(Ray Brandes reaches deep into the roots of San Diego’s underground to tell the tale of Jerry Raney and the early scene’s most enduring act.)
In a 1978 Village Voice editorial, music journalist Lester Bangs proclaimed: â€œThe music business today still must be recognized as by definition an enemy, if not the most crucial enemy, of music and the people who try to perform it honestly.â€
By the mid-â€˜70s, multinational corporations had taken control of most of the industry, leaving independent record labels and local music scenes to fend for themselves. Longtime music fan and San Diego expatriate Harold Gee remembers the dismal state of affairs which would ultimately lead to the punk movement: â€œEverything, from the top down, from radio and all other media was total crap. The problem for me was the disconnect between the music that moved me, which mostly seemed to be either in the past or on jazz records, that only got played in a few people’s houses.â€
Throughout the â€˜70s, however, a few local underground acts had held firmly, David-like in their resistance to the corporate Goliaths. One such band was San Diegoâ€™s beloved hard-rock bad-asses Glory, who according to one critic, left â€œa big greasy mark (and a few stains) on Southern California’s rock & roll scene.â€
Gloryâ€™s main attractions were local guitar hero and future Beat Farmer Jerry Raney; second lead guitarist and keyboardist Jack Butler (rumored to have the longest hair in San Diego); flamboyant front man Mike Milsap; and original Iron Butterfly rhythm section Greg Willis and Jack Pinney.
For more than a decade, Glory flaunted their reputation as neâ€™er-do-well party boys who couldnâ€™t keep a manager for more than a few months at a time. They were regulars at the infamous Balboa Park and La Jolla Cove Love-In concerts, and their rioting fans closed down free concerts at the Starlight Bowl on a number of occasions.
They were the first band to play San Diego Stadium and the first rock-â€˜nâ€™-roll group to play the Belly Up Tavern. And they opened for a number of major-label acts, including ZZ Top, Canned Heat, Howlinâ€™ Wolf, Bo Diddley, The Electric Light Orchestra, Steely Dan and the James Gang.
Glory, however, never sold out. The band refused to clean up their act, preferring instead to always do things their own way. As guitarist Jerry Raney puts it, â€œWe were just a bunch of rockers who really didnâ€™t get the big picture.â€
Ainâ€™t That a Shame?
The Glory story begins with the birth of Jerry Raney in 1951 in the small, dusty, desert town of El Centro in Imperial County, Calif., which shares a border with Mexico to the south and Arizona to the east. The Imperial Valley is farm country, irrigated by water that flows freely from the Colorado River. Thousands of Okies from Midwestern dustbowl farms had migrated to the area in the â€˜30s and â€˜40s, and by the mid-â€˜50s, El Centroâ€™s population was just under 15,000. Hotrods cruised Main Street, blasting the rock-â€˜nâ€™-roll hits of the day, while Mexican migrant workers walked through town, window-shopping the closed stores on Sundays. One of Jerryâ€™s earliest memories is the sound of trucks in the townâ€™s alleys, spraying DDT to combat the insect infestations produced by local farms.
Raneyâ€™s family was too poor to own a television, so while their neighbors kept company with the Kramdens and Ricardos, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley entered the Raney home in the evenings through the radio. Jerry recalls: â€œMy teenage sisters would have little dance parties with their friends, and I would grease up my hair, try to look like Elvis and rock out with them until they tossed me out.â€ At eight years old, he joined the Fats Domino fan club at his school and danced to 45s with a dozen teenage girls. â€œRock â€˜nâ€™ roll ruled my world,â€œ he says.
In 1963, at 12 years of age, Raney and his family moved to El Cajon, a suburb east of San Diego that in many ways mirrored the small town, agricultural ambience of El Centro. Jerryâ€™s mother was active in the tiny Jehovahâ€™s Witness congregation in El Cajon, and before the school year began at Cajon Valley Junior High, he met Lester Bangs, son of another Kingdom Hall attendee.
Bangs, who would later gain fame as an influential music journalist, burned an indelible image into Jerryâ€™s psyche. â€œLester’s mom kept her house spotless until you stepped into his room,â€ Raney remembers. â€œThere were two-week-old bowls of breakfast cereal on the floor and crap all over the place. You couldn’t even walk through it without stepping on something. He was the messiest guy I’d ever met.â€ While Jerry listened to his rock-â€˜nâ€™-roll records, Lester played his Charlie Mingus, Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis on a dilapidated turntable. The two shared musical influences with each other, but it was Bangâ€™s attitude, however, which impressed Jerry the most.
â€œLester wasn’t into sports and hated gym class,â€ Raney says. â€œMost of the time, he wouldn’t participate at all. The way to make up for the lost time was to write a report on sports, and you would get a point-a-page credit. He had missed a lot of class and showed up one day with something about the size of a book entitled â€˜Hector the Homosexual Monkeyâ€™. He handed it in, and then he was gone.â€
Another kindred spirit who became fast friends with Raney was Jack Butler, whose appearance was shocking by 1963 standards. â€œJack Butler was one of the first people I met in El Cajon,â€ recalls Raney. â€œI remember thinking he looked like some street punk from England.â€
In February of the following year, the Beatles arrived in New York City, and El Cajon, like every other town in America, was changed forever. For Jerry, it was an epiphany. â€œThe Beatles just seemed to step in and completely take over the rock-’nâ€™-roll world,â€ he says. â€œThey played on the Ed Sullivan show on Sunday night, and all anyone at school could talk about the next day was them. The guys that weren’t â€˜rock â€˜n’ rollâ€™ didn’t like them, but the girls all loved them, and had already picked the ones they were going to marry. As for my friends and me, our lives had just changed big time.â€
Raney began to grow out his hair, Beatles-style, and he and Butler began learning guitar together. â€œButlerâ€™s dad was the gym coach at Greenfield Jr. High, and couldn’t stand my long hair,â€ Jerry says. â€œWe’d be in his room playing guitar, and if his dad came home I’d have to leave. The funny thing about that is when Jack moved out of their house, he grew his hair longer than anyone I knew!â€
Raneyâ€™s first guitar, a throwaway Japanese model, was traded in for a Fender Stratocaster and ultimately replaced by a Gibson ES335. In three months, Jerry had learned enough guitar to join a band. He met Phil Green, the leader of the Perennials, a dance band whose repertoire consisted of early â€˜60s standards like â€œLouie, Louieâ€; â€œMoneyâ€; and â€œWhatâ€™d I Say.â€ â€œPhil was a really good player,â€ remembers Jerry, â€œbut pretty square.â€ Raney learned lead guitar basics from Green, and they started the Persuaders together, but â€œsoon enough,â€ laughs Jerry, â€œI was kicked out for being â€˜too English.â€™ â€
Raney was now confident enough as a singer and lead guitarist to start his own band, The Jesters, with Bob Friedman on drums, Larry Tanner on bass, Steve Sherwood on sax and Chuck Surface on organ. â€œAfter about eight months, Larry quit, I dropped the sax player, talked Butler into playing bass, and Thee Dark Ages were born. We were finally cool!â€ Jack Butler remembers breaking up the band he was playing in at the time to join Raneyâ€™s new group. â€œLester and I and two other friends shared a low-rent house next door to a Hell’s Angels clubhouse, where we could make lots of noise,â€ Butler says. â€œWe were a four piece with me on lead guitar and Lester on harmonica. Jerry walked in and said he had booked a four-hour high-school dance gig in three days and needed a bass player. Then he asked me to be the bass player â€” not our bass player, which was odd and a bit awkward. Even though I really did not play bass, I immediately broke up the band and went out and bought a bass.â€
Thee Dark Ages
At a time when most San Diego bands were still playing dance standards, Thee Dark Ages became El Cajonâ€™s answer to the British Invasion, playing songs by the Yardbirds, the Animals, the Kinks, the Young Rascals and the entire first album by Love. Their long hair and Beatle boots made them the coolest band in town. â€œI remember walking down the street with my guitar and having girls chase after me like a scene from â€˜A Hard Day’s Night,â€™ ” says Jerry.
Thee Dark Ages easily stood out from the rest of the pack. â€œThere weren’t many bands with much originality as far as I could tell,â€ Raney remembers. â€œThere were a only few of us that had the English four- or five-piece rock style â€” The Elders, The Voxmen, The Drones, The Delta Blues, and a band called the Magic Mushroom. Most of the other S.D. bands that had any cool at all were the 10-piece soul bands. Essie and the Showmen, with Jack Pinney on drums, were a cool James Brown-type review, and Martha and the Esquires kicked it out pretty well.â€
El Cajonâ€™s 800-capacity Hi-Ho Club, which was located at the site of the present day Parkway Bowl, hired Thee Dark Ages as its house band. The Hi-Ho was one of a string of teen clubs, with others in Oceanside and Riverside, Calif., and Yuma, Ariz. According to Raney, â€œThe clubs were mostly dingy, open rooms like you would expect an underground teen club to look like. There weren’t many places to sit, not too comfortable. The one that was in El Cajon was the exception. It was an old adult club with nice booths, tables, large dance floor, and high ceilings with swings for the go-go girls. It was a classy place, and was a hugely successful club. It was cool to be the house band in the hottest place around.â€
Thee Dark Ages played the Hi-Ho circuit regularly throughout 1965 and 1966, transfixing teen audiences with blues-based garage punk in the vein of the Count Five and the Chocolate Watchband. Occasionally, local eccentric and unofficial member Lester Bangs would join the group onstage to play harp. Butler recalls the scene: â€œThe audience reaction was usually pretty intense,â€ he says. â€œWe had long hair, and since only rock stars had long hair back then, many thought we were a touring act! We also always dressed like flashy rockers â€¦ no blue-jean Southern Rock hillbilly clothes for us. We were only in high school, and we played every Thursday, Friday and Saturday with lines around the block of kids waiting to get in!â€
Towards the end of 1966, drummer and former boxer Jack Pinney was playing with bassist Greg Willis, guitarist Danny Weiss and keyboardist Doug Ingle in a group called the Palace Pages. Signed to ATCO Records, they changed their name to Iron Butterfly and moved to Los Angeles, leaving Willis and Pinney behind in San Diego where they elected to finish school. By this time Thee Dark Ages had run their course, so Raney joined forces with the ex-Pages and added Mike Berneathy and Mike Milsap to form a band called Blues Messenger. â€œIt was the beginning of the psychedelic age,â€ says Raney, â€œbut we were basically a blues-rock band much like The Rolling Stones. Dan McLain and his friends used to call us the American Stones. We would just jam out sometimes with feedback and fuzz.â€ In 1967, the short-lived Blues Messenger moved to San Francisco, without Pinney. â€œWe didn’t last long up there for some reason, but Janis Joplin and her band let us rehearse in their practice hall,â€ Jerry recalls.
Arriving back in San Diego, Pinney offered Raney a position as lead guitar and singer in a band he had joined, the Roosters, which had released a single the previous year on A&M Records. â€œThe band struck me as corny, but the money was great and so was the bass player, Dick Purchase,â€ says Jerry. â€œWe were the house band at The Cinammon Cinder and were the band for the vocal groups that toured through town. We played for The Drifters, The Coasters and The Shirelles, to name a few. We would also serve as the opening act for traveling bands like Buffalo Springfield.â€ The La Mesa club required the band to wear uniforms and perform Paul Revere and the Raiders-style dance steps. Raney did his best to sabotage the performances, sometimes stringing together three fuzz boxes and winging his way through the hits of the day.
â€œThe owner of the club fired me after a while,â€ says Jerry, â€œand so I stole the band away. We formed ‘Funky Buckwheat,’ adding Jack Butler on bass, Richie King on second guitar and vocals, and Chuck Surface on Hammond organ. That band had a good run for about six months.â€
The Birth of Glory
Raneyâ€™s next band, Glory, would ultimately become the longest-running underground music group in San Diego history. They broke up and reformed a half-a-dozen times, and the lineup changed constantly, but the core of the group comprised Jerry, Butler (who played bass and then later lead and slide guitar and keyboards) and former Palace Pages/Iron Butterfly members Pinney and Willis. Mike Milsap was added to relieve Raney of his singing duties. Among the other players who drifted in and out of the group over the next 10 years were drummer Bruce Morse, guitarist Mike Berneathy, guitarist Jeff Jones, drummer Paul Nichols, steel guitarist Steve Arenz and singer Bobby Bales.
The bandâ€™s set was made up of raunchy arrangements of blues songs by the likes of Slim Harpo and Jimmy Reed; and covers of rock â€˜nâ€™ roll songs like Little Richardâ€™s â€œKeep a Knockinâ€™,â€ Chuck Berryâ€™s â€œLittle Queenie,â€ Ray Charlesâ€™ â€œHit the Road, Jack,â€ Loveâ€™s â€œShe Comes in Colors,â€ Bob Dylanâ€™s â€œJust Like a Woman,â€ the Rolling Stonesâ€™ â€œAll Sold Out,â€ Who Do You Loveâ€ and â€œRoadrunnerâ€ by Bo Diddley, and â€œYouâ€™ll Never Do It Babyâ€ and â€œCome See Meâ€ by the Pretty Things.
Hitmakers drummer Joel Kmak remembers seeing the band for the first time in 1969: â€œI was in eighth grade, and I got a tip from my brother Jeff that Glory was playing a block party in El Cajon. I rode my bike down Main Street, following the sound until I found them. Somebody had a stage set up and there were bikers everywhere. They were so loud!
â€œI remember them playing â€œHello Litle Schoolgirlâ€, and the singer was creeping me out,â€ he says. â€œI was a Beatles and Hermanâ€™s Hermits freak, and this guy was just dripping with sexual innuendo. I was used to junior-high-school dances. These guys had long, stringy hair; bell bottoms; and were so over the top I had to get the hell out of there! They made a big impression on me.â€
Glory developed a loyal local following, serving as the house band for Jerry Herreraâ€™s Palace (later JJâ€™s) nightclub on 4025 Pacific Highway, next to the old KGB studios. Harold Gee recalls hearing an unsubstantiated story about a particularly memorable gig at the Palace involving Greg Willis. â€œGregâ€™s father was strict,â€ says Harold, â€œand he hadn’t done the dishes. They were playing The Palace, and this was at the beginning of the hippie era, and all bands were supposed to have long hair, you know, the incoming style at the time. Greg’s dad would not allow long hair, so Greg wore a wig onstage, and the club was full and they were in the middle of their gig. But Greg hadn’t done the dishes, and his father was pissed. His father showed up at the front of the stage, and gestured to Greg to come over, onstage, and when he got within range, father yanked off his wig, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it!â€
The spotlight, however, always belonged to Jerry Raney, who became somewhat of a local celebrity known for his flashy style and ever-present guitar. â€œI always played the thing,â€ he says. â€œI’d go to parties or picnics and bring my electric with me and just noodle away while hanging out. We would play a show with other bands and while we weren’t playing I would walk around in the crowd visiting and noodling! What a weirdo!â€
Harold Gee remembers Raney walking around town in a pair of shoes with intricate hand-painted flames on them. â€œJerry was always so fuckin’ cool, always a very stylin’ guy, regardless of the era,â€ Gee says. â€œHe was always polite to everyone, and he had a mystique that I don’t even know if he understood that he had. He did a thing with guitar, using the volume knobs to fade the sound in and out in a really cool way. This all happened back in the days before all the guitar effects pedals, before Jimi Hendrix.â€
Jack Butler regards Raney as his all-time favorite lead guitarist. â€œHe has a very unique style that does not sound like anyone else,â€ he says. â€œI have my own theory on that. In the early days of Glory, he had an old Telecaster that he had chopped up. It had a weak-sounding high E string, so he adapted to this flaw by playing up the B and G strings in a linear fashion, which few guitarists do. In fact, one time he broke the high E string at a gig and decided not to replace it. I believe he played five-string lead for some time, refining his unique lead style. Then when he got a more balanced-sounding guitar he went back to normal six strings, but kept playing with his own approach.â€
Local journalists and music fans referred to Raney as San Diegoâ€™s best guitarist. It was a reputation he relished. â€œPlaying lead guitar in those days was sort of like being a gunslinger,â€ he says. â€œGuys you didn’t even know would walk up to you and say, â€˜I hear you’re fast!â€™ My answer was always, of course, â€˜Yeah, I’m real fast!â€™ â€ Raney would often spar with Danny Weiss, Iron Butterflyâ€™s original guitarist. â€œEverything was always sort of creepy about my relationship with this guy,â€ he remembers. â€œIt seemed he always wanted to show me up. Once we were up recording at Elektra studios in L.A. and he actually showed up at the end of our session with his amp and guitar and wanted to jam. We did some songs, but he would just get up in my face, stick his chest out, and rip out these hot licks. The guy was really good, but deep down, he knew I just outrocked him and in those days, that was hard for him to take.â€
According to San Diego musician Joe Piper, â€œJerryâ€™s impressive chops on guitarâ€ were a major reason for the bandâ€™s popularity. â€œHe mastered that fluid, sinuous style of seemingly effortless lead runs that was the late-â€˜60s equivalent of shredding,â€ says Piper. Buddy Blue, one of the founding members of the Beat Farmers, once expressed his excitement about the opportunity to play with Raney onstage. “Jerry was the top of the heap,” said Blue. “He was huge.”
During one of Gloryâ€™s hiatuses, Raney was momentarily lured by the promise of stardom by an ad in Rolling Stone that read, “Lead guitarist wanted for major recording contract.. He found himself in Hollywood, auditioning for Norman Greenbaum, whose hit â€œSpirit in the Skyâ€ plagued the charts throughout 1969 and 1970. Raney easily beat out the other guitarists for the job. â€œI moved up to Petaluma and we practiced and he smoked pot and milked his goat,â€ he recalls. â€œHuge orders came in from all the big cities, and the record sold 4 million copies. Unfortunately, smoking and milking the goat were more important to Norman, and the guy was a lot more folk music than rock ‘nâ€™ roll. He would only practice 30 minutes a day. I couldn’t take it and went home.â€
Raney returned home to rejoin Glory and make them one of San Diegoâ€™s most popular bands throughout most of the decade. They were ubiquitous at local free concerts and counterculture gatherings like the Balboa Park Love-ins, which were initially held at the corner of Sixth and Laurel Streets, then moved to the Organ Pavilion and eventually to the Starlight Bowl, where they were referred to simply as the â€œfree concerts.â€ Joe Piper recalls the scene: â€œAt the Bowl you’d have to walk a gauntlet of uniformed cops, and then the narcs and SCAT team (Street Crime Attack Team) would start swooping in on the crowd and start picking off members of the herd.â€
Raney explains that Gloryâ€™s fans often clashed with the police at these events. â€œFor some reason, it seemed that whenever Glory played the free concerts at The Starlight Bowl, there would be some sort of a riot, and bricks would be thrown through police-car windows or something, so they wouldn’t happen again for a while. That took place up top in the parking lot, so it wasn’t like the whole place exploded or anything; they just made us stop playing and brought in a lot of cops and made everyone go home.â€
The band also racked up an impressive string of concerts with major acts of the day, including Golden Hall with Delaney and Bonnie; The College in San Marcos with Eric Burdon and War; The Palace with Canned Heat, Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, Tower of Power, and Elvin Bishop; JJ’s with ZZ Top, Steely Dan and the Electric Light Orchestra; and Funky Quarters with Big Mama Thornton and Charlie Musselwhite.
Joel Kmak tells the story of the night Glory opened for Howlinâ€™ Wolf at JJâ€™s. â€œWolf was standing around after Gloryâ€™s set, and everybody was too scared to talk to him because he was their idol. Jerry finally said, â€˜Screw it, Iâ€™ll do it.â€™ So Jerry went over to break the ice, and he went up to him with a box of Cracker Jack and offered him some. Wolf said, â€˜Sureâ€™ and with two gigantic fingers reached into the box and scooped out all of the Cracker Jack in one fell swoop. Wolf said, â€˜Donâ€™t nobody like me around here?â€™ Jerry turned around and said, â€˜Come on guys, Wolf thinks nobody likes him!â€™ Thatâ€™s all it took and everyone, band members and groupies, came over to talk to him. It went from nobody talking to him to the whole club hanging around him.â€
Kmak continues: â€œWolf got up to play, and all of the sudden Bo Diddley, who was playing across town this same night, walks in the room.â€ Diddley joined Howlinâ€™ Wolf onstage, and the crowd was treated to a rare collaboration. â€œSo theyâ€™re playing,â€ says Kmak, â€œand then all of the sudden Howlinâ€™ Wolf gets off stage, and he goes back to the bar and orders a bunch of hot dogs! Heâ€™s sitting back at the bar, eating hot dogs and talking to the cute groupies! Meanwhile, Bo Diddleyâ€™s getting pissed because heâ€™s up on stage playing Howlinâ€™ Wolfâ€™s show!â€
Glory played the first-ever concert at the newly built San Diego Stadium, with local band Jamul and Los Angeles group Jerome. â€œThat was the first time they ever had a concert after a game,â€ says Raney. â€œWe were on a stage they had set up on second base, and the audience was still in the seats. I remember there was way too much space between the people and the bands.â€ Butler remembers the thrill of playing before such a large crowd. â€œWe came on in total darkness,â€ he says. â€œI will never forget Jerry’s guitar intro to the first song, played thru a Leslie rotating speaker and blaring off the walls, echoing like mad â€” one of the best sounds Iâ€™ve ever heard.â€
They were the first rock-â€˜nâ€™-roll band to play the Belly Up Tavern, which in those days featured only blues and jazz. â€œWe had too many rowdy people for their liking,â€ Raney says. The band also played after hours at The Paradise Club in National City, The El Cortez Convention Center, all of the local colleges and the infamous Whiskey in Hollywood.
Gloryâ€™s sense of humor and onstage petulance were legendary. In 1972, Glory played a concert at the newly built Grossmont High School auditorium organized by ASB Vice President and Queenie keyboardist Dan McLain. Joel Kmak recalls how important the Glory show was. â€œWhen McLain got them, it was a major coup â€” everybody at the Kmak house talked about it like it was Woodstock,â€ he says. â€œMcLain idolized those guys! Everybody did.â€
Raney remembers, â€œThe band ate a bunch of special brownies and alienated the kids until Dan got up and yelled at them over the mic. They then got into it enough to get us banned from the Grossmont School District.â€ Citing this and other conflicts with Grossmontâ€™s administration and ASB, McLain and three other ASB officers resigned their positions before spring break of the 1972-73 school year. Queenie was able to wriggle themselves onto at least two bills with Glory at JJâ€™s, and of course Raney and McLain would found the Beat Farmers more than a decade later.
At a show at the Palace in 1973, Glory joined assorted roadies and friends onstage to play a gig of capricious covers like Captain Beefheartâ€™s â€œLong Neck Bottlesâ€ and Frank Zappaâ€™s â€œWillie the Pimp,â€ dressed in glam-rock style. The band called itself Maximum Goat, and according to Butler, who had quit the band as a bass player on New Yearâ€™s Eve 1971, â€œI had so much fun playing this crazy gig that I promptly rejoined the band on guitar.â€ Photographs taken that night show Butler with flames painted on his forehead, and a silver Jerry Raney with a microphone duct-taped to his shirt.
Harold Gee remembers watching Glory play at the wedding of Mike Scheels, another local musician: â€œSo there we were, all of us hung over, and most everyone on some kind of drug, outdoors, in the country, sitting on the grass. The Glory band launches into a short, peppy tune. Everyone claps and cheers. Jerry says, â€˜Oh, you like that?â€™ And they play the same tune again. People clap. They play it once again. A few people clap. They play it again. A smattering of clapping, and many people looking around to see whoâ€™s clapping. They play it again. Everyone is looking around, glaring at anyone who is even thinking about clapping. About this time, Rosie, a longtime fan who is high on downers, sort of wakes up from her temporary coma, and yells out, â€Yeaah! Awright!â€ And they play it again. Somebody goes over and speaks with Rosie. And this time, when they finish, absolute silence, with everyone looking around to make sure NO ONE claps. It was a great fuckinâ€™ day.â€
On the Air
Unfortunately, few recorded artifacts exist from the band. Released in 2001 by the Rockadelic label, “On the Air” is a June 1970 performance recorded for local radio station KRPI. On the albumâ€™s liner notes, Jack Butler describes the scene in the studio: â€œIâ€™ll never forget the feeling of confused disbelief when we finished our first song and entered an embarrassing period of total silence; dead air. After music so intense, it seemed so bizarre! Radio stations were run a little differently back then. We had been given no parameters whatsoever by the DJ, we didnâ€™t even know how long to play. I donâ€™t remember if he ever came back! Maybe he thought we would play all night. Once we understood the true weirdness of the situation, we just plowed ahead until we ran out of cool songs, rarely bothering to stop and tune our guitars. In spite of some awkward moments, we all knew that whoever was tuned in got to hear some magic.â€
While Raney has mixed feelings about the album (â€œParts of that record really rocked, but about half of it should have been canned,â€ he says), the recording captures the band at the height of their powers, blasting through a set that recalls Led Zeppelin, the Mick Taylor-era Stones and the Jeff Beck Group. Mike Milsapâ€™s snotty, cotton-mouthed vocals complement the two Jacksâ€™ tight and subtly funky rhythm section. Make no mistake, however: the recording is a showcase for the incredible talent of Jerry Raney, whose swaggeringly tasteful guitar playing breaks through on even the weaker tracks.
Perhaps Gloryâ€™s finest recorded moment was the single â€œHigh School Letterâ€/â€Peaches,â€ which the band recorded and released themselves in 1973. DJs would routinely call Jerry the best guitarist in San Diego when they spun the record. At the time, the band consisted of Raney on vocals and guitar; Pinney on drums; Willis on bass; Mike Berneathy (who would later be drafted) on guitar; Steve Arenz on steel guitar; and Bobby Bales on vocals. â€œThe song â€˜High School Letterâ€™ actually got local airplay without being on a major label,â€ Raney says. â€œWe just pulled ‘Speemo Records’ out of the air and printed some up.â€ Raney sings lead on â€œLetter,â€ which recalls the Let It Be, rooftop-era Beatles. The song would later be reworked into â€œMemphis to Nixon,â€ which appears on the Beat Farmersâ€™ last album, Manifold. The B-side of the record is Bales’ song â€œPeaches,â€ a rocker in the affected style of T. Rex. While this would not mark Gloryâ€™s last time in the studio, nothing else was released by the band.
In 1975, Glory signed a contract with a small Los Angeles record company and relocated north, playing regularly at the Whiskey A Go Go, Starwood and Gazzari’s. â€œWe played every Wednesday night at Gazarri’s for a while,â€ says Butler, â€œand the band that played every Thursday was called Mammoth, but that was before they changed their name to Van Halen.â€ When the record label folded, Glory returned to San Diego, where they had enough paying gigs to keep the band together a while longer.
By 1978, the local musical atmosphere was changing rapidly. Something new was coming, and it became clear to the band that it had run its course. â€œ Glory didn’t change its style, it just sort of broke up one day,â€ says Raney, who joined forces once again with Greg Willis and Jack Pinney and returned to their rock-â€˜nâ€™-roll and rhythm-â€˜nâ€™-blues roots as the Shames. â€œWe were still just straight-ahead rockers and I still played long solos,â€ he says, â€œbut we fit right in San Diego’s New Wave scene along with DFX2, The Penetrators, The Puppies, Fingers and the like.â€ The Shames developed into a solid club band, regularly appearing at the Spirit, the Bacchanal and My Rich Uncles, venues that have all since gone the way of the dinosaur.
Raney would later write his name in indelible ink in the margins of the rock-â€˜nâ€™-roll history books when he and McLain recruited Rockinâ€™ Roulettes Buddy Blue and Rolle Love to form the Beat Farmers in 1983. The Beat Farmers enjoyed a wide cult following, made national television appearances and recorded nearly a dozen albums before McLainâ€™s premature death from a heart attack in 1995. Raney currently plays in the Farmers with familiar faces Joel Kmak, Chris Sullivan and Corbin Turner.
Greg Willis has since played bass with Robin Henkel, Candye Kane, Earl Thomas, Steve Wilcox and numerous other recording acts. Jack Pinney went on to play with Buddy Blue and the Jacks and Modern Rhythm. Jack Butler played with Bratz throughout the â€˜80s, which in 1985 changed its name to Private Domain.
â€œHigh School Letterâ€/â€Peaches,â€ Speemo Records, 1973.
On the Air, Rockadelic, 2001. (Only 600 copies pressed)