Watch CBS News

Pioneering '60s SF rockers the Flamin' Groovies play the Chapel

SAN FRANCISCO -- One of the most legendary garage-rock bands to emerge from San Francisco during the '60s, the Flamin' Groovies released a series of albums that made minimal impact on the charts, but exerted a major influence on many punk and power-pop acts that followed in subsequent decades.

The Flamin' Groovies
The Flamin' Groovies Cyril Jordan and Roy Loney The Flamin' Groovies

Anchored by the songwriting partnership of wildman lead singer Roy Loney and guitarist Cyril Jordan, the band embraced a mix of  '50s rock and roll (frequently covering songs by the likes of Little Richard and Eddie Cochran), feral garage-rock originals and an ear for punchy pop melodies that nodded to the British Invasion bands of the era. While they may have been out-of-step with the psychedelic sounds that dominated the era, the Groovies would endure to have just as much impact on rock as contemporaries the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane.

Flamin' Groovies - Love Have Mercy by SingingVegetable on YouTube

The band first came together in 1965, but it wasn't until they self-released their Sneakers EP in 1968 that they score a record deal with Epic. The resulting debut Supersnazz had so little commercial impact that the label dropped the group within a year of its release, but the album has become a cult classic. Embodying the same kind of joyful celebration of primitive rock and R&B that would be echoed in both the New York Dolls and the Ramones, the Groovies delivered ferocious originals like "Love Have Mercy" that stood up alongside renditions of already classic tunes "The Girl Can't Help It" and "Something Else/Pistol Packin' Mama."

The Flamin' Groovies "Teenage Head" by 3 Chord Philosophy on YouTube

The band bounced back by signing to Kama Sutra Records and producing the equally spectacular Flamingo and Teenage Head (featuring the monstrous proto-punk title track), but growing tensions between Loney and Jordan would lead to the singer's departure. Taking complete control of the band, Jordan brought guitarist/singer Chris Wilson on board and relocated the Groovies to England to capitalize on their greater popularity in Europe.

Shake Some Action (the proper 1976 version) by thefirecircus on YouTube

Working with future Rockpile guitarist and solo star Dave Edmunds in the studio, the band eventually put together what many consider its finest post-Loney effort. Shake Some Action came out in 1976 on Sire Records and revealed a sound that ditched some of the '50s rock flavor for ringing Rickenbacker guitars and mod British Invasion pop. The follow-up album Flamin' Groovies Now furthered the band's embrace of a more power-pop sound.

Jordan would continued to lead the Groovies into the '80s and early '90s, but eventually disbanded the group and founded his new band, Magic Christian. However, in 2013, he reunited with Wilson and longtime bass player George Alexander after the Groovies were invited to play Australian festival dates. A series of sold-out shows both in San Francisco and abroad would follow.

In 2015, the Groovies drew packed houses performing their seminal Shake Some Action album in its entirety at a number of local shows including one at the Chapel in San Francisco. The band would return to the venue the following year to kick off a tour marking the band's 50th anniversary. The Groovies also surprised fans when they released a new 7-inch single for Burger Records featuring the song "Crazy Macy" that came out on Record Store Day.

Flamin' Groovies - "Yes I Am" [Madrid 2016] by jorjunkel on YouTube

In the summer of 2017, it was announced that the Groovies line-up featuring Jordan and Wilson had completed the band's first new album in almost four decades. Entitled Fantastic Plastic, the effort featuring new original songs and covers of tunes by the Beau Brummels and NRBQ was released glowing reviews in the fall.

While the band was regularly joined onstage by Loney to play their classic early songs in recent years, in 2019 the Groovies embarked on a tour dedicated to performing the watershed Teenage Head album in its entirety plus an assortment of vintage hits. The band played several Bay Area shows and was headed to Europe for a full tour when Loney was sadly sidelined by a fall at the San Francisco International Airport just as the band was preparing to depart for the string of summer dates. Tragically, Loney passed away from organ failure at the CPMC Davies Campus in San Francisco in December of 2019.

Jordan's current four-piece line-up of the Groovies with SF musician/songwriter Chris von Sneidern on guitar, veteran bassist Atom Ellis (a member of Psychefunkapus and Dieselhed in addition to touring with the late Link Wray, Todd Rundgren, the New Cars and the Tubes) and drummer Tony T. Sales -- whose father played drums for both Iggy Pop and David Bowie -- returns to the Chapel Saturday night with support from Joe Cocker tribute act Cocker Power.

The all-star assembly of San Francisco musicians first came together in 2015, Cocker Power recreates music from the classic live album and concert movie Mad Dogs & Englishmen as performed by an expansive ensemble fronted by late rock legends Joe Cocker and Leon Russell.

The product of a hastily organized 1970 U.S. tour, British soul singer Cocker reached out to session player and musical director Russell to assemble the R&B big band featuring a full horn section and backing vocalists that was populated by such stellar players as Rita Coolidge, longtime Rolling Stones saxophonist Bobby Keys and Delaney & Bonnie/Derek and the Dominos rhythm section Jim Gordon and Carl Radle. Mostly comprised of cover tunes ("Honky Tonk Women," "Feelin' Alright" and a string of Beatles and Dylan songs), the rollicking double album has been reissued several times including a six-CD box set version documenting four shows at the Fillmore East in New York. The film was also released on DVD, while the tour was the subject of a second documentary and concert movie in 2021 -- Learning to Live Together: The Return of Mad Dog & Englishmen -- which reunited a dozen surviving participants to talk about their experience and revisit the classic songs live onstage with the Tedeschi Trucks Band and guests including Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson and Traffic singer/guitarist and solo star Dave Mason.

10 The Letter COCKER POWER! by Douglas Hilsinger on YouTube

Built around noted belter Bob Reed -- who fronted '90s noise-pop band Overwhelming Colorfast and currently sings with roots reggae act The Titan Ups and plays guitar in indie rockers Semprini -- Cocker Power boasts a number of Bay Area music veterans. Among the musicians performing Saturday are guitarists Doug Hilsinger (Bomb, Enorchestra, Kelley Stoltz) and Chris Guthridge (Ride the Blinds, Sweet Chariot), current MC5 revival vocalist Brad Brooks, keyboardist Patrick Main (Oranger), drummers Dave Leonard (The Sermon) and Tom Galbraith (Field Trip, Mensclub, Harold Ray and East Side Dynamite), singers Sarah Bethe Nelson and Lydia Walker (This Train Don't Stop, Marc and the Casuals) and a host of others.  

Also performing will be reunited SF glam/power-pop veterans Fantasy. Anchored by the falsetto voice and songwriting talents of Kirk Markopoulos, the costumed, eminently danceable group from the '90s was a mainstay of the Mission District (as was the members' later group, Little Fuzzy). The band made a welcome return to Bay Area clubs in 2021 and has been playing regularly ever since. DJ Foodcourt (aka local scene advocate and Make-Out Room booker Parker Gibbs) will play records before and between bands.

The Flamin' Groovies with Cocker Power and Fantasy
Saturday, January 28, 8 p.m. $25
The Chapel

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.