Meet the Men Who Helped Make OC a Reggae Paradise

Categories: Cover Story

John Gilhooley
Fully Fullwood, OC's Jamaican reggae godfather

*Please see editor's note at the end of the story...

Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach is stuffy--even worse than outside, where historic summer rains are turning Orange County into one giant sauna. But the dancers crowding the floor at the iconic tiki bar don't give a shit. In fact, they're writhing and grooving as if trying to will a storm into the place so it can soak them all and take them to Zion.

Or something like that. What's moving everyone is Reggae Sunday. Younger couples skank, high-step and spin one another around, ballroom style. Groups of beach cougars, gray-haired couples and kids smile and loosen up their limbs to the songs of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff and Gregory Isaacs--the faces carved onto the metaphoric Mount Rushmore of Reggae. Off to the side, a father teaches his doe-eyed daughter, her head full of braids, to dance to the band's stoned, one-two shuffle.

It's just 5:30 in the afternoon, yet the Beachcomber is already packed. From 3 to 7 p.m. every Sunday, George "Fully" Fullwood plunks down bass lines from his fingers as if transmitting straight from Trenchtown. To his right, drummer Rock Deadrick, guitarist and singer Bruno Coon, keyboardist John McKnight, and guitarist Tony Chin help him tear it up. And while most people who come to eat expensive seafood and dance to a cover band probably couldn't name any of the players, Fullwood and his crew get shoutouts of appreciation from the crowd throughout the evening. Because when Fullwood and his band perform songs such as "Jim Screechie," "Taxi Riddim" or their favorite Wailers songs, they're playing more than just covers; listen to the originals, and there's a decent chance it's one of Fullwood's bass lines you're hearing.

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Ron Thomas Fights For Justice For His Son Kelly With a Brand-New Weapon: His Guitar

Categories: Cover Story

John Gilhooley
Ron Thomas: The Righteous Rocker
A man in his late 50s with silver, slicked-back hair sits crosslegged on a drum stool cradling a cream-colored electric guitar. At a glance, he could pass for any other suburban dad paying for a guitar lesson on a Saturday afternoon, trying to recapture the memory of his youth. But when Ron Thomas plays the guitar, he's trying to recapture the memory of his son.

Last spring, he started taking lessons at Sam Ash in Westminster with the goal of perfecting one of his favorite rock & roll classics of the spandex era: Van Halen's 1978 radio hit "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love." Though he has heard the song hundreds of times, being able to play it perfectly is a different story.

He mutters to himself impatiently when he messes up. A couple of times, Thomas' fumbling fingers cause words of frustration to crack through his manicured, snow-white mustache.
"Aw, c'mon! Damn it, you got this," he says to himself. "One more time . . ."

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The Soul of Billy Preston is Being Fought Over in a Santa Ana Courtroom

Categories: Cover Story

"Billy Preston 1901720021" by Heinrich Klaffs is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Billy Preston in Hamburg, Germany
On Nov. 21, 2005, the man known as "The Fifth Beatle" lay on a hospital bed, dressed in street clothes, thrashing and gasping for air. Billy Preston had just arrived at the Intensive Care Unit at Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital in Marina del Rey, rushed there from the Canyon, a nearby drug-rehab center. A large, frustrated nurse wrestled with the legendary, 59-year-old organ player, struggling to fit a black oxygen mask over his face. Eyes wide with fear, Preston dodged his head back and forth, unable to breathe.

Holding his hand at his bedside was Preston's manager, Joyce Moore. She tried in vain to calm him down.

"I gripped him tight and said, 'Boo, you gotta relax,'" Moore says. "I thought he was having a panic attack. I kept saying, 'Breathe with me . . . breathe with me.'"

But it wasn't a panic attack or the pangs of crack withdrawal. Years of drug abuse had culminated in malignant hypertension and pericarditis, the internal drowning of the area around Preston's heart. He mustered the strength to push the mask away, look up at Moore and painfully utter his last words: "I . . . can't!"

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The Growlers and the Rise of Beach Goth

Categories: Cover Story

John Gilhooley
The Growlers (left to right): Matt Taylor, Scott Montoya, Brooks Nielsen, Kyle Straka, Anthony Braun Perry
On a hot October afternoon inside Growlers keyboardist Kyle Straka's stuffy Costa Mesa apartment, all the band can manage to do is stare at one another and laugh. Rock stars are supposed to come home from tour with normal things--broken guitars, hardcore drug addictions, venereal diseases.

But seriously, scabies?

The previous night, Straka and the band's tour manager came down with a bad case of burrowing skin mites--apparently the result of trying on some less-than-sanitary threads at a San Antonio thrift store. This is unfortunate news to the band's gangly bassist Anthony "Anstonio" Braun Perry, who just realized he used one of Straka's towels to take a shower in the apartment. He gulps heavily as his skin turns pale with dread.

"Dude, I used it on my face," he moans. "Oh, my God, fucking gross!"

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Examining Steve Aoki's Piece-of-Cake Stardom

Categories: Cover Story

Photo: Riley Kern | Photo Assist: Genevieve Davis | Cake provided by: Rockwell's Bakery | Photo of Steve Aoki provided by: Brian Ziff/MSO PR
Steve Aoki stands atop a table in front of his DJ equipment in a pair of black board shorts with large X's, reminiscent of his straight-edge hardcore teen years; black sneakers with a leopard print; and a Dim Mak T-shirt. It's after dark on Aug. 29 at Del Mar racetrack. Thousands of fans throw their hands up, neon glow-stick-waving acolytes covered in fluorescent rave kandi and not much else. Confetti rains down from the sky. CO2 cannons belch clouds of high-velocity cold air.

An Asian Jesus look-alike with his wire-thin frame, long, stringy hair and goatee, Aoki is about to baptize the crowd the only way he knows how--with a Betty Crocker bomb covered in white icing. His muscles tense as he prepares to fling a 2-foot-long sheet cake into the screaming masses. Dozens of hysterical teens and twentysomethings proudly hoist up signs that say, "Cake Us," while showing off their Dim Mak paraphernalia, waving them in the air while Aoki bobs his head and shuffles to the beat.

The racetrack seems like an unlikely venue for a super-star DJ used to playing the massive main stages of EDM festivals, but in some ways, it couldn't be more apt. In the world of touring multimillionaire DJs, this dude moves fast.

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How Bob Marley Was Sold to the Suburbs

Categories: Cover Story

Wiki Commons / Eddie Mallin
By: Chris Kornelis

At the time of his death in May 1981, Bob Marley was 36 years old, the biggest star in reggae and the father of at least 11 children. He was not, however, a big seller.

For Dave Robinson, this presented an opportunity.

Two years after Marley's passing, Chris Blackwell, the founder of Marley's label, Island Records, brought Robinson in to run his U.K. operation. Robinson's first assignment was to put out a compilation of Bob Marley's hits. He took one look at the artist's sales figures and was shocked.

Marley's best-selling album, 1977's Exodus, had moved only about 650,000 units in the United States and fewer than 200,000 in the United Kingdom. Those were not shabby numbers, but they weren't in line with the artist's profile.

"Marley was a labor of love for employees of Island Records," says Charly Prevost, who ran Island in the United States for a time in the 1980s. "U2 and Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Robert Palmer is what paid your salary."

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Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley on Their New Arena Football Team

Rickett & Sones
Top row: L.A. Kiss co-owners Schuyler Hoversten, Doc Mcghee, Brett Bouchy; bottom row: Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons

This week, our cover story profiled Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of KISS before they officially launch their new arena football team, the LA KISS inside the Honda Center this month. It's been a big year for KISS. Outside of owning their own AFL team, they've been inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame, an honor they do not take lightly. This interview took place before the controversy surrounding the band's decision not to play in at the ceremony, so any of those questions weren't addressed. Not every tidbit from the interview made the main piece, so here are some of our favorite moments from the story that were left on the cutting room floor (including an episode of road rage Paul Stanley experienced while driving home from Anaheim).

See also: Our cover story on L.A. KISS

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Andrew Youssef, OC Weekly Music Writer-Photographer, Passes Away from Cancer

Categories: Cover Story

Thumbnail image for andrewyoussefpic.jpg
We'll miss you, Amateur Chemist...
Andrew Youssef, longtime OC Weekly music writer-photographer whose valiant battle against colon cancer he documented for us in his "Last Shot" column, passed away peacefully this weekend surrounded by family and friends. He was 38.

We at the Weekly are devastated, and our thoughts and prayers are with him and his loved ones. But we are also happy to know Andrew was able to experience the love and respect of the music world in his last months, a community that would not let their colleague face the damned disease alone.

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Surprise! Punk Rock Picnic Promoter Steve Smith is a No-Show in Small Claims Court

Categories: Cover Story

John Gilhooley
So here's a great snapshot of our less-than-perfect legal system...

Yesterday afternoon marked what should've been the first step in a small claims lawsuit filed against failed local promoter Steve Smith, the guy behind the doomed Punk Rock Picnic Music Festival, which we detailed in last week's cover story. We mentioned last week that Gregg White, an indie label owner and would-be vendor at the festival, was the first person to take legal action against Smith, filing a suit for the nearly $1,000 fee he'd paid for a booth at the festival, which was to be held at the Queen Mary last April before it was abruptly cancelled.

See Also:
*Promoter of Cancelled Punk Rock Picnic Finally Sued By Fed-Up Vendor Who Wants His Money Back
*What the Hell Happened to the Punk Rock Picnic?
*Cover Story: Who Stole the Punk Rock Picnic?

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Promoter of Cancelled Punk Rock Picnic Finally Sued By Fed-Up Vendor Who Wants His Money Back

Categories: Cover Story

Javier Cabral
Punk Rock Picnic 2012 at Oak Canyon Ranch
So remember that whole Punk Rock Picnic Music Festival thing that a lot of people paid money for but never happened? Finally, after three months of ticket holders and vendors waiting for refunds from the cancelled fest, someone has finally launched a lawsuit in small claims court against the show's promoter in an effort to recoup losses. The whole debacle--including an explanation of how the identity of Smith's festival was stolen from the original Punk Rock Picnic--is the subject of this week's cover story, on newsstands tomorrow.

Recently, Gregg White, owner of L.A.-based  mom-and-pop punk label Vacant Lot Entertainment served Picnic promoter Steve Smith with a lawsuit filed in Laguna Hills Justice Center for failing to pay back his vendor investment of almost $1,000 paid last October.

See Also: What the Hell Happened to the Punk Rock Picnic?

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