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In This Group, Scions Are There

Pop music: Berry Oakley Jr., Waylon Krieger and Duane Betts draw on their fathers' music and '80s and '90s trends to forge 'blueternative' band.

August 07, 1998|JON MATSUMOTO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Blueternative" is how singer-bassist Berry Oakley Jr. describes the music of his Oakley Krieger Band. It's a simple way of letting people know that the quartet is influenced by the classic blues-rock of the '60s and '70s as well as the alternative guitar rock of the '80s and '90s.

For the Los Angeles-based group, which plays Saturday at Hogue Barmichael's in Newport Beach, both dimensions of its sonic mix are a natural fit.

The band members, all in their early to middle 20s, came of age during the '90s heyday of grunge, yet find it impossible to escape the music of their parents' generation.

Maybe that's because Oakley's father was the Allman Brothers Band bassist. His guitar playing partner, Waylon Krieger, is the son of Robby Krieger, the Doors' guitarist. Rounding out the group is drummer Alec Puro and guitarist Duane Betts--and, yes, Betts is the son of longtime Allman guitarist Dickey Betts.

Given the band's name and lineage, it's no surprise that the young group has found an audience that crosses generations.

The Oakley Krieger Band was formed about a year ago and has been playing mostly at Los Angeles-area clubs such as the Coconut Teaszer, the Key Club and the Mint.

"We get a lot of people at our shows who were around when our fathers' bands started," Oakley, 25, said in a recent telephone conversation. "It's nice to see. They're enthusiastic about it and complimentary. It makes me think that we're doing the right thing. [They'll say things like] 'Oh, I bought your dad a beer in '69.' "

That's more contact than Oakley ever had with his father, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1972 just before Oakley was born. In 1971 Allman Brothers guitarist Duane Allman died in a similar motorcycle mishap. (Oakley said his parents were going to name him Duane until his father's death. Dickey Betts named his son after the celebrated guitarist.)

Berry Oakley Jr. and Waylon Krieger have been playing together since they were infants. Oakley's mother, Julia, had been married to Doors' drummer John Densmore before Oakley.

Though the marriage didn't last, she did forge a strong friendship with Robby Krieger and his wife, and the boys developed a tight childhood camaraderie that grew into a musical partnership.

"When we were born, we were stuck in a crib together a lot," Oakley said. "Later, we learned how to play music together. We've been in bands together, and we write songs together."

Oakley grew up in a strong rock 'n' roll environment. When he was 3, his mother married Three Dog Night singer Chuck Negron. It wasn't until he was in his teens that Oakley began to really learn about his father's contributions to the Allman Brothers Band.

"I spent a lot of time with [band members], collectively and individually, when [they reunited about the time] their 'Dreams' box set came out in '89," he said. "I got to know everybody [for the first time]. They told me all the stories about my father and the stuff they did when they were kids. I just connected with everyone. From that point on, I've kept in touch with everyone, and I see them whenever I can."

Oakley began to develop as a musician then. In 1992, a management company asked Oakley and Krieger to start a band with drummer Aaron Davis, son of jazz legend Miles. They seized the opportunity.

The group, Bloodline, released an album of Southern rock on EMI Records in 1994 and toured in support of bands such as Tesla and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Oakley said Epic lost interest in Bloodline after the band tried to exert more control over its career. The group dissolved in 1995.

"The band was definitely contrived," Oakley said. "We also had this 13-year-old guitar prodigy in the group. It was all about the different points that they could sell. We were too young to understand that at first. We were just eager to play. We jumped into it without really knowing."

The Oakley Krieger Band is managed by Oakley's mother, but a primary goal is to find a professional manager to negotiate a recording contract. Still, Oakley said the group isn't willing to strike just any deal.

"We're taking it slow," he said. "We want to make sure the band is perfect, that we're playing well and that we have the right material. Going through the Bloodline experience was great, but if someone wants to sign us, we want to make sure they really want us."

*

Oakley and Krieger's financial support comes from longtime positions in the Robby Krieger Band. That group performs a bevy of Doors' covers from "Break on Through" to "Love Her Madly." Oakley also splits lead vocal duties with the elder Krieger.

In the Oakley Krieger Band, the Allman Brothers Band and Doors material is kept to a minimum, although the group often performs the Doors' "Back Door Man"/"Five to One" medley and the Allmans' "Hot'Lanta."

"Of course we're the kids of [prominent rock musicians]. We're not ashamed of that," Oakley said. "But our ultimate goal is for us to make it on our own. Rather than people saying, 'You're the kid of so and so,' I want them to say, 'Isn't your dad Berry Oakley?' I want it to be the other way around."

* The Oakley Krieger Band performs Saturday at Hogue Barmichael's, 3950 Campus Drive, Newport Beach. 11 p.m. $8. (949) 261-6270.

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