Musicians can be found in the strangest of places so it's no surprise that country music guitar icon Eugene Moles checked in from a special destination on Wednesday.
“I’m at the (Kern) County clerk's office getting a marriage license,” he said during an interview.
Before he ties the knot on Friday, he's got some other business to which he will attend: a release party for his self-titled record on Thursday at the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame.
It doesn’t get any more country than that, son.
Whether you’re a classic country music enthusiast, student of guitar or music historian, the name Eugene Moles should be an essential part of your studies. The son of country music pioneer Denver Eugene "Gene" Moles Sr., it’s impossible to find a starting point to his illustrious career as both revered guitar tech and musician. And despite the weight that comes with the territory, Moles is content with having one of the revered resumes in music including (but not limited to) performing as both a Stranger with Merle Haggard and a Buckaroo with Buck Owens. Let’s not forget building guitars, starting at age 15, for the Mosrite Guitars factory under the direction of founder Semie Mosely in Bakersfield during the golden era of The Bakersfield Sound. And that’s just the beginning (try Google for a treasure trove of history).
“I’m very proud of The Bakersfield Sound, and to have grown in the decades it flourished, I feel very fortunate,” he said.
Like the other pioneering electric guitar manufacturers of their time, Mosrite Guitars also has the distinction of being part of the evolution of much more than just country music. From California surf music kings The Ventures, New York punks the Ramones, to Seattle grunge with Nirvana, the Mosrite Guitar has been slung in places a few dared to be different. But in that span of time changed the course of musical history.
“The Mosrite’s guitar design and feature set it apart from other brands at the time, Semie was very innovative.”
Since leaving Bakersfield for Nashville, Moles has stayed active in all areas of the industry performing, working on guitars, and making music in the studio to finish up his latest self-titled release that he will be promoting and selling on Thursday. Featuring a mix of instrumentals and vocal tunes each with authentic Eugene Moles feel, the release also includes an unreleased song by the late Del Reeves that Moles performed regularly during his years on the Grand Ole Opry stage.
“There’s still a vital country music scene for traditional country music. In Nashville, there are many places you find gals singing Bonnie Owens, Wynn Stewart, some western swing, Merle Haggard, Buck. All the old stuff performed by young artists.”
Which makes it perfect for artists such as Moles to be onstage to remind Bakersfield of its musical heritage. It’s not every day locals get a chance to see royalty make a homecoming.
“I usually visit Bakersfield when there’s an event I’m involved with, which is about once or twice a year.”
Joining Moles onstage at the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame will be Justin Branum on fiddle, Mark Abbott on bass, guitarist Craig Smith and drummer Alvis Barnett. As further incentive to not miss this killer lineup, guitar-pickin’ wizard Deke Dickerson — who coincidentally rolled through town this same time last year opening for Marty Stuart— will also perform.
“Deke Dickerson is great. I first knew him through the articles he wrote in Guitar Player Magazine. He hired me to play guitar at the grand opening of the Bakersfield Sound exhibit" at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.
"I love his guitar playing as well as his taste in music.”
If this hasn't been enough to convince you, Moles has a final heartfelt plea.
“I love you, Bakersfield. Please come out and see the show.”
The show is 7 p.m. Thursday at 2230 Q St. Tickets are $25 and $30 (plus service fee) at Bakersfieldmusichalloffame.com or at the venue. For more information, call 864-1701.
Taking over Tokyo, Led Zeppelin style
The phrase "We’re big in Japan" has been thrown around jokingly among self-effacing musicians for as long as I can remember. But what if you had the opportunity to prove it?
That’s exactly what happened to local singer August Young, who performed as a member of famed Led Zeppelin tribute act Mr. Jimmy in front of thousands of rabid classic rock fans at The Ex Theater Roppongi in Tokyo on Dec. 21.
Stepping into the singing shoes of Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, Young seemed born to assume this role onstage after years fronting Bakersfield rock powerhouse The Aviators.
Recommended to Mr. Jimmy by the management of Hollywood's famed Whisky A Go Go, where The Aviators has been making its mark the past few years, it was only a matter of time before a connection would be made. Guitarist Jimmy Sakurai formed Mr. Jimmy in Japan in 1994 performing Zeppelin hits before moving to the States and joining Southern California Led Zeppelin tribute band Led Zeppagain, before re-forming Mr. Jimmy (along with touring as a member of drummer Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening show). That’s a whole lotta Zepp.
Taking up the group’s offer last year, Young jumped into action.
“I was given the set list for the show back in May or June of 2018 and started working on the songs immediately. I worked on this show on and off for six to seven months, studying Robert Plant’s movements and phrasings and also dropped 30 pounds in the process. The show was a full recreation, all the way down to the stage setup, lighting and banter in between songs, of a 1977 bootleg titled 'Listen to this, Eddie.'”
If you’ve caught Young and The Aviators onstage before, you’ve seen Young’s command at the mic with the voice and moves of a classic rocker reincarnated.
Throwing down all the rock god moves in full Zeppelin mode, Mr. Jimmy scored big with Young at the mic. So how was the audience?
“The Japanese crowd was awesome. They were extremely polite. They would clap after every song and cheer and then it would be dead quiet. You had their full attention.”
Big in Japan, indeed.
Fans can catch Young with Mr. Jimmy on Feb. 23 back at the Whisky A Go Go. You can also catch Young as his solo acoustic alter ego, Dive Bar Jesus, all over town in between gigs.