior Brown.”

Thayer says he would like to have a local casino host the 2012 Hellbilly Fest. “I had over 2500 people who had the most amazing time.”

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msformaldehyde Oct. 20, 2011 @ 7:56 a.m.

Still trying to figure out why there are no proceeds to St. Judes?


hardeymw Oct. 20, 2011 @ 8:22 a.m.

I agree - The only way that the Fairgrounds will ever be able to host more that watered down, mainstream musicial events is to change its policies and procedures to accomodate the thematic flavors of local music events like Hellbilly Fest.

The point of having genre specific musical events is to bring all aspects of the particular event to the venue, including PBR and T-shirts with four letter words on them. As well, there should be an opportunity for less-known musicians in that genre of music to perform and become known.

Disruptive behavior is just disruptive behavior, no matter what kind of musical genre is being featured. The bottom line is that people should be able to come to a venue, listen to music they like, enjoy it the way they want without danger to themselves and others, and in the process be left alone.

The fact that 2500 people came together and had a good time without any problems only goes to show that it's ultimately about how prepared and efficient the promoter is. It's all about doing one's homework, having established community relationships and knowing how to use the resources one has without being too greedy in the short term.

The best shows reflect the work of the most competent promoters with proven track records, regardless of the size of the event or where it's held. Think of what next year's show could be like in a more "user-friendly" and appropriate space! Another feather in Thayer's hat anyway and a great time was had by all!


Ken Leighton Oct. 20, 2011 @ 1:36 p.m.

There was no profit. That's why St. Jude's gets nothing but the guitar. This happens all the time. Unless the ads state that a "$1 from every ticket" goes to.... then the "proceeds" line can be unclear. At least Thayer was up front about it.

It should be noted that Tim Finnell, fairgrounds exec director, finally returned a call almost a week after I asked the fairgrounds media lady for a response. He said there is no way the fairgrounds would ever allow bad words or naughty T-shirts, so there is no need to debate that. This raises some interesting questions that should be pursued. It is one thing if its the Del Mar Fair. It is something quite different if the place is rented out by a private promoter. Attendees of a "Hellbilly Fest" do not have to be protected against a potty-mouthed Mojo Nixon.

Finnell also said that if Thayer's event was larger, then the fairgrounds may consider talking to him about sharing revenue from beer sales. Excuse me? If Thayer's $30,000 estimate is correct, I would say that is a pretty substantial one day take. Yet Finnell is saying, in essence, that $30,000 isn't a big enough take. On what planet is a $30,000 one day bar take not significant? It is interesting that the all-powerful Finnell has the discretion to negotiate with a promoter over whether to give him a cut of the bar or not. It would seem reasonable that if the fair were run most other places, once the bar reaches a threshold, like $15,000, say, then the promoter would get a cut. Those 2,500 people did not show up because of the flunkies who were pouring beer. They showed up because of the investment Thayer made, including $25,000 for 17 bands.

Finnell ultimately calls all the shots at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. He reports to nine appointed board members. As the U-T recently reported, most of the six new appointees picked by Gov. Brown gave Brown campaign donations. The bio of one appointee listed as his most notable achievement that he was the husband of longtime Democrat heavyweight Lynn Schenck. She happens to be very competent and decent. But does that mean that's were her husband gets to run the fairgrounds? This would seem to be a questionable governance model for such an important operation.

Events at the Fairgrounds must be overseen by bonded security companies. But other government agencies that rent out facilities like this have a list of approved companies, and the promoter must select from a list. In this case, Thayer was told he must hire this one security, which Thayer said let in hundreds of people for free because they weren't doing their job. I think any reasonable person would agree this is a broken business model at best, or completely corrupt at worst.

There needs to be an overhaul of the way the fairgrounds is run. Not sure how to do it, but the City of Del Mar seemed headed in the right direction when they would have taken it over and let elected officials run the thing.


ok_now Oct. 22, 2011 @ 2 p.m.

"Ever Band got paid " NO I DON'T THINK SO!


shonna619 Nov. 7, 2011 @ 3:33 p.m.

Give me your name and the bands name that didn't either agree to play for free, or didn't get paid.


ok_now Oct. 22, 2011 @ 2:05 p.m.

P.s. PBR is NOT "Rockabilly " beer .. Rockabillies drink any beer!


anchorsaway Oct. 23, 2011 @ 12:22 p.m.

ok this is just enough of this guy that us TRUE rockabillies in the san diego community can take .. The reason that alot of us did not go and wont support this guy is the simple fact that he likes to bad mouth EVERYONE both behind their backs through emails and his facebook posts but when confronted on it he changes his stories around! He is a laughing stock of the community and just doesnt realize it or is trying too hard to try and emmulate that he is MR ROCKABILLY and the only promoter in this town that cares about it.. He is also a lying and deceptive person in full force, kind of like a wolf in sheeps clothing.. He is trying to make a career out of something that is a lifestyle .. He talks smack about his girlfriend behind her back and owes COUNTLESS venues and performers money but yet tries to make excuses and comes up with lies and is ALWAYS being caught in his own lies! Here are some of my rebuttal statements to his article as well as making light of his lies!

1) "We had, like, eight or nine car clubs and over 500 classic rods and bikes." ~~ no you didn't you had like 60-70

2) "They killed it. Those people were drinking hard. Pabst Blue Ribbon was my sponsor, but the fair is sponsored by Coors. I had to fight with them just to get them to carry 16-ounce PBR cans, which cost them, like, 75 cents and which they sold for $8.50. I tried to get them to sell tall boys, but they wouldn’t do it. They stocked so little PBR that they sold out by 1 o’clock. So, all these people had to drink Corona or Heineken, which is not rockabilly" ~~~ hahahaha dude when did Pabst or any other company for that matter start making 16 ounce beers.. Now, obviously this guy bought the Hot Topic Rockabilly Starter Kit with his Target bowling shirts and his Wal Mart Fedora's and his check list cuz last I checked there was NO certain beers that we had to drink! Ive seen Pabst in 12, 24, 32, and 40 ounces but NEVER in a 16

3) "This chick in San Diego put on an anti–Hellbilly Fest party the same night at her house because they didn’t want to pay $8.50 for a beer.” ~~~ no that is NOT why she did this or countless others .. we had them because Garry is a jerk who doesnt know how to deal with certain situations and wants to point the finger at someone else.. Take responsibility for your own actions and your OWNS words Mr Thayer..

4) "The event was supposed to raise money for charity. “St Jude’s [Children’s Hospital] got screwed because there were no proceeds. All I got for them was a hollow-body guitar donated by Gretsch and signed by Wanda Jackson and Junior Brown.” ~~ now if this is the truth then WHY IN THE WORLD DID YOU AUCTION THE GUITAR OFF ON EBAY INSTEAD OF DONATING IT TO ST JUDES AND LETTING THEM DO WITH IT AS THEY PLEASE?!!?!?!?!


shonna619 Nov. 7, 2011 @ 3:36 p.m.

Would love to know what your definition of "True Rockabilly" is?


anchorsaway Oct. 23, 2011 @ 12:22 p.m.

5) Last but not least the money raised off of the show and Ill even break it down in numbers... How did you NOT making any money off it based on your OWN numbers provided in your article --over 1900 people paid $30 ===== $57,000 --band budget <$25,000 so well go with the following number == $28,000

subtotal == $29,000

---fairgrounds rental === $17,000

subtotal == $12,000

fairground catering === $1,700

Grand Total just off of those and thats not counting the $350 for vendor booth rentals and tshirt sales is === $10,300

~now why did st judes NOT making a stinking PENNY off of those numbers that Garry Thayer provided?!?!?!!?

6)"Every Band got paid " ~~ hahahahaha I know multiple bands & performers that are STILL waiting to get paid from this show as well as Hellbilly Fest 1... This guy STILL owes money to 4th & B as well as the Shakedown Bar and some venues dont even want him in their establishment!

7) On the donated guitar explain this one! If you were raising money for St Judes then why in the world did you not give them the guitar if you didnt raise the money that you wanted off of the door.. But, instead JUST RECENTLY placed the guitar on EBAY and raise only $743 for the sale and then contradict yourself with saying that you got $613 for it! .... and this was JUST RECENTLY and was blasted onto your personal FACEBOOK! heres the link to his facebook too! http://www.facebook.com/#!/GarryThayer

That is all that I have to say right now.. In closing this guy is a laughing stock and if he wants to see a REAL Anti-Hellbilly Fest / Show Im sure that their are people around that will GLADLY throw one and call it the "Garry we're tired of you killing our community and benefit / fundraiser to get you out of SD!"

Sincerely, a concerned Greaser!


shonna619 Nov. 7, 2011 @ 3:41 p.m.

Concerned Greaser? You did your math based off of what? Where did you get the numbers from? Who was your source for Bo Huff? Would you like his # to call him and ask about the great time he had. My point is, you have no facts to base your negative posts


anchorsaway Oct. 23, 2011 @ 2:17 p.m.

oh and then there was the simple fact of his "guest of honor" which was BO HUFF who is a LIVING LEGEND in the hot rodding customization world. This guy had him plastered all over his flyers and posters and had told him and his family that they would gain VIP ALL ACCESS to the event. He had the audacity to MAKE THE GUY PAY for the show and the pre-party when he was told that he wouldn't have to pay. If that doesn't scream out I'm a idiot promoter I don't know what does! Not to mention that Bo Huff is battling cancer as we speak!


Ken Leighton Oct. 23, 2011 @ 6:34 p.m.

Anchorsaway, these are pretty serious charges. If they are true, why don't you tell us your name. It seems pretty weak that you would throw these things out anonymously. They have no credibility otherwise. And when you tell us your name, why don't you tell us which bands did not get paid. This is a significant charge. Please give us details.

Just because you don't know that PBR does come in 16 oz cans does not mean it doesn't exist.

One thing I will say is the way the fairgrounds does business needs to be scrutinized, whether or not this particular promoter is liked by anonymous bloggers. That was the whole point of the article. This article was not to promote or defend Mr. Thayer as a promoter, but to point out why he was, I think, the only outside promoter to do a show at the fairgrounds (not counting the Del Mar Thoroughbred group of course) this year. They basically get free rent to do shows. Thayer raised some very good points, especially concerning too many mandated food servers, a $1700 backstage catering that he HAD to pay for, and security guards that he had to pay for but who weren't doing their job.

Not all of the expenses for the show were listed in the article. For instance there was a $1-million insurance policy and posters and flyers and other expenses out there as well. That's just what I recall him telling me. Some of your points may be valid. But with all due respect you don't have all the expenses in front of you to put out his bottom line.

Maybe most of what you say is true. Maybe not. But unless you tell us who you are they are just cheap random stabs-in-the back. At the very least, this promoter (who may have flaws) was actually doing something. He risked a lot of money and he lost a significant chunk of change. Those who can, do. Those who can't, blog. Since you know so much about this, why would you not identify yourself and the bands who got stiffed?

I agree the Bo Huff incident and the EBay auction are specific facts that can be verified. Those should be researched.


Ken Leighton Oct. 25, 2011 @ 11:51 a.m.

so mr. anonymous mud slinger... still waiting to hear who you are and what bands got stiffed.


ok_now Oct. 25, 2011 @ 2:17 p.m.

Anchorsaway...WELL SAID MY FRIEND! everything you said it TRUE! I know for a fact that he never pays my buds band! The hell with him and his shows ..


pachuca Oct. 25, 2011 @ 2:44 p.m.

I agree with everthing that anchorsaway said.I know for a fact that none of the bands on the side stage got paid. In fact, bands rarely get paid at any of his shows; even headliners.

Garry has a big mouth and talks crap about bands, people and other promoters on Facebook. And in this article he's talking crap about the fair grounds. Maybe he should've read the contract before signing it. He knew what he was getting into. Basically he was just in over his head. He lied about Hellbilly on Facebook, saying that about 8000 presale tickets where sold. Obviously not. Now he's trying to shift blame onto everyone else.

I know a lot of people from LA and San Diego that specifically did not go because it was Garry's show. They already knew his reputation for not paying bands. I only went because I got in free with one of the bands that did not get paid. The beer garden was never swamped. There were maybe 100 cars there. The sound sucked on both stages. The music acts made no sense together (Wanda Jackson and Three Bad Jacks. Really???) It was way too big of a venue for a show like that.

Garry has no idea what Rockabilly is, but that is the least of his problems. He is a bad promoter and bad business man, straight up. He's already made a really bad name for himself in the California Rockabilly community and this shite that he spouts in this article won't help him any. He'll soon be a bad memory because he's running out of bands and venues to screw over. Plus, no one ever goes to his shows. Ever.

Quit crying Garry. You failed. Deal with it!!


pachuca Oct. 25, 2011 @ 2:48 p.m.

Oh yeah...

"So, all these people had to drink Corona or Heineken, which is not rockabilly."

What an ignorant f'ing comment!!! Rockabilly Rebel my arse!!!!


shonna619 Nov. 7, 2011 @ 3:31 p.m.

Anchorsaway and Pachuca, I would like to know who you are and where you get your facts from? It must be exhausting spending all of your time posting things that you know nothing about.


pachuca Aug. 14, 2012 @ 12:50 p.m.

Hey Garry...what are your excuses for this years mess you renamed SoCal Rockabilly Fest???? Heard you cried on stage like a little beeyotch at the low turnout and not being able to pay bands (you never cried any other time you didnt pay em). Heard that your headliners didnt even bother to show up. That maybe 40 people were there. The pictures say it all http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2352713153491.64653.1720020081&type=3

Are you still gonna blame all the haters for your failure? When are you gonna realize that people don't support your shows because your bad reputation has preceded you. Good job hiring a sound man from San Francisco. Now he can warn them about you.

Give it up Garry. You are giving San Diego Rockabilly a bad name. We don't want you anymore.


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