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VALLEY WEEKEND | ROCKTALK

Texan Bert Wills Delivers Sound That Mixes Jump Blues, Swing

Besides his eclectic style of play, this week's scene includes heavy metal by Quiet Riot, and a threesome doing vocal harmonies.

February 22, 1996|JAMES E. FOWLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Texan Bert Wills, who's appearing at Smokin' Johnnie's in Studio City on Saturday, recites in an easy drawl a long list of people who have influenced his eclectic style of play.

"It's a Gulf Coast sound," says Wills, who hails from the Galveston area. "It's a mixture of jump blues and swing. Sometimes it gets a little rowdy, but not too often."

Singer and guitarist Wills is touring with his four-piece band that includes drummer J.D., sax and horn man Clint Boyd, and longtime bassist Benny Brasket, to promote his first CD, "Mr. Politician." It's available on GoldRhyme Records.

Although some of the songs on the album feature horns, Wills says he's cut back.

"I've been trying not to be too horn-heavy on my records," Wills says. "I want to be able to duplicate the sound while I'm on the road."

Wills and his bass player, Brasket, have been performing together since 1964. I don't know about Texas, but here in California, 32 years is about the length of three successful marriages, so for musicians, 32 years is almost an eternity.

"You become very familiar so you have to deal with being familiar," Wills says. "He's like my brother. You don't always get along with your brother, but he's your brother."

* Bert Wills plays Saturday at Smokin' Johnnie's, 11720 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. No cover. Call (818) 760-6631.

*

Heavy Metal Thunder: In somewhat of a homecoming, 1980s heavy metal fave Quiet Riot plays its only Los Angeles appearance at Mancini's in Canoga Park this weekend as part of a new tour to promote sales of its greatest-hits CD, released this week by Epic Records.

"We didn't have much influence in the packaging of the greatest hits," says lead singer Kevin DuBrow. "They didn't consult us."

Quiet Riot started here in the Valley in 1975 while DuBrow and original lead guitarist Randy Rhoads were students at Van Nuys and Burbank high schools, respectively. After some initial success in the late 1970s, Rhoads left the group in 1979 to join Ozzy Osborne's band and later died in a plane crash in 1982.

Quiet Riot went on to become the first heavy metal band in history to reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts with its debut album, "Metal Health" in 1983. Their songs included "Cum On Feel the Noize" and "Bang Your Head." All told, the band has sold over 10 million records worldwide during its career.

"We started out as a club band, then we played arenas, and now we're a club band again," DuBrow says. "We're all just happy doing it.

"The one good thing about not selling millions of records--it gives you the freedom to do what you do."

And what the band is doing, according to DuBrow, is incorporating more of the nuances of its original influences, such as Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, into its own sound.

"We don't have the pressure to please record labels and radio people anymore," DuBrow says. "It got very confusing for us [in the '80s].

"Everybody had an opinion [about the music]. Our records, after the first one, suffered from that."

DuBrow himself has also started a new career as a radio personality. He hosts a weekly show, " '80s at Eight With Kevin DuBrow" on KOMP-FM in Las Vegas, where he now lives. He hopes to have the program syndicated nationally.

* Quiet Riot plays Friday at Mancini's, 20923 Roscoe Blvd., Canoga Park. $12 cover. Call (818) 341-8503.

*

No Horns: No Trombones, performing at Common Grounds tonight, is a three-person group that specializes in vocal harmonies.

The group, consisting of guitarist-singer-composer Don Lockman and singers Shannon Curfman and Sharon Roberts, has been together about a year. All are Valley residents.

They play all original material, which is written by Lockman, who works as a high school English teacher by day.

"I'm influenced by the '60s and '70s melodic stuff," Lockman says. "Someone told me we sounded like James Taylor meets the Manhattan Transfer, but I think we're more diverse than that."

Lockman describes their current sound as more pop than folk. All the members sing lead, plus there are three-part harmonies and lots of counterpoint.

Lockman would eventually like to add a second songwriter/singer to the group, someone who could be Lennon to his McCartney, as he puts it. He describes his songs as very melodic, very hook-oriented; he would like to be working with someone whose music has more of an edge.

Although he admits his songs have the melodic sound of the '60s and '70s, he rejects the retro label.

"I can't be retro," he says. "I'm not turning back to re-create that sound. That's me; my roots are in the '70s."

* No Trombones performs tonight at Common Grounds, 9250 Reseda Blvd., Northridge. No cover. Call (818) 882-3666.

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