Tate Sanderson rocks an acoustic flying V.
Encinitas to the core, that’s what Tate Sanderson is. He was raised in the North County beach community and has returned to live there. He pays homage to his hometown roots with “Back In Encinitas.” The song features a cavalcade of local references that range from surf breaks, to Besta-Wan Pizza, to an old fast food hot spot.
“A&W Root Beer was there probably until I was about 18 or 19,” Sanderson explained. “We would all go hang-out there after the beach and get root beer floats. It was right there at the corner of Encinitas Boulevard and the 101 where now it’s Leucadia Pizzeria and a little shopping mall. You could pull up your car and they would roller-skate out and put the trays on your windows. It was really cool.”
After high school, Sanderson played in a local surf-punk band called the Pumps before moving up to Hollywood for a couple of years. After this stint, he returned to Encinitas where he put together a band called Saints We Ain’t — in Sanderson’s own words “a surf punky, heavy-metal grunge thing.” Soon enough, he was heading back up to Hollywood with the new band in tow.
“Hollywood was different back then,” he explained. “I go up there now and it’s nowhere near as crazy as it was when I lived there. Sometimes it would be so wild on the streets that you could barely drive your car out in front of the Roxy and Gazzarri’s. The riot squad would come down and start clearing those roads because there were so many people everywhere. It was insane. It was the height of hair metal, and grunge was coming out as well.”
Saints We Ain’t toured extensively but, like most bands, eventually called it a day. Sanderson then DJ’d in Los Angeles and did some solo touring before he returned to Encinitas once more and settled into a job teaching music to special needs children. This lasted for about 15 years, then it was another big move, that time to Hawaii.
“I had a property to stay at, and I was just playing music everywhere, writing new songs and selling my book,” he explained. The book was the autobiographic Johnny Rock Tales from the Road: A Life of Rock n Roll. He would soon adopt the Johnny Rock moniker when, you guessed it, he once again returned to Encinitas.
“My mom had a ballet school [Janice Lee’s School of Ballet] here for 50 years,” Sanderson explained. “She calls me up and says, ‘I’m going to retire and I’m going to sell the building unless you want to do something with it.’ The volcano was going off on the big island at the time, so it was getting hard to breathe over there. Timing’s everything. I decided to just go and try it out.”
These days, Sanderson utilizes the former ballet space to record music and create videos. He has experienced recent success with a song called “Hot Dog On A Stick.” It was inspired by a Hot Dog On A Stick stand that popped up in the parking lot of the American Legion post that’s across the street from his studio. It arrived in the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown, and Sanderson was itching to perform.
“I’m like, ‘Okay, there’s an audience out there’ so I went out and played on my porch,” he explained. “I tend to make up stuff while I’m going along just to have fun with it. So, I made up a song about Hot Dog On A Stick. Well, the commander for the American Legion just loved it. He was like ‘That is best thing ever! You’ve gotta record it!’ So, I recorded the song and made a video, and everyone seemed to love that one a lot.”
Although Sanderson is eager to get out touring again, even pre-COVID he had shifted his focus to releasing videos. He has over 50 videos on his JARPR Studios YouTube page, and the views have increased due to the pandemic.
“It’s kind of been good for me personally,” he said. “The positive note is that people are buying more music, listening to more music, and doing things online now because they’re forced to. My book sales and music sales, even though they’re not huge, have at least tripled — and they keep tripling month by month because of everything that’s going on. On top of that, I have all this time to really focus on getting new stuff out there.”