Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Brian Blueskye

In 1974, a young guitarist named Craig Chaquico joined the newly formed Jefferson Starship, and remained with band through the transition to Starship. He left the band in 1991 and has been performing as a contemporary jazz guitarist ever since.

Craig Chaquico will be playing at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort and Spa on Saturday, March 2.

During a recent interview, Chaquico explained how he became a founding member of Jefferson Starship.

“Jefferson Airplane broke up and stopped performing together in 1972. … Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady did Hot Tuna, and Grace Slick and Paul Kantner did solo records,” Chaquico said. “I actually played on their solo records, and my own band had a recording contract on their label. The idea was to maybe start a new band, and we went out on tour as Jefferson Starship before we recorded anything. My band opened, and I played in both bands. After that, I expected to go back to college, but we were like, ‘Man, we all had such a great time playing together! Let’s form Jefferson Starship and do an album.’ I said, ‘Shit yeah! Let’s do that!’ After that first tour, we went into the studio and recorded Dragon Fly. Everything that I played on went gold and platinum.”

Chaquico was a teenager when Jefferson Starship began, and he wound up putting off school.

“That was sort of my higher education; I was learning from the best,” he said. “When we did the first Jefferson Starship album, there were eight members, and each of the members had distinct personalities. I don’t think any record executive thought anything was going to happen for us. … The solo albums were interesting, but they weren’t commercial success stories. I don’t think they expected gold and platinum albums from us. They looked at our band like, ‘Whatever!’ But think about it: What record executive in 1974 would say, ‘Hey, I’ve got an idea! Let’s get a black violin player in his 50s, a pot-smoking guitar player in his teens, and put them together with some Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service people, add a member of the Turtles, and then put Pete Sears in this band!’? That was the beauty of it. We weren’t a A&R person-conceived band.”

The band became Starship and released the huge hit yet oft-maligned “We Built This City” in 1985.

“Starship was very pop, and it started to rely a lot on keyboards and not so much on guitar,” Chaquico said. “I’m a team player, and I’ll play on every song whether it has a lot of lead guitar or not. We started doing songs like ‘We Built This City,’ which has gotten a lot of bad press over the years, but if you listen to the beginning of that song … all of that computerized stuff and rocket science was pretty new. … Peter Wolf was our producer, and he co-wrote a lot of our songs. The original idea for the song was how there were no places for rock ’n’ roll bands to play anymore, (as pop) was turning into a lot of DJs and disco. The idea was a protest against computerized music, but it was the biggest computerized song on the radio, which I found ironic.”

While Starship enjoyed popular success, headlining shows with Foreigner and Fleetwood Mac, the band started to receive critical backlash.

“To me, it was like trying to send Apollo 13 around the moon and bring it back safely—it was high-tech computers everywhere,” Chaquico said. “It was interesting to me, but that period of time had its good things and its bad things. We had three No. 1 singles in three consecutive years, in the course of about 15 months. That was the good part. We got to go to Japan and Europe to play concerts—but it had a double-edged sword, and it bit us in the ass. We got criticized for ‘We Built This City,’ and it made No. 1 on the list of 50 Worst Songs in the World or something like that. Peter Wolf was also on the list at No. 3 for (producing) Wang Chung’s ‘Everybody (Have Fun) Tonight.’ I called Peter and said, ‘Dude, you’re on two of the worst songs of the world, and I’m only on one!’ On one level, we have to be proud, but it also bit us in the ass.”

Members eventually started leaving the band, and Chaquico had to decide whether to stay in a band that was decreasing the presence of guitar.

“I was told by the management not to write any songs, because we weren’t going to do any more rock,” he said. “At that point, I said, ‘All right, guys, I have to bail. Because what do you need me for?’ I didn’t ask for a lot of money—just to make sure I received my royalties for the earlier stuff. They broke up, didn’t have another hit and were dropped from the label.”

Becoming a successful jazz musician didn’t happen without difficulty, and he had problems getting his first solo album, Acoustic Highway, a label to release it in 1993.

“My now-ex-wife became pregnant. During the pregnancy, acoustic guitar started becoming more welcoming around the house. I thought maybe I should mellow things out,” Chaquico said about the transition to jazz. “I started playing more and more acoustic guitar, and it was suggested to me that I just record that. Ozzie Ahlers, who used to play in the Jerry Garcia Band, started working with me, and when my rock band didn’t pan out, he heard me playing acoustic guitar and had some ideas. He gave me a demo of his keyboard ideas. We started recording our acoustic music, and everyone passed on it, because they didn’t know what it was.

“I went to a new age label, and they said it had some rock and blues, and I should play it for a rock label. I went to a rock label, and they said they heard more new age. I went to a blues label, and they said it sounded more like jazz and rock. But a new age label called Higher Octave liked it and said, ‘We like it the way it is. We hear all that stuff, but we like it.’ They put me together with a great producer to remix it. It ended up being Billboard’s No. 1 New Age Album of the Year.”

Craig Chaquico will perform at 7 p.m., Saturday, March 2, at Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort and Spa, 71333 Dinah Shore Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $50 to $90. For tickets or more information, call 951-696-0184, or visit

On March 10, 1997, Rodney Patrick McNeal went home during his lunch break, around 12:30 p.m., to take his wife, Debra, to a doctor’s appointment.

Instead, the San Bernardino County probation officer found Debra, who was six months pregnant, dead in their bathtub. Submerged in water, she’d been beaten and stabbed before being strangled to death. The words “Nigger Lover” were written on the mirror (Debra McNeal was a Native American), and the house had been ransacked, with several firearms stolen.

Patrick and Debra’s marriage had been rocky at times, and police visited their home following domestic disputes at least twice in the months leading up to Debra’s death. According to a 2009 court document, a San Bernardino County deputy sheriff went to their residence in December 1996 after a domestic-disturbance call. Patrick and Debra appeared upset at each other, but no arrest was made, although two handguns were taken for safekeeping. In January 1997, a deputy responded to another domestic disturbance, after Patrick reportedly took Debra’s purse to prevent her from leaving.

Tension was high on the day of the murder, too. According to Debra’s son, Marcus Frison, the day before, Debra got upset with Patrick regarding some leftover pizza, and she took a knife to the family’s sofa. On March 10, Debra decided it was time to seek some professional help and called Kaiser Permanente to schedule a counseling appointment. On that day, she and Patrick spoke on the phone three times. They discussed the appointment, and apparently had an argument over money, although Patrick’s co-workers never heard him with a loud or hostile tone of voice.

The last known person to see Debra McNeal alive was a friend, Terrylyn Walker, who went to visit Debra around 9:15 a.m. At 10 a.m., while Debra was on the phone with Kaiser, someone she apparently knew entered the home, according to the Kaiser clerk.

Patrick McNeal got to his office somewhere between 7:30 and 8 a.m. that morning, and from 10 a.m. to noon, he met with clients. Patrick’s computer records show him working on a report shortly before noon; records also show he made a phone call to Debra around that time to find out the location of her appointment. The call was not answered.

Two of Patrick’s co-workers rode in an elevator with him at approximately 12:10 to 12:15 p.m. He then made the 2 1/2-minute walk through the parking lot to his car, and the eight-minute drive to their home.

Police arrived on the scene, after Patrick McNeal called 911, at 12:32 p.m.

There was no forced entry into the McNeal residence. There was a blood trail leading from the master living room through an entryway, into the kitchen and then into the master bedroom. The waterbed was punctured and leaking water, and there was an odor of bleach and/or other cleaning products in the master bedroom and bathroom. A bloody footprint on the carpet came from a dress shoe that did not match any of Patrick McNeal’s shoes. Hairs and fibers on Debra’s body also did not match anything from Patrick.

Yet in 2000, Rodney Patrick McNeal was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder. He’s been in prison ever since—and his case has captured the attention of the California Innocence Project.

Since it was founded in 1999, the California Innocence Project, a clinical program at California Western School of Law in San Diego, has helped free 30 wrongfully convicted inmates, and it currently is working on the cases of 13 people who remain behind bars, including that of Patrick McNeal.

“(Debra McNeal) was strangled, beaten, stabbed and thrown in the tub,” said Raquel Cohen (pictured right), an attorney representing McNeal with the California Innocence Project. “For years, all the evidence has shown the timeline doesn’t add up giving Patrick enough time to commit this crime. He still got convicted.”

Cohen said the domestic disputes between the McNeals helped the prosecution make their case against Patrick.

“They had some marital problems and some domestic-disturbance calls, but nothing that was too serious,” Cohen said. “They had arguments resulting in the police saying, ‘Hey, you guys need to calm down.’ Juries are unpredictable; Kim Long’s case was also very similar, where they attack the character of the defendant and say, ‘They are a very violent person, and there’s only one person who could have committed the crime,’ and (prosecutors) don’t have any other suspects.”

Kimberly Long is a California Innocence Project success story. The Independent first covered her case back in 2015; she was convicted of the 2003 murder of her boyfriend, Oswaldo “Ozzy” Conde, in Corona. In 2016, a Riverside County Superior Court judge reversed her conviction—which, like McNeal’s conviction, was largely based on the couple’s history of domestic strife.

“That’s really the evidence they had against him during his trial,” Cohen said about the McNeal case. “There was a bad relationship, and he found the body. But there’s a timeline issue, and it becomes, ‘Where were you at what time?’ Patrick had a lot of hard evidence—the last time he modified a document on a computer, and co-workers riding down (with him) in an elevator. The worst-case scenario has a neighbor placing him at home at 12:15 p.m.—and that is the worst case for him and best case for the prosecution. That’s not enough time for him to commit the crime, clean up—and (Patrick McNeal) had no blood or bleach on him—and then call the police.

“It just doesn’t add up.”

The California Innocence Project has put forward another suspect in the murder of Debra McNeal—Patrick McNeal’s half-brother, Jeffrey Todd West.

“A few people have come forward saying that (West) confessed to the crime,” Cohen said. “He was a very bad person. He had killed other people and served time for it in Nevada; I believe he might be locked up somewhere right now. He has a history of choking people. He poured gas on his ex-wife, and there are chemicals involved in this case. … He told people that he killed Debra after it happened, because he was worried about Patrick’s future. We presented that to the court … and unfortunately, they found the witnesses were unreliable for a number of reasons.”

In 2005, West pleaded guilty to a double-homicide in Nevada. Both West’s ex-wife, Janice Williams, and Charlotte Lazzie, an ex-girlfriend, testified regarding West’s violent nature. Ebony Grant, the half-sister of both Patrick McNeal and West, also talked about violent attacks by West, including an incident during which she was choked. Grant said West told her a week before the murders of Debra McNeal and her unborn child that he believed Debra was destroying all of his stuff, and that he would “kill the bitch”; according to the California Innocence Project’s website, West also confessed to Grant after the murder. Cary McGill, a co-worker of West, said that West confessed the murder to him, stating that Debra was ruining Patrick’s future and that he had to “handle the bitch.”

However, the court denied all of this new evidence—and Patrick McNeal remains behind bars.

“We are kind of at a roadblock, but we’re still investigating whether or not West told other people who might be more credible, or whether or not West will confess—which would be ideal, but I don’t know if that will ever happen,” Cohen said.

“There were a lot of issues at the evidentiary hearing with the witnesses who said West confessed, (whom) the judge found not to be credible. For instance, Cary McGill, who came forward saying that West had confessed to him, failed to appear on the first day; he had some issues with work and didn’t appear. When he showed up to testify, the court threw him in jail. When he got on the stand, he was in custody and was pissed—he tried to help somebody and ended up with a failure to appear (charge). The court found him not credible because his demeanor was just irritated.

“There were a lot of bad things that happened at that hearing that turned the case to deny the petition and keep Patrick in prison.”

The Independent was given about 10 minutes to talk via phone to Patrick McNeal, who is currently serving his sentence of 30 years to life at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi. During the phone call, he expressed extreme frustration with his conviction.

“It’s so hard for me to believe at times,” McNeal said. “I told them during the interview that I made phone calls that day that were on the phone record, and I walked out with other probation officers from my job. I can’t make all that stuff up. … My phone-call records make it impossible for me to be at the murder, along with the probation officer I walked out with. They were ignored, or there were excuses made for phone records.”

McNeal said his attorney failed to adequately defend him during his original trial.

“He told me that he was going to question them on the timeline and do all of this and that. He didn’t do anything that he told me that he was going to do and just said, ‘The defense rests,’” McNeal said. “When I asked him about that, he said, ‘Oh, well, that’s just how I like to do my cases, and there’s no need for me to do it. The prosecution didn’t present their case.’ I was completely blown away.

“By that time, it was too late.”

Cohen said that even though McNeal’s case is currently at a standstill, they remain hopeful that he could be freed one day soon.

“He’s very optimistic; he checks in on his case regularly, and he knows that we’re sort of at a dead end,” Cohen said about McNeal. “We have a clemency petition pending with the governor, where we’re hoping (Gov. Gavin Newsom) sees this evidence and commutes his sentence or grants him a pardon. That’s one big hope he has going forward. Obviously, we talk about other ways we can break this case open. But … we all know West is very dangerous, so we’re all very cautious about it, and we’re hoping there are other people who will come forward. All of our (main) hope right now is with our governor’s office, and we’re hoping the new governor will take action on this and see there’s no way for (McNeal) to have committed this crime.”

Patrick McNeal said he wants more than just his release from prison.

“Getting out is, of course, the No. 1 goal, but I wouldn’t be satisfied just by getting out,” he said. “I can’t believe that a reasonable person would look at the case with all of the phone calls and the blood evidence (and think I did it). If you put everything together along with the fact no one ever said that I was the one who did this, along with where I worked as a probation officer—I would have to have had a co-conspirator in the Probation Department for someone to make phone calls from my office to my home and not tell the police about it—it’s like nothing makes any sense. Would I really tell a fellow probation officer, ‘Hey, I’m going to go kill my wife. Just in case the police come after me, can you make these phone calls from my office?’”

For more information, visit

Meagan Van Dyke is a multi-talented performer. She’s been in College of the Desert musicals In the Heights and Little Shop of Horrors; she was an on-air Disney Channel host; and she performs in Trio NV with Nick Sosa and Doug Van Sant of the Flusters. Catch Trio NV every Saturday night at the Miramonte Indian Wells Resort and Spa. For more information on Trio NV, visit Meagan was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are her answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

I’m a little embarrassed to say the Backstreet Boys was my first concert, but the boy-band pop-scene was huge in the late ’90s, and I was just another 10-year-old who succumbed to the sounds of five guys singing love songs.

What was the first album you owned?

Boyz II Men’s II. I can remember listening to it on repeat in my bedroom. I always find myself attached to lyrics that are romantic and poignant, and when you pepper in flawless harmonies, I’m a fan for life.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I have a very eccentric playlist, but I’m currently listening to Brandi Carlile, Janelle Monáe and H.E.R.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

I enjoy a lot of different music, but I’ll never understand the culture of heavy metal. If I can’t understand the words because the lead singer is screaming, I’m shutting it off!

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Ben Platt. He’s a Broadway star and has one of the most mesmerizing voices I’ve ever heard. I’d love to just sit and listen to him sing.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I’m a musical-theater nerd. My guilty pleasures are the soundtracks for most Broadway musicals. Currently, it’s Dear Evan Hansen and Waitress. I’m also a huge fan of just about anything from the ’80s. Foreigner, Journey, Hall and Oates—they still get blasted in my car.

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. There’s nothing better than enjoying music under the stars.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

Let ’em live while they can. Let ’em spin; let ’em scatter in the wind. I have been to the movies; I’ve seen how it ends, and the joke’s on them.” Brandi Carlile’s song “The Joke” has a strong message, and if you haven’t listened to it yet, you should!

What band or artist changed your life? How?

I’m definitely inspired by the Motown, funk, soul and R&B eras. Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Donna Summer, Smokey Robinson, Amy Winehouse and Lauryn Hill are all musicians who have changed my life as an artist.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I’d ask Diana Ross what inspired her to be the amazing performer that she was and still is today.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

An ’80s classic, “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” by the Simple Minds.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black. The entire album is a classic, soul-pouring novel that I never get tired of.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“When Will Then Be Now?” by The Flusters. Support local music! (Scroll down to hear it!)

On Saint Patrick’s Day, you can always expect to hear Celtic music in some form—including, most likely, some music by renowned Celtic punk band Flogging Molly.

Flogging Molly is currently on tour and will be stopping by Morongo Casino Resort on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day—Saturday, March 16.

When former Fastway and Katmandu frontman Dave King started Flogging Molly in 1997, he entered uncharted territory by combining punk rock with Celtic music—in America. The first album, Swagger, released in 2000, was well-received by critics, and the second album, Drunken Lullabies, released in 2002, reached Gold status.

During a recent phone interview, guitarist Dennis Casey said starting a Celtic punk band was a unique challenge.

“The hard part for me was being a loud guitar-player,” Casey said. “It’s a bit of a challenge to mash all those instruments together, and less is more when you’re playing with so many people at the same time. I think we were just bringing the passion and the energy to the show. That was pretty infectious to people. In traditional Irish music, if you go back and look at where it came from, it came from people sitting around in living rooms having some drinks, entertaining themselves and dancing. We just amplified that.”

In 2017, Flogging Molly put out its sixth album, Life Is Good, which took six years to make.

“There were a lot of things happening in the band on the business side—the changing of management, agents and all the boring stuff like that,” Casey explained. “It takes time out of your schedule when you’re trying to write and record. Dave’s mom died; my father died; and it was a combination of all those things that delayed us—and also inspired the record.”

The title may be a bit misleading, given the many challenges the band and its members faced while making the album.

“You need context, and you need to hear the record. Most people think ‘Life Is Good’ means caviar, champagne, yachts, excess and all that,” Casey said. “It couldn’t be further from the truth, and there’s a lot of irony in it. Dave’s mother dying inspired a lot of that. … I think it’s sort of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm. The title track is about Dave’s mother dying. It’s way deeper than the first image you might have. It’s hard to hear the sarcasm in it, but it’s there. Dave has always been writing about the horrible things in life but also (shining a) positive light on things as well.”

Flogging Molly has performed often with fellow Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys, which started in Boston around the same time as Flogging Molly.

“(Dropkick Murphys) are wonderful guys, and we’ve toured with them about three times,” Casey said. “We got along great. There’s a lot of comradery. We were jumping onstage playing together, and it was a really special time, and I’m glad we got to do it. I know we share a lot of the same fans, and I think that’s a nice gift.”

In 2015, Flogging Molly started the Salty Dog Cruise, an annual cruise in the Caribbean, which has included bands such as Gogol Bordello, The Specials, NOFX, Less Than Jake and many others.

“I was personally thinking, ‘OK, we’ve really lost our minds.’ I thought that only old people who drink piña coladas and play shuffleboard go on cruises. I had never been on one, and I was stereotyping,” Casey said. “We marched on, and I’ll never forget when I got on the boat for the first one, and I met two people from Belgium. And I was like, ‘Whoa! Belgium?’ It was so exciting, and I rethought the whole thing.

“It formed into this wonderful festival on a boat. There’s a sense of community. So many relationships are made from it, and the vibe is so great. It’s turned out to be one of my favorite things to do all year. It’s funny how that turned around. I tell people, ‘I defy you not to have a great time.’ It’s just about 20 to 30 bands playing punk rock with all the booze you can drink and the food you can eat. People think it’s going to be debauchery and mayhem, but it’s a really communal fun time. It’s a vibe I can’t explain, but it’s there.”

Flogging Molly will perform at 9 p.m., Saturday, March 16, at Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon. Tickets are $45 to $65. For tickets or more information, call 800-252-4499, or visit

“Everyone talks about rock these days,” Keith Richards once said. “The problem is they forget about the roll.”

Well, local musician Cody White has most certainly not forgotten about the roll.

White and his band, the Easy Ride, are now gigging regularly in the high and low desert, and have started to stand out with a ’70s-inspired rock ’n’ roll sound. During a recent interview in Desert Hot Springs, White seemed laid back and smiled a lot while talking passionately about his music.

“It’s a lot of the old rock ’n’ roll I love,” White said. “I’ve been known to say that I was born in the wrong decade, because ’70s rock ’n’ roll is my bread and butter. Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and that kind of stuff is where I gathered upon when I was a young guitar-player. I’m also a fan of Radiohead, and I draw a little bit from that.

“Most of my lyrics are pretty politically driven, so I hear about something that pisses me off, and I write a song about it as my therapy or whatever you want to call it.”

White played as a duo with drummer David Driver before bassist Samantha Clark recently entered the picture.

“It took us about two years to get a solid rhythm section,” White said. “David has been playing with me forever. Trying to find a bass-player was a nightmare, and we were playing as a two-piece for a few years. I figured I wanted to play more stripped-down than (force) something that was going to sound so-so or (have) people playing in the band that don’t fit what we do.”

White grew up near San Luis Obispo and credits his parents for introducing him to the music that inspired him.

“When I was growing up, I was raised more on rock ’n’ roll and country music, so that all somehow mixed,” he said. “The album I remember listening to the most when I was a kid was The Beatles’ Rubber Soul. That was the rock album I remember listening to over and over when I was a kid. My dad was a huge Frank Zappa fan, so he’d play Zappa albums in his truck when my mom wasn’t around. My mom was a radio DJ and had a folk-music show when I was a kid growing up in the ’80s—James Taylor, Jackson Browne and stuff like that. I got pulled on air a couple of times. It was voluntary and her once-a-week thing.”

When he was just starting as a songwriter, White said he had a problem with believing in himself.

“My biggest thing was always confidence, because I was a guitar-player since the age of 15. I had no problem sitting onstage and playing guitar,” he said. “But when it came time to craft my own stuff, lyrically and musically, there were probably piles of songs that went by the wayside, because I didn’t think they were good enough. It’s part of the whole songwriting process. I had a good friend who told me to write a song everyday just for the discipline, and out of that, you’d end up with a couple of songs that were worth something. It took a look time for me to be confident as a songwriter.

“I think for me … it’s about what you feel the most passionate about. Every person is different. Writing love songs has never been my forte, but whenever political and social-justice issues hit me hard, that’s where I’m passionate and where the good songs come out. Keith Richards said that when he got stumped trying to write a song, he would play a song by someone else, and something comes out of that. Samantha and David are also a huge part of the songwriting process, and the songs are definitely shaped by the rhythms and the bass lines they add in. It’s taught me to play and arrange songs in a whole new way.”

White told me about an interesting show the Easy Ride recently played.

“A friend of mine did this show up in the high desert called Quema del Diablo, which is a South American Catholic traditional festival that’s known as the Burning of the Devil,” White said. “Last year, they did it bigger than before and had two stages; it was an outdoor show in the middle of December in the high desert. That was really fun. But the local shows down in the low desert have also been fun, because there are people who still want to hear rock ’n’ roll. It’s inspiring when you see where the industry is going with rock ’n’ roll these days.”

For more information on Cody White and the Easy Ride, visit

When The Righteous Brothers released “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” in 1964, it changed the music industry forever, creating the term “blue-eyed soul.”

The Righteous Brothers will be appearing at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Friday, Feb. 15.

You can’t talk about rock ’n’ roll without “You Lost That Lovin’ Feelin.” It’s been included in soundtracks (most notably Top Gun) and has been cited by music critics for decades; it captures awe whenever it’s played on an oldies radio station. The group scored another hit a year later that was almost as big with their cover of “Unchained Melody.”

After two breakups—one in 1968 and another in 1976—The Righteous Brothers reunited in 1981 and stayed together until Bobby Hatfield passed away in 2003. In 2016, Bill Medley started The Righteous Brothers again with Bucky Heard and began touring again.

The Righteous Brothers accomplished a recording industry first related to “Unchained Melody.” It appeared again on the Billboard charts in 1990 after being featured in the 1990 film Ghost. They re-recorded the song … and that version also made the Billboard charts.

During a recent phone interview with Medley, he discussed the two versions of the same song on the Billboard chart.

“It kind of started when ‘You Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ was in the movie Top Gun, and we realized that if they would have released it again, it would have been a hit all over again,” Medley said. “When ‘Unchained Melody’ came out, and the radio stations started playing the hell out of the record, they weren’t up to releasing it. So we went back in and re-recorded ‘Unchained Melody’ and put it out. It was a hit. They were playing the original and buying the new one, so both of them went up the charts.”

Medley said that although it was successful, in hindsight, the re-recording was probably not a good idea.

“You really can’t and shouldn’t mess with a record once a record is made,” Medley said. “Even though I produced the original ‘Unchained Melody,’ I knew how to produce the next one, too. But you should probably leave well enough alone. Financially, it worked, but I don’t think it was a good idea to do. You just can’t capture the magic that a hit record has. Nobody knows what that magic really is, which is a cool thing. Even though it was a hit, and you’re going in the studio to re-record it, you still don’t know what that magic, is and you can’t dupe it.”

Famed producer Phil Spector worked with them on “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” and “Unchained Melody” using his “wall of sound” recording technique.

“I don’t throw this word around too much, but Phil Spector was a genius in the studio,” Medley said. “He was brilliant at what he did. I think with ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,’ he just made a record you could never dupe. It was the perfect storm. It was an incredibly written song by Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, and Phil Spector’s production of it was phenomenal, and I think Bobby and I did a pretty good job on it.”

The 2016 return of The Righteous Brothers was warmly received, and the new duo has been consistently on tour since.

“It’s been phenomenally successful. Bucky does a great job,” Medley said. “You can’t replace Bobby, and we’re certainly not trying to, because he was one of a kind, but Bucky is doing a phenomenal job of filling in for Bobby. He’s a great singer; he’s a great guy; and I really love him a lot.”

The Righteous Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. Medley discussed his feelings on its status in the industry today.

“I don’t think everybody in the business has the need or should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” he said. “I’m thrilled to death that we are, and I understand one of the criteria for being in there is that you brought something to the industry that wasn’t there and opened up a new door. Bobby and I opened up a new door for blue-eyed soul. I think it’s all OK, but I think it’s getting watered down. Sticking up for the rappers, I they belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but they should have their own hall of fame too.”

The Righteous Brothers will perform at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 15, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $29 to $59. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit

Probe 7 is an electronic-music act that Brent Heinze has kept going since 1992. He re-launched Probe 7 in 2018 with a new vocalist, Charlie Harding. Heinze recently relocated to the Palm Springs area, and Probe 7 will be playing at the Piggy Party at the Tool Shed on Friday, Feb. 8, which will also serve as an album-release party. For more information on Probe 7, visit Heinze was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

I went to see Bruce Springsteen with my dad in 1984.

What was the first album you owned?

Bee Gees' Spirits Having Flown, because I loved the song “Tragedy” and took the album from my mom.

What bands are you listening to right now?

The Faint, Skinny Puppy, The Frozen Autumn, Provision, Empathy Test, and Imperative Reaction.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Honestly, with Kanye West, I have never understood or enjoyed anything I’ve heard from him, not to mention anything he has said publicly.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

I would have loved to see Joy Division in their original configuration before Ian Curtis’ death.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Queensrÿche's Operation: Mindcrime album.

What’s your favorite music venue?

I have not had the opportunity to play Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles, but would love to play there.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“I have a reservation for a padded room where all my dreams are of you,” Hexheart, “Lunatix.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Hands down, it was The Cure. They were the first band I got obsessed with, owning all their albums.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

Laurie Anderson: “Would you please adopt me?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Deine Lakaien’s “Love Me to the End.”

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Sisters of Mercy, First and Last and Always.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Fires featuring The Rain Within, “Survive.” (Scroll down to hear it!)

February is the shortest month of the year—but it just so happens to be the time for some of the hottest events of the year.

The McCallum Theatre’s packed schedule includes a lot of great stuff. At 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 4, classical violinist Joshua Bell will be performing. He’s the violinist who was the subject of a Washington Post story about him busking in the subway—with few paying attention to him or knowing who he was. Bell has a classical-music career that goes back 30 years, and he’s played some of the biggest classical music halls around the world. Tickets are $60 to $105. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 14, Broadway star and vocalist Linda Eder will take the stage. Eder is no stranger to the McCallum and has turned in sell-out performances on its stage before. Tickets are $38 to $68. Do you love magic? Then at 3 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 17, you’ll love It’s Magic! The show will feature some of the biggest stars of magic, and it’s produced by Milt Larsen and Terry Hill, best known as the producers of America’s Got Talent. You’ll see magicians who have performed in Las Vegas and magicians who have racked up international acclaim. Tickets are $18 to $38. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787;

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has some big names coming through; here are just a few to give you an idea. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 1, The Beach Boys will be performing. Beach Boys member Mike Love is now the only original member remaining, though longtime member Bruce Johnston is still along for the ride. The band’s shows remain wildly popular with fans; you’ll hear all the songs that sold millions of records and changed rock ’n’ roll history in America. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 8, R&B group Boyz II Men will be performing. This would be a nice Valentine’s Day gift for your sweetheart, if you have one—or even a great night out with friends. I’ve always been blown away by the Boyz’ singing talents and unbelievable harmonies. Tickets are $39 to $79. If those two big names aren’t big enough for you, you’ll love this one: At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 16, the Dogg himself, Snoop Dogg, will be performing. Snoop’s name is iconic in hip-hop, and he was one of the biggest rappers in the world back in the ’90s (in fact, he still is today), with rap anthems that get heavy radio and club play. Tickets are $59 to $109. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000;

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has some compelling offerings in February. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9, the famous all-male revue Thunder From Down Under will take place. If your girlfriend isn’t replying to your text messages that night, that’s most likely where she is. Tickets are $15 to $25. On Valentine’s Day, specifically at 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 14, it’ll be a magical night at the Art Laboe Valentine’s Super Love Jam. Laboe has become comically known for all the people who call into his radio show to give shout-outs to their loved ones in prison, which often involve names like “Baby Joker.” Laboe recently gave an interview where he said that he doesn’t judge his listeners—and that’s kept him on the air and has led to some uplifting moments for inmates and their families. The Love Jam will feature Zapp, Midnight Star, The Jets, GQ and The Delfonics. Tickets are $40 to $60. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 16, you’ll want to soft-rock all night, because Air Supply (upper right) will be performing. I’m sure Air Supply is hoping for a big resurgence similar to the one that soft-rock contemporary Toto is enjoying having right now … but actually, Air Supply is doing just fine without a Weezer cover and without any memes, because Air Supply has sold more than 20 million copies of its greatest-hits record and is still highly in demand. Tickets are $40 to $60. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995;

Spotlight 29 has a few shows booked for the showroom in February. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 2, comedian Felipe Esparza (below) will be performing. You might remember him from his performances on Comics Unleashed and Comedy Central’s Premium Blend, as well as other TV and film appearances. He currently has a hilarious Netflix special out. Tickets are $30 to $40. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9, Mexican singer-songwriter Pancho Barraza will take the stage. Barraza is a performer of traditional Mexican music. Tickets are $65 to $85. Now for something different … at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 16, a comedy play titled A Oscuras Me da Risa will be performed. It’s a multi-character comedy about a happy couple going on a weekend getaway and going their own separate ways. Tickets are $36 to $91. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566;

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has some must-see shows, per usual. At 9 p.m., Friday, Feb. 15, psychedelic rock-band La Luz will be performing. I recently gave La Luz’s new album Floating Features a listen, and it’s fantastic. This should be a great show—and is a must for any rock fan. Tickets are $15. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 23, the alt-countryish band Evangenitals will be back. As I always say, you haven’t lived ’til you’ve seen the Evangenitals play. Stick around for their multiple sets, especially the last one at the end of the night. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry … wait, you won’t cry, but you’ll laugh hysterically. Admission is free! At 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 28, Pearl and the Canyon Revelry Band will be performing. Pearl Aday (daughter of Meat Loaf) has quite a set of pipes, and at a young age was a backing vocalist in her dad’s band. She’s been performing country and released her debut album in 2010; she just released a new album, Heartbreak and Canyon Revelry. My metal-loving friend Frank pointed out that her husband is Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian—so you might catch a glimpse of him at the show. Tickets are $10. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956;

The Purple Room Palm Springs is definitely a nice place to consider taking that special someone to for dinner and a show. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9, singer Jonathan Karrant will be performing. Karrant is known for his “Hollywood’s greatest hits”-style show, as he performs songs by Burt Bacharach, Michel Legrand and many others. Tickets are $30 to $35. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 16, Broadway star and vocalist Roslyn Kind will take the stage. The half-sister of Barbra Streisand has toured the globe performing with Babs and her nephew, Jason Gould. Tickets are $45 to $55. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 23, cabaret performer and singer Iris Williams will be performing. Her jazzy vocals on up-tempo numbers and her ballads will be a treat to hear. Tickets are $40 to $45. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422;

Toucan’s Tiki Lounge and Cabaret has a February event worth noting. At 7:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 15 and Saturday, Feb. 16, pop-country singer Steve Grand will take the Toucan’s stage. You’ll probably remember him as the singer of “All-American Boy,” a song about a gay man in love with a straight man, which went viral on YouTube. The gay country singer has since found continued success; he’s no stranger to the Palm Springs area, having performed at the LGBT Community Center of the Desert’s Center Stage gala in 2016. Tickets are $35 to $45. Toucans Tiki Lounge and Cabaret, 2100 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-416-7584;

When three friends involved in the San Francisco punk-rock scene moved to the desert, they decided they needed to get together and have some fun.

The result of that fun is the Hot Patooties, a newly formed band that consists of former San Francisco musicians Nettie Hammar (vocals), Beth Allen (guitar) and Shawn Smith (drums), as well as Yucca Valley bassist and former Gutter Candy member D.D. Gunz.

We chatted at Beth Allen and Shawn Smith’s home in Morongo Valley after an alcohol-infused dinner party.

“We’re from Morongo Valley, where the morons go,” Allen joked. “Shawn and I are in a band together called the Wastedeads, and we’re a two-piece. Nettie also moved to Morongo Valley. Nettie and I are old friends from way back, and I thought, ‘Oh shit, we need to be in a band together.’ The Hot Patooties were born after that.”

D.D. Gunz was recruited after the others decided to form a band here in the desert.

“(D.D.) sent me a response to the Craigslist ad, and asked, ‘Are you still looking for a bass player?’” Allen said. “This ad has been up for over a month. I was being really sarcastic on my phone, and I said, ‘Actually, we’re looking for an old punk-rocker; are you an old punk-rocker?’ I was about to give up. … He said, ‘Actually, yes,’ and then he sent me a photo of himself with his huge Charged GBH mohawk standing next to Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks. I was totally joking and didn’t expect to find anyone like this.”

D.D. Gunz said his time rehearsing with the Hot Patooties has been a lot of fun and even rejuvenating for him as a musician.

“I don’t want to sound cliché, but when I found these guys and played with them for the first time, I thought it was just real music,” Gunz said. “More so than Gutter Candy, who I used to play bass for; there were no influences or anything. It was just, ‘Who gives a shit? Let’s just play!’ Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, that’s how it used to be for me, but it hasn’t felt that way since.

“I’m 43, and I’m playing good music, and that’s a true story. It’s raw, and it’s real, and it’s cool.”

Back in the SF music scene, Hammar was in a band called the Mighty Slim Pickins, and Beth Allen was in a band called the Meat Sluts before they joined forces.

“We were a dyke-abilly band,” Hammar said about the Mighty Slim Pickins. “We were all rockabilly gay-wads, and we played with the Meat Sluts, who were an all-girl punk band, and it just worked. The shows were always packed. We played for a lot of years together before my band broke up and the Meat Sluts broke up. But it was a lot of fun.”

Allen and Smith are a couple; Smith told a story about how he met Allen after a Meat Sluts concert.

“I was in San Francisco for six months at the time and went in to talk to my band and said, ‘OK, who knows Beth Allen?’” Smith said. “My bass player, my guitar player and lead singer all raised their hands and said, ‘We all know Beth.’ I said, ‘OK, she’s going to be my girlfriend within three months!’ And it happened!’”

The Hot Patooties are entering the local music scene with no big intentions.

“We’re all a little older and have done our time,” Allen said. “I’ve toured and have done all that shit. We just want to show the desert how to have some fun.”

Hammar told me a story about touring Europe and making no money.

“We’re all comfortable with ourselves,” Hammar said. “We’re old people. We’re rocking our shit, and we all just got together to have fun. What we’re doing is having fun.”

For more information, visit Disclosure: Beth Allen is an Independent contributor.

The Lettermen began performing in the late 1950s, had their first hit record in the early ’60s, and went on to have an amazing career that’s still going today.

The trio will be stopping by the McCallum Theatre on Sunday, Feb. 24.

Tony Butala is the only remaining original member of The Lettermen; the others, Jim Pike and Bob Engemann, sold their interests to Butala. Today, Butala is joined by Donovan Tea, who joined in 1984, and Bobby Poynton, who joined originally in 1989 and returned several years ago.

During a recent phone interview, Butala explained how The Lettermen worked to stand out in the pop scene.

“We didn’t take (success) lightly, and made sure we did something more in person than stand onstage and do hit records,” Butala said during a recent phone interview. “So many of the other acts at the time were not entertainers and were lucky to have a hit record or two. With The Lettermen, we started with three solo singers when I put this group together. We made sure each individual was a lead singer as well as a performer. So many groups had a lead singer and two or three guys in the background going, ‘Doo-wah, doo-wah, doo-wah.’ We never had that philosophy.”

The Letterman became popular thanks, in part, to popularity at colleges.

“When we had a hit in the early ’60s, we were wanted in the colleges,” Butala said. “We’d go around playing 150 colleges a year—the large universities on the weekends and smaller colleges on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays.

“When you work a lot, it’s like rehearsal. You’re learning what works and what doesn’t work. We found audience participation was the most important thing in our shows. People can always buy a record and hear how pretty you sound, but in person, we wanted the audience to leave with something intangible—that was the fact that they were being entertained.”

When The Lettermen went on to tour the world, Butala said the group had an advantage over other performers.

“When I was a kid, I was in a choir that sang in 17 different languages. We went around the world,” he said. “Capitol Records was an international record label, and instead of our records just being hits in the United States, our records were released around the world. Our popularity was romantic ballads; they were universal, because people fall in love in every language in every country. The Beatles were known for their British Invasion music; the Beach Boys are known for their surfing and hot-rod music; The Lettermen are known for our backseat music.

“When we received inquiries to go to different countries, I taught the other two guys at least one song in each language of the countries we were going to. They wanted us in their country because they played the Lettermen songs in English, but we’d do two or three songs in their language. We showed them we cared, and we tried harder to please them instead of looking down on them.”

Butala said being on Capitol Records was a great experience.

“When we signed to Capitol in 1960, they were just expanding, and they became the first international company,” he said. “Shortly after we signed to Capitol, they signed my friends the Beach Boys. Then shortly after, they signed the Beatles. We were the first ones in … (and were) three big recording acts that helped each other. If you’re a disc jockey in Des Moines, Iowa, playing a Lettermen record, when the Capitol promotions person went there a couple of months later, he’d say, ‘We have this new group called the Beach Boys, and if you play the Beach Boys, I’ll give you the first play of the next Lettermen hit.’ It was a big help and an exciting label to be on at the time.”

Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys is a big fan of the Lettermen, and the Lettermen style can be heard as an influence on many Beach Boys songs.

“He came to one of our sessions saying, ‘I want to sing just like you guys,’” Butala said. “Well, the great thing is he’s a genius, and he did some ballads after that, but he did them in a different way. There was no competition, and it was all camaraderie. It was a wonderful time.”

As pop music faded in popularity in favor of rock ’n’ roll, which itself began changing, The Lettermen tried to adapt with times. However, it proved to be too difficult, Butala said.

“People just never heard the stuff we tried, because it was commercially never played,” he said. “In the ’60s, when all the counterculture music was coming, the Lettermen actually recorded a song called ‘All the Gray Haired Men,’ and it was kind of a rebel song. It was putting down the people older than 30 in a way that was saying you can’t think old; you have to think young. We got about five air plays and sold 10 copies to our relatives. We learned by experiment: That wasn’t us. After that, we stuck to what we knew about and kept the romantic ballads coming.”

When I asked Butala if he was tired of touring, he scoffed at the question and said he had no gripes.

“We’ve performed at least 50 shows a year for 56 straight years,” he said. “We try to adapt our shows to the audience that we’re performing to.”

The Lettermen will perform at 3 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 24, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $28 to $68. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit

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