Before the Go-Go’s became famous, there was the Dinettes, San Diego’s first (and only) all-female new-wave band that was there right alongside San Diego’s first-generation punksters the Zeros, Dils, and Hitmakers.
“We weren’t really punk, but we rode the punk wave,” says keyboard player Sue Delgiudice. “Back then punk meant you could do anything you wanted. We had a couple of aggressive songs, but basically we were just musicians who wanted to play.”
It took almost 40 years, but Delgiudice finally came around and rejoined her old band.
“I wanted to finish the loop,” she says about rejoining the Dinettes. “It’s like the whole thing came full circle. There were some disagreements when I left the band.”
Those disagreements, she says, arose from the Dinettes’ old manager who used to work with her at the Wherehouse record store on El Cajon Boulevard in 1977. “When we formed he just kind of latched on to us.” Delgiudice says his involvement was a “big scam...the last we heard from him, he was in jail.”
The first regrouped Dinettes show was in July with fellow original members singer Doriot Lair and rhythm guitarist Joyce Rooks, who has since moved to Desert Springs with her husband Jerry Waddle, owner of the now-closed retro pop-culture emporium Ducky Waddles in Encinitas.
Of her days at the Wherehouse, Delgiudice says, “I was watching all these [artists] make it, like Elvis Costello and the Police. It was an exciting time. We also saw all these other bands like [British pop duo] Haysi Fantayzee make it. That kind of made us cringe.”
The exploding new music scene prompted her to join the Cockpits (1977–’78), which became the Dinettes.
“Dan McLain was our first drummer,” says Lair of the Cockpits’ early days with the late Beat Farmer who was best known as Country Dick Montana. “He was like the granddaddy of the whole scene....”
Lair recalls the Dinettes were usually paid in beer when they played California shows, including local venues like the Skeleton Club, Zebra Club, Lions Club, and the VFW hall.
The band did two cross-country tours, playing on the same bill as the B-52’s and Kid Creole and the Coconuts. “During one of our shows in Atlanta we played ‘Hanky Panky’ and Michael Stipe requested to get up onstage with us,” says Lair. “And we allowed it.”
Lair describes the Dinettes’ breakup: “The drummer ran away with the RV mechanic. They took some vital pieces of equipment with them accidentally. They beat it back to San Diego and left us high and dry in Atlanta.”
Lair went back to school at Smith College and then got her MBA at U-Mass Amherst. “I stayed on the East Coast until 1990 and continued to play in several bands and do session work.”
Delguidice says, “The Dinettes were actually trained musicians when we got together. We were all classically trained. The chemistry is better now than it was back then. At the time we were all pretty young. And the music scene such as it was was pretty male-dominated. We didn’t get much help from the other bands around at that time but we were determined to do it anyway.”
- Thursday, December 28, 2017, 8 p.m.
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Delguidice says band practices so far have centered on their old hits “Motorqueens,” “Runaway Heart,” “Backdoor to My Heart,” and a few covers, but new writing and recording of songs is a probablity as the band rolls on. “People were always asking us if we were going to get back together.” She says non-stop prodding by musician/scenester Bart Mendoza finally got the band back together. “We finally rolled over.”
The Dinettes now include drummer Laurie Chadwick, Diana Death, and bassist Shannon Sabin.