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VALLEY WEEKEND | ROCKTALK

Getting the Word Out, Along With the Music

With his Red Hot Songwriters showcase, Mark Romano allows talented but sometimes little-known artists to be heard.

December 05, 1996|JAMES E. FOWLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Mark Romano hosts Red Hot Songwriters, a showcase for cleffers, Wednesday evenings at the Hot House in Sherman Oaks. But in January, the showcase will move to Thursdays so that Romano can indulge the other great passion of his life.

"The two great loves of my life are music and baseball," Romano says. So much so that he tries to get in at least three games per week. "I keep a bat in the trunk of my car, hoping that a game will break out."

When he's not rounding the bases, Romano is a multi-instrumentalist who has worked extensively in Los Angeles, performing on guitar, mandolin and harmonica. He even knows how to play the accordion, but is sensible enough not to. Self-described as first and foremost a guitar player, Romano has also received accolades for his songwriting.

He was one of 15 American songwriters selected to participate in the 1996 ASCAP/Lester Sills Songwriting Seminar. With his band, Big Red Sky, Romano was chosen as the 1996 National Academy of Songwriters' acoustic/underground artist of the year. And he is currently working on his first CD, "Full Moon Prairie Sky," soon to be released on his own label, Woodenship Records.

"Most of my songs have a folk-rocky feel to them that reflects my rural upbringing," Romano said.

Romano was born and raised in Lompoc and moved to the Los Angeles area when he was 13 years old. He was first turned on to music by the Beatles, the Byrds and the Rolling Stones.

"The first time I heard Roger McGuinn's electric 12-string, I thought I had heard the bells of heaven," Romano said.

As for the songwriter's showcase, which he started about eight months ago, Romano said that he saw a need and filled it.

"I wanted to provide an outlet for talented people," he said. "I envision this as a hangout for songwriters to come and listen to people they know and people they don't know--to enhance the quality of songwriting overall."

On Wednesday, Romano will showcase songwriter Matthew Lee, the group Tortured Poets and his own band. Besides the Red Hot Songwriters at the Hot House, Romano also hosts another songwriters showcase at the Borders bookstore in Westwood on the second Saturday of every month.

Other than that, the Glendale resident plays baseball whenever he can and doesn't care what position.

"I'm an infield specialist," Romano said. "But I'll play anywhere you need me."

* Mark Romano hosts Red Hot Songwriters at 9 p.m. Wednesdays at the Hot House, 12123 Riverside Drive, North Hollywood. No cover. Call (818) 506-7058.

*

Truckin': Valley band the Rattlers will perform a Grateful Dead tribute at the Rusty Pelican in Glendale on Friday and Saturday nights. On Sunday, the band will perform from 1 to 3 p.m. at an all-day benefit cut-a-thon at the Platinum Salon in Encino.

Remakes: The Rock in Woodland Hills has undergone remodeling and added a new sound system. In addition to the Top 40 bands that populate the place most nights, the club features disco with a Boogie Knights ensemble, Le Freak, on Wednesday evenings and reggae on Sundays with Urban Dread.

The Blue Saloon in North Hollywood also was remodeled and installed a sound system a few months back only to have the city practically close the street in front of the place recently. Although remodeled and open for business, the place looked for awhile as though it had been condemned because of the barricades erected during some street repairs. Club booker Gina B. now says the barricades are gone.

Bird of a Different Feather: Look for the popular nightspot formerly known as Pelican's Retreat in Calabasas to reopen in early 1997. The club, which closed in 1995 due to problems that were unrelated to its popularity, which remained strong, will have a new name but will continue to feature top-notch cover and tribute bands.

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