Beat Farmers Reunion Saturday, January 7, at the Belly Up
The Beat Farmers were San Diego’s own favorite cowpunk band, enjoying a worldwide following throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, before the untimely death of band member Country Dick Montana. The Dick Blue Ball, a Beat Farmers Celebration of the Life and Times of Country Dick and Buddy Blue, happens at the Belly Up Tavern on Saturday, January 7.
This concert is the Belly Up’s 2nd annual tribute to the band. This year, the event pays special tribute to guitarist Buddy Blue, a founding member of the group and beloved curmudgeon of the San Diego music scene, who passed away five years ago.
The show features Steve Poltz, Joey Harris, Rolle Love, Romy Kaye, and the Buddy Blue Reunion Band, as well as Candye Kane with Laura Chavez.
The Beat Farmers sounded like Bo Diddly, CCR, Joe South, and the Yardbirds, ham fisted into a food processor, stuffed into a shotgun shell, and blasted into a beer keg at three in the morning.
It all started with Jerry Raney’s desperate youth as a hellion, blowin’ round El Centro California. Between stealing onions from farmers in Holtville and walking cross ties to Brawley, Jerry started hanging out in various hobo camps, and learning the guitar. After sponging up as much as he could, he needed more. A move west in search for Rebels, Rogues, and Renegades. He found ‘em
Over the years, the Beat Farmers evolved into the Farmers, and lost a couple of fixtures along the way, County Dick in 1995 and Buddy Blue in 2006. With guitars in hand and ghosts riding with ‘em, the current Farmers rock on with Jerry Raney, Bongo Kmak, Chris Sullivan (the Penetrators), and Corbin Turner.
Former Beat Farmers Rolle Love (a founding member) and Joey Harris will be part of the Belly Up tribute as well.
Steve Poltz trick-or-treated at Liberace’s house, planned a two-day stay in Amsterdam that ended a month later with him escaping the city under the cover of darkness, and was Bob Hope’s favorite altar boy. Alone, these anecdotes go well with a fistful of peanuts at a cocktail party. But on top of all this, he also co-wrote the longest-running song on the Billboard Top 100 (Jewel’s “You Were Meant for Me”), had a debut solo album that earned three and a half stars in Rolling Stone, and was awarded the title of “San Diego’s Most Influential Artist of the Decade” at the San Diego Music Awards. What you end up with is one of the most engaging, twisted, and prolific songwriters of our time — Steve Poltz. Poltz has cultivated his reminiscences into a heartbreakingly gorgeous collection of songs for his new album, Traveling.
If you’ve been anywhere near a television in the past two months, odds are excellent that you’ve heard the voice of Poltz, whose song “You Remind Me (Who I Am)” is prominently featured in a Jeep television commercial. (The Internet has been flooded with viewers Googling as much information as they can get on the voice behind this contagiously upbeat tune.) And he has released a series of solo albums that have garnered him worldwide notice, with songs prominently featured in TV shows such as Notting Hill and movies too. He’s the only artist to have written songs recorded by both Jewel and Mojo Nixon, and Squeeze’s Glen Tillbrook too.
Buddy Blue was an accomplished guitarist, singer, songwriter and founding member of the legendary Beat Farmers, as well as the Buddy Blue Band, Rockin’ Roulettes, the Jacks, Raney Blue, Flying Putos and the Farmers, Buddy Blue was a regular on the San Diego music scene for more than 25 years. Buddy performed ‘jump blues’, a form of jazzy blues that focuses on uptempo rhythms and loud, boisterous vocals throughout his musical career. He was also a talented writer, speaking his mind as a music critic in the San Diego Reader, the O.C. Weekly, the Orange County Register, the San Jose Mercury News and in a weekly column for the San Diego Union-Tribune Night & Day section.
Joey Harris began his musical career in the late seventies playing lead guitar for proto-Americana songwriter John Stewart. In 1983, MCA records released the album Joey Harris and the Speedsters, which showcased Harris' skill as songwriter, vocalist and guitar virtuoso.
In January 1985, Joey joined the Beat Farmers, perpetually touring the United States and Canada, and visiting England, Germany and the Scandinavian countries. Harris wrote, sang and played on five Beat Farmer LPs released by Curb Records, and indie label, Sector 2. Curb Records produced a music video for the song Hollywood Hills which featured Joey on lead vocals, and the Beat Farmers appeared on the television show Late Night with David Letterman, this time with Harris singing his tune, "Hideaway."
Joey also toured and recorded with Country Dick Montana, Dave Alvin and Mojo Nixon as a member of their Las Vegas style review band, the Pleasure Barons, releasing a live CD on Hightone Records in 1993. Harris was on hand when Montana recorded another project featuring Mojo, Rosie Flores, Katy Moffett, John Doe, Candye Kane, Dave Gonzales and Dave Alvin titled the Devil Lied to Me, posthumously released by Bar/None in 1996.
Country Dick Montana died onstage at the Longbranch Saloon in Whistler, British Columbia, November 11, 1995. The band soon split. “After the Beat Farmers, I wanted to get right back into it,” says Harris. He calls 1995 to 2005 his lost years. “I tried to keep the party going, and I burned bridges all over the place.”
He’s okay now. “I’m very sober — not completely sober, but very sober, which is pretty damned sober. Especially for me.”
Harris toured with his own band, worked with songwriter Paul Kamanski, (author of several Beat Farmer tunes) and Mojo Nixon. He was also chosen by Mojo to play lead guitar on his 1999 Shanachie Records release, Sock Ray Blue. Harris next joined forces with Beat Farmer Jerry Raney and his band Powerthud and released a CD in 2002 called Wide.
After Powerthud, Harris went on to a concept band he called the Joey Show. Over the next few years, he kept busy with a rockabilly-ish side project with Mudsharks’ Scottie Blinn and Tom Essa called Slim & the Crowbars. He also made guest appearances onstage and in the studio with area bands like alt-country Tornado Magnets. His main group, however, became Joey Harris & the Mentals, with Mighty Joe Longa, Jef Kmak, and Josh Mader.
The Mentals are the core membership of the long-gone Powerthud, the post–Beat Farmers band that at one time featured the twin-guitar magic of Harris and Raney. “I have deep respect for him,” Harris says of Raney. “The more time passes, the more I appreciate good, solid, crazy rock and roll. And that’s what this is. It’s more fun now than it has ever been.”
Joey Harris and the Mentals released a self-named CD in summer 2009, on San Diego-based Double Barrel Records. The CD, with ten tracks written by Harris, features Harris on vocals and guitar, backed by San Diego musicians, Mighty Joe Longa, Jef and Joel Kmak, and Josh Mader. Recorded and produced by Mississippi Mudshark, Scottie Mad Dog Blinn, the CD is the first solo record for Harris since Joey Harris and the Speedsters in 1983.
More like this:
- Joey Harris & the Mentals — rock stars posing as a club act — Jan. 16, 2013
- Joey Harris Does Bar Pink — March 16, 2011
- Farmers — Jan. 14, 2009
- The Last Farmer — July 2, 2008
- Cat Fight! — Nov. 10, 2005