The Paladins and the Stray Cats like to get together as often as they can. Even if it takes 36 years.
“The last time we played together was like 1982,” says Paladins stand-up bassist Thomas Yearsley, who founded the local roots rockin’ band with singer/guitarist Dave Gonzalez a year earlier. “We played with them at the old Adams Avenue Theater,” says Yearsley about the last Stray Cats/Paladins show at the 500-capacity Normal Heights venue.
The Paladins and the Stray Cats reunite at the 8500-capacity Pacific Amphitheater in Costa Mesa this weekend.
In ‘82, the Stray Cats were just breaking out nationally thanks to their hits “Rock This Town” and “Stray Cat Strut” and their throwback greaser look.
“They had the number two album on Billboard,” recalls Yearsley. The New York rockabilly trio would go on to play much larger venues for the rest of the ’80s as they became the face of that decade’s neo-rockabilly craze.
The Paladins live in Belgium, May 2017
The North County based Paladins were more about their R&B and blues roots. They went on tour with such blues artists as William Clark, Smokey Wilson, Hollywood Fats, and Katy “swamp boogie queen” Webster (now all deceased). “And because we were managed by [promoter] Tim Mays then, we got to open for Los Lobos, Bow Wow Wow, the Blasters, and X when they came to town.”
The Paladins went on to tour most of Europe, Eastern Australia and 49 U.S. states. Yearsley says the “Pals” had it really good for the five years they were one of the artists sponsored by the Miller Genuine Draft Band Network. “They didn’t give us any money but they would always buy full page ads for us announcing our gigs. They had all this radio and posters and table tent promotion for us in every city we’d play.”
The Paladins released some nine albums over the years on the Alligator, Wrestler, Rough, and Sector 2 labels. “We were signed to 4AD Records by the founder Ivo Watts-Russell,” says Yearsley of the label that gave the world the Breeders, Pixies, Bauhaus and Cocteau Twins. “But right after we signed, Warner Bros took over. They didn’t understand us. And right about then, Nirvana came around and knocked everyone out of the water.”
Because Yearsley’s attorney dad negotiated all their record deals, the band eventually got back all their rights and master recordings. “Getting those masters got me started doing what I’m doing now.”
Yearsley launched his Oceanside-based Lux Records label and Thunderbird Analog recording studio in Oceanside in 2003. The Lux Records catalogue includes four by the Paladins, one by locals the Tighten Ups and a “sweetheart duet country” album by Gonzalez and his partner Susanna Van Tassel. They both live in Austin.
Yearsley used Thunderbird Analog to record two albums for his ex-wife, the late Candye Kane. Lux Records is releasing two more albums this year by San Diego’s Chimpos and the late Chris Gaffney.
And for the record, says Yearsley, retro/heritage doesn’t mean old. “We’ve had these teenage rockabilly kids from Carlsbad called Colton Turner come in the studio,” Yearsley says. “There’s a local blues-a-billy band called Sea Monks, which is a dad and his two kids. And there’s a teenage band in Oceanside called Power Shake who play Paladins music.”
Teen band covers the Paladins
“My dad used to play in a band called the BigFins and they opened up for the Paladins,” explains Justice Guevara, 16, upright bassist for Power Shake (named after a Paladins song). “I grew up listening to them. Rockabilly bands try to mimic Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent, whereas the Paladins have their own style that is completely different.”
The Paladins includes drummer Brian Fahey, who’s been on board since 1989. They appear with the Stray Cats at the Pacific Amphitheater in Costa Mesa on Friday, August 17. The Paladins also appear Sunday August 19 at the Oceanside Moose Lodge from 2 to 6pm “It’s a fundraiser for a single mom who is sick,” says Yearsley. “It’s also Brian’s and my birthday.”