This is a list of the many bands I started or played in over the last thirty-five years; however, the linear aspects of this account are suspect. The first real bands started when I was around sixteen in 1970 while attending Aiea High School and Radford High School on Oahu. The beginning and the ending of this history are probably right, but all in between is muddled and possibly out of order. My brother, John Wood, one of the best guitar players in the world, was in at least half of the bands. He also played guitar for Warren Zevon and had dozens of interesting bands himself. Anyone who had been slighted or left out of this account should contact me. I’ll introduce your name to the mayhem or delete it if you want.
MONTEREY MASHERS – At around nine years old, my brother, John, and I didn’t have any instruments, so we used tennis rackets as guitars. Our drummer used a large cardboard box as his only drum. In the cardboard box we put a record player which usually played Beatles songs. Mostly we performed on the sidewalk in front of our house, confusing little kids throughout the neighborhood. Songs: nearly all Beatles with a smattering of Kinks and Dave Clark Five. Notable Gig: my sister’s seventh birthday party where the drummer got embarrassed and hid in the drum knocking over the record player and unmasking our pantomime.
SAVAGE ROSE – Tenth grade maybe, at Aiea High School in Hawaii. The Wood Brothers first sort of real band. Ron played keyboards. Karen Keys was asked to join even though her singing lacked musical qualities because I wanted to have sex with her. I never did, but I felt her boob after one rehearsal. The other female singer, Sonya Mendez, went on to have a successful cabaret singing career. I sang and played harmonica. Songs: For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield, White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane and a lot of blues. Notable Gig: only one, a high school talent show, which we lost.
THE AMAZING WOOD BROTHERS – John and I would take harmonica and guitar and play just about anywhere. Gigs were rare and there was a lot of sitting in the yard and learning to play like ancient bluesmen. I didn’t mind singing because I played harmonica and had an excuse for holding my hands in front of my face. Songs: we did everything we could find by Lightnin’ Hopkins, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, John Hammond Jr. and all things bluesy. Notable Gigs: I can only recall one place that let us play regularly and that was Mama Mia’s Pizzeria, run by a gay hippie. We played in a little room above the pizzeria full of black lights and psychedelia where pot smoking was encouraged. Without question a cool gig for sixteen year olds.
COTTONMOUTH STRANGLING BLUES BAND - The Wood brothers’ first definitely real band that got numerous gigs and was considered cool by girls. We were deep into the blues. I sang and played harmonica; John played guitar; Tim Smith played bass; Steve Kaulback, who had four fingers burned off as a child, played excellent drums. There was another guitar player whose name is lost in the mist and an occasional sax player named Mark. We played mostly at surfer parties on the North Shore, sometimes for hundreds of people. We’d also take generators into the wilds of Oahu and have all night parties fueled by beer and marijuana. People were taken aback at my skinny white boy singing/growling as I tried to sound like a fifty year-old black Chicago/Delta blues shouter. Songs: covers of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Joe Turner, Johnny Winters, John Hammond Jr., Savoy Brown, etc., etc. Noteworthy Gigs: opened for John Mayall and Cheech and Chong at the HIC, a big concert arena, around 1971. Every imaginable thing went wrong: power went off in the middle of a song; the sax player froze from stage fright in the middle of the first song and never came back; and we simply didn’t know how to use our amplifiers in such a huge venue. The next day in a review of the concert, the local paper described us as cacophonous. We also played at the Diamond Head Crater festival with Santana, Journey, Little Feat and some other big bands of the day. The famous bands played in the afternoon and early evening; we played at eight in the morning after having fried on acid all night long on the top of Diamondhead. I stepped on a nail right before going on stage. I think we sounded good.
FUNK DOG JIVE FIVE/THE PROPHETS – As I recall, this was the same band with two different names. We changed names as the gig demanded. We played the military circuit in Hawaii for good money – two or three hundred bucks a night. We were all teenagers except for this twenty- five year-old guitar player who’d fled Texas, for some reason, with thirty or forty vintage guitars and a 1959 Thunderbird Coupe. Songs: cover of the Beatles, the Stones, Creedence Clearwater, Wilson Picket, The Doors and whatever else the rabble demanded. Notable Gigs: military clubs are all pretty much the same. The oddest was the club at the radar station up in the middle of nowhere which paid us three hundred dollars to play for three people for three hours.
THREE RIVERS’ ALL STARS – Brother John and I left the Hawaiian Islands and in an ill-conceived bid for stardom decided to live in a small town called Three Rivers at the foot of Sequoia National Park. The lineup was fluid and at times included our cousins, Steve Harris on bass and Mary Harris on keyboards. Mary ended up playing with Jimmy Buffett for several years. At one point the bass player, Tom Pappas was a sixty year-old-man who lived in a school bus with a large bear that he wrestled at county fairs. Songs: some blues, some country and God knows what all else. Notable gigs: there was only one gig within seventy-five miles, The White Horse, where we played night after night for maybe a hundred bucks a night.
EAT YOUR DOG – Soundly rejected by California, I went back to Hawaii and started a band with high school friends: Dan Cowan on guitar, Mark Bates on drums, and Bernard, who I hear is dead, on bass. Often known as the Eat Your Dog Band because people were confused by the name. It was my first band without brother John. Eat Your Dog was mostly famous for its posters and flyers depicting dogs in toasters and giant pots. Songs: we were deliberately, annoying eclectic, playing everything from Frank Zappa to Bob Dylan to Deep Purple to Billy Holiday to the Beatles. Noteworthy Gigs: most frightening gig was when we were playing in a public park at two in the morning (unauthorized) to about ten of our drunken and stoned friends. Out of the darkness came about ten rather large drunken, paint sniffing Hawaiians who wanted to beat us senseless. Dan Cowan held off several with this guitar while I ran to my car and drove out onto the grass and tried to run them over. The police came and said, “What the hell are you doing out here?”
HONOLULU DOGGS – Eat Your Dog disintegrated under the weight of its own myth. My brother, John, was in a band called Sugar Bear, falling apart thanks to beer. John brought Steve Durret on keyboards and Dave Farne on drums into the fold, and we discovered Gary Souza, an import from California, playing bass in a disco band. We started the Doggs and somehow immediately began getting gigs. We still played parties and drug-saturated all-night beach freakouts, honing our skills and getting tight. This was the Wood Brothers’ first really professional band.We took over a strip joint called The Dragon Lady’s and made it into Waikiki’s first rock club. It was open from ten at night until four in the morning, and we played there six and sometimes seven days a week. Our girlfriends were the waitresses (Debbie, Cathy and Bernadette); the customers were mostly our friends; and it was basically rock & roll heaven for a couple years. Over that time numerous well-known musicians jammed with us: Peter Frampton, Buddy Miles, David Bowie and George Benson’s drummer, members of Foghat, The Bay City Rollers, members of Muddy Waters’ band, Elvin Bishop and God knows who all else because we smoked the best pot in the world all night long. At different times the band was augmented with Tim Krog on Hammond organ, Burnell Caldwell on sax, a violin player named Mikat, and a couple percussionists. Al the Dogg’s adventures in Honolulu can’t be recounted, or remembered really, but . . . one night we tried to play three gigs in three different locations. The first, in a theatre on the North Shore, went fine. Unfortunately we were late to the second gig which was a booze cruise in Pearl Harbor. Our roadies did make it, so we arrived at the pier just in time to watch our equipment sail away. The organizers of the event were miffed at us and deliberately stayed out at sea extra long, making us miss the third gig of the night. Another night, three sisters came into the club and claimed they could sing and wanted to jam. Once they were on stage, we realized they couldn’t sing. They wouldn’t leave the stage because of drunkenness and insanity. The police eventually came, and the three women fought them, losing wigs and clothes in the process. The audience enjoyed it. The band decided to move to Berkeley and seek stardom. This move was financed by wealthy teenaged coke dealers who deposited us in Berkeley then disappeared. We starved and opened up shows for Bo Diddley, Eddie Money, Tom Fogerty and other well-known Bay Area bands. A shifty manager booked us into a bar in Carson City, Nevada for a month. When we got there we discovered the club was expecting an all black disco band. The Honolulu Doggs eventually exploded in Lake Tahoe and fled back to Hawaii.
SEIZURE – The Honolulu Doggs played one last month of gigs in Hawaii at a club called O’Pehr’s. I moved back to California because my girlfriend, Diane, was pregnant, and I went punk rock. It must have been around 1977. I joined Jack Weir’s band, Seizure, and sang his songs which were -- Ramones meets Iggy Pop and the kinks type of affairs. There were maybe 500 very arty punks in San Francisco then and it was a wild, extremely fun scene. We played mostly at the Mabuhay Gardens but occasionally made it down to Los Angeles to play Madame Wong’s. The drummer’s brother (Brett?) played bass for Journey, so we had a nice place to rehearse. The bass player’s name was Danny Machine. Memorable Gigs: Jack once fell out of a three-story building, broke his neck, then played at the Mabuhay the next night on a gurney. I think they kicked me out of the band because I got the David Bowie Pin-Ups haircut. I’m not sure; I can’t really remember.
THE METAL HYMN – Moved back to San Diego because my family lived there. Joined a band started by two chubby brothers who were farmers from New Mexico. They wrote and played poppy death metal. We recorded a little at my brother-in-law’s studio (Bill Day), played maybe five gigs, and broke up within six months because of inertia.
BOP MARTYRS – San Diego semi-all star band. Steve Kelly on bass. Tim Griswold and David Whitney on guitars. A number of drummers including the amazing Joel Kimak. A good rockabilly/blues band. The first drummer was a coke dealer who successfully befuddled the band for months on end, effectively destroying all ambition. Songs: Covers of Johnny Burnett Trio, Gene Vincent, Muddy Waters, Everly Brothers, Elvis, Little Richard, Beatles. Notable Gigs: played at local bar and music maven Bob Bennet’s wedding, and many gigs at whatever club Tim May was running at the time. Various people in the band went crazy on drugs and we quit.
YOUNG & DEAD – Went back to Los Angeles and ran into Honolulu Doggs’ drummer, Dave Farne. We started a fast punk/pop band. Placing an ad in the Music Connection, we found a nationally ranked strange cat – Mark Hale. He was also known professionally as Acidhead because someone dosed him with LSD and he developed a spectacular case of OCD. The bass player from a Hollywood cowpunk band, Blood In The Saddle, rounded the band out until he drowned. Mike Whitely from the Vandals also joined the band for a couple of months. Songs: all original Ramones meets Buzzcocks and the Dickies type stuff. Noteworthy Gigs: opened for Bad Brains and did a dozen or so gigs at Raji’s and Club Lingerie. We changed our name to NOISE BOYS. Dave Farne struggled with heroin addiction and then decided he needed to take a sabbatical and we turned into...
NOISE GOD – China and Rick Agnew from Christian Death signed on – Rick left after one gig to be replaced by two odd little, long black hair in their faces, Gothic metal dudes, Mike Montano and Shadow on dual guitars. We all grew our hair and dyed it black and white in post-punk rebellion. Death Pop was the music. A friend from Hawaii, Paul Chun, played bass and the whole thing descended into heroin and dark madness. We recorded an album for the strange and enigmatic Mystic records which remains lost to this day. We played all over California with the Mentors and Tex and the Horseheads. We did a couple of gigs with Stiv Bator’s Lords of the New Church. Their manager offered to pick up our album and take us to London, but Paul and China couldn’t go because they were afraid that they wouldn’t be able to cop dope in England. Oddest Gig: hired by Mexican political punk maniacs to play in Tijuana. After the gig local cops held Paul and China for ransom, demanding the exact amount we’d been paid. Band broke up after China stole most of our equipment and disappeared. Rick Agnew, China and perhaps Paul Chun are dead.
ONE SIN - Back in San Diego, trying to recover from NOISE GOD, I co-created a poppy nu-wave band with Michelle, a talented, interesting lesbian bass player. We recorded a bunch of songs at Day studio and played a dozen or so gigs at Tim May’s club and the usual alternative venues. I can see the band members’ faces, but I can’t recall any of their names. The band fell apart after six months and very little excitement.
EVIL COWS – Semi-BOP MARTYR resurrection. Whitney and Tim Griswold on guitars. Joel Kimak on drums and Skid Roper on bass. Gut bucket blues and some rockabilly. Named after a Steve Martin short story. Songs: half originals and songs by John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Ray Charles and the Cramps. We played at various punk rock girls’ birthday parties and at the Pink Panther. Not So Notable Gig: after heavy campaigning we got a show opening for the Cramps and The Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Adams Avenue Theatre, but Whitney tells us at the last minute that he can’t play because his girlfriend wants him to go to a barbecue. That was the end of that band.
THE COKERS – Twin brothers, Alvin and Calvin Coker, who play blues and 60’s R & B. They moved to California from the backwoods of Louisiana. I answered their manager’s ad in the Reader. Played a lot of gigs in San Diego and Los Angeles and started to get a pretty good following over about a year’s time. A lot of the punks were suddenly into our music. Alvin and Calvin were square to the point of eccentricity. When we practiced they didn’t want to explain things to anybody else in the band. Alvin always said, “Read my mind!” like I suppose his twin could. Once at a party we had to explain to Calvin what a lesbian was. Alvin was thought to be a virgin until a robust groupie pulled him into the bathroom at the Bacchanal Club. Alvin played guitar; Calvin played bass; we had a number of drummers, and on guitar was Mike, ladies man and wannabe ballet dancer. More than once when we lost power or broke a guitar string, he leapt off the stage and ballet danced wildly, confusing everyone. Our manager, Paul Wong, eventually decided that too many clubs thought the Cokers was a drug reference, so he changed the name of the band to SAINT JAMES & THE VOODOO ROCKERS. Although Alvin and Calvin loved Jimi Hendrix, the ultimate voodoo rocker, they were also Catholics of some sort. Alvin told me, “Saint James, you bettah watch what you callin’ down on yo’ head.” They decided the name was blasphemous and black magicky and so quit, right as we were getting somewhere, after two years.
SAINT JAMES & THE VOODOO ROCKERS – Continued on without the Cokers with an ever evolving cast of characters including: Skid Roper, John Wood, Joel Kimak, Tim Griswold, Mike Draper, Bill Day, Charlene from the Blues Pharohs, Little Chubby from the Rugburns, Ed Day, Dan Mclain, a few drummers lost in the mists of time, and a score of guitarists who quit because they didn’t like my policy of only 12 bars of guitar soloing at a time. Did a lot of recording at Bill Day’s studio and played every single bar in San Diego County. Songs: originals and every type of blues be it Chicago, New Orleans, Texas, Mississippi, London, San Francisco or the moon. If it had 12 bars, we were on it. Also did The Stones, Beatles, Creedence Clearwater and The Blasters if someone would pay us to do it. The band lasted about four years off and on.
THE HIGH DESERT HOWLING COMMANDOES & MADRIGAL SINGERS – A ten man all convict group who performed while incarcerated with second-rate instruments (the guitar was made in Korea and covered in Naugahyde for some reason). We came together at the Adelanto Correctional Facility. Half the band couldn’t play or sing well, but made up for it with hi-jinks and enthusiasm.
SKID ROPER & SAINT JAMES – Gothic blues duo with Skid on cocktail drum, me on harp, guitar and vocals. We played coffee houses, low rent parties and bars. Opened for G Love, Royal Crown Revue and John Doe at the Casbah. Recorded a bunch of songs that are floating around somewhere (darklyabsurd.com). Skid was a great backup man and famous for his stoicism and handlebar mustache.
SAINT JAMES & Danny Cress – Another duo that only played on the street downtown San Diego until one in the morning sometimes. Danny is one of the best drummers in the world, and the time we spent playing on the street was some of the best in my life. We never rehearsed and played every kind of music that ever existed.
THE SAINT JAMES CATASTROPHE – Often more a concept than a band. The live unit was myself on guitar and mutated harmonica, Skid on bass, Danny Cress on drums. In the studio I used machines, samples and noise. We played mostly originals, or truly gut-bucket blues if someone paid for it. Played every bar in the municipal area that would have us. Recorded a lot of stuff at Westwind & Left Coast. I recorded under the Catastrophe name solo doing songs inspired by Trip Hop, Tom Waits, The Doors, The Sex Pistols and Indica. Had a couple of little hits on MPS.com (Lie About My Dreams, Let This Be A Warning). I loved playing with Skid and Danny and wish that it had never ended.