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History San Jose is about to rock 'n' roll '60s style

By Laura Rheinheimer - Willow Glen Resident October 18, 2006

Don't be surprised to see platform shoes and bell bottoms at the first "San Jose Rocks," a concert and awards ceremony for locally brewed contributions to rock 'n' roll.

The Oct. 20 concert will feature some of the area's top music-makers of yesteryear at History Park in San Jose.

Event cofounder Dan Orloff expects baby boomers to come like riders on the storm to relive the vibrant music scene.

"People don't think about history until they become a part of it," Orloff says. "We're a part of it now."

San Jose was a hotspot for rock 'n' roll in the '60s and beyond, says Jud Cost, who has written about rock music for 45 years. San Jose Rocks organizers aim to highlight the action that happened in the garages and coffee shops of Willow Glen and Campbell, and around the South Bay.

The concert will honor five inductees into the San Jose Rocks Hall of Fame. These inaugural inductees are Paul Kantner of the Jefferson Starship, Syndicate of Sound, Count V and John Tristao and Doug Curtis, who founded Electromusic Specialties. The individuals and groups, born in Silicon Valley, will be recognized for some of the biggest breakthroughs rock 'n' roll history, according to Orloff, who also serves as a board member of History San Jose.

Orloff says the proceeds will help fund a permanent spot in History Park for a rock hall of fame. A virtual hall of fame will be launched early next year at Viewers can listen to sound clips, watch videos and read stories about the music and technology that came out of the valley. Individuals can also contribute their own stories.

During the event, attendees will have the chance to bid in a silent auction for rock 'n' roll memorabilia, such as guitars autographed by the Doobie Brothers and Smash Mouth, whose members have ties to the Bay Area.

Jefferson Starship will headline the evening; lead singer Paul Kantner was a San Jose State and Santa Clara University student in the '60s. He helped form Jefferson Airplane, which along with lead singer Grace Slick helped define the Summer of Love sound.

A favorite local band and winner of KFOX's best cover band award, the Groove Kings, will perform with John Tristao, lead singer for Creedence Clearwater Revisited, whose album, Recollection, recently went platinum.

Campbell resident Jim Gordon, 56, sings and plays trumpet and keyboard with the Groove Kings, but his musical expertise goes back to childhood.

Gordon remembers the flourishing music scene in the valley when he was a student at Del Mar High School and aspiring musicians could find an array of venues with crowds of teenagers.

"There was a very strong and emerging music scene early on in San Jose," he says, but people don't think of San Jose when they think of origins of rock 'n' roll.

"I lived this scene," Gordon says. "I was really there."

He has played alongside bands such as Hot Tuna, The Beach Boys and Jerry Lee Lewis.

"We all started out in our parents' garages," Gordon says. Later in his career, he traveled throughout the west with the band Daddy-O.

"Here it is 40 years later, and we're still rocking," Gordon says.

The Count V will also perform its 1966 hit "Psychotic Reaction." The one-hit wonder gained national fame, which has been recognized in the Rock 'n ' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, as one of the most influential songs in the genre's history. Two of the band's members, Phil Indovina and Rocco Astrella, live in Campbell.

Campbell is also the home of Soundtek recording studio, owned by Los Gatos resident Robert Berry, the musical director of San Jose Rocks.

"This concert is based on the '60s," Berry says; he brought some of the biggest-name musicians together from the "free-love" decade.

Berry's own roots in rock go back to his childhood, when musicians would visit his father's music shop when they came to the area to perform. He recalled going backstage for a Count V show at the San Jose Civic Auditorium. Now Count V has recorded in his studio.

In addition to influential bands, some major contributions to music originated in the area, Berry says, such as Markley guitar strings and digital recording technology. He hopes the concert and hall of fame will show that when it comes to rock 'n' roll history, "San Jose can stand on its own two feet."

"I'd like to see all of the musicians and technology honored in one place so people will see how much has come from here," Berry says, "and that will inspire the young musicians."

There's so much rich history, in fact, that the concert has to go decade by decade, Berry says. The event organizers are already being asked to bring the Doobie Brothers or CCR to perform next year.

San Jose Rocks concert, benefit and awards presentation will take place at History San Jose, 1650 Senter Road on Oct. 20 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $100 per person and include dinner, concert, award ceremony and auctions. Tickets are available at

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