1107 Orange Avenue, Coronado
Founded by former Navy SEAL Greg McPartlin 36 years ago, McP’s in Coronado is probably most famous for being the favorite local watering hole for current and former Navy SEALs. Or for being the place where former Minnesota governor and ex-wrestler Jesse Ventura was (or was not) assaulted by a former SEAL in a nationally famous bar fight.
But it’s also a place that gives Tommy Price, a self-styled rockabilly greaser, a chance to live in San Diego and work full time as a musician. Price is grateful McP’s gave him a chance to play his stripped-down, first generation proto rock. “They let me play there once a month since 2000.”
On Tuesday, November 20, Price and his roots rockin’ trio the Stilettos played the wake for McPartlin at McP’s. McPartlin, 69, recently succumbed to an aggressive form of liver cancer. “Greg was like family,” says Price, who was raised in Baltimore and moved to San Diego in 1997. “Greg was also an ordained minister and he actually married us in 2007.”
Price and wife Tina Star share vocals in the Stilettos. “Greg officiated at all the weddings for his bartenders and waitresses…. After we played [at the wake], everyone told stories about Greg for an hour and a half. When we played there, Greg would always tell us he was joining the band and then get up sing ‘Dang Me’ [by Roger Miller].”
Live music will continue at McP’s says Price, who now sports a pompadour and wears jeans rolled up at the bottom — an homage, to his roots rock/Elvis DNA. “When I was 13, I was a little greaser. I was always into motorcycles, and had the rolled-up t-shirt and Brylcreem.”
The Stilettos released an all-original album in 2010, Walkin’ Down the Boulevard. But Price says it was just too hard to round up other players to play his original music live. That’s why live Stilettos shows revolve around Johnny Cash, Elvis, and Stray Cats.
When he arrived 21 years ago, San Diego was “a whole lot less crowded.” But worse for a musician: “Everybody played for free. We had to go out and hit the bricks and find paying gigs.” Price says after finding those gigs at the Barefoot Bar, Hennessy’s, and Kelly’s, he discovered you could pay the rent by celebrating basic rock. The Stilettos now play regularly at Henry’s Pub and Prohibition downtown, and Tio Leo’s in Bay Park.
Price admits he doesn’t necessarily relish the rockabilly tag. “When they call us that, we say we are more rock than ‘billy. All we really do is play rock ‘n’ roll as it was played when it first started. We are all about Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash, with a kick in the butt. This music is something that doesn’t go away. It’s what got the kids dancing in the ‘50s. It’s fun to dance to, and this music will never go out of style.”
- Tuesday, December 18, 2018, 9 p.m.
618 Fifth Avenue,
The Stilettos, with stand-up bassist Alberto Gonzales, appear at Henry’s on Tuesday, December 18, and at McP’s in Coronado December 21 and 23.