Tucson’s Legendary Bands Celebrate the City’s Desert Rock History | Music
In the annals of Tucson desert rock history, Saturday’s “The Whole Enchilada” might rank as the most historic.
On Saturday, April 16, some of Tucson’s most legendary bands from the late 1970s to early 1990s will share the stage at the Congress Plaza Hotel for the book/album release “The Whole Enchilada: The History of Desert Rock , Tucson, Arizona, 1978-1994.”
This is the ultimate anthology of Tucson desert rock – profiles and photos of 28 Tucson bands from that era and a three-disc (yes, vinyl) collection of 31 songs by bands whose music was the soundtrack of people as the creator of the book Rich Hopkins.
“This is the Tucson musical soundtrack of my life, but I also believe that the songs featured on these three albums and the bands’ stories are a true testament to all of the Tucson musicians, producers, engineers, photographers and graphic designers who made the music and created the inspiration,” Hopkins wrote in the book’s introduction.
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The book, designed by Hopkins and edited by Brian J. Smith of Tucson post-punk/new wave band The Pills, features 27 Tucson bands from the 1978-94 era whose music embodied the definition of desert rock – this sense of belonging that separated groups in Tucson and the Sonoran Desert from their urban counterparts in Phoenix and Los Angeles.
“It sums up an era of what I consider desert rock,” Hopkins said. “You have to go back to country rock and then to punk bands. It really is a time capsule.
Many profiles in the book were written by the bands themselves, recounting their rises and falls and the scene that unfolded at long-gone dive bars including The Stumble Inn and Pearl’s Hurricane and clubs like Choo Choos and The Pawnbroker.
Douglas “Fini” Finical, whose day job is to run his nautical-themed restaurant and bar Fini’s Landing in the foothills and Oro Valley, curated the group’s black-and-white photos and designed the book, drawing inspiration from of South Tucson’s Mexican restaurant El Torero.
Finical’s cover design is the Arizona flag created with blue tortilla chips and enchiladas on a vinyl record. The back cover which lists the record cuts resembles the menu of El Torero: the songs “Side A” are under “Combinations & Sides” and “Side B” is under “Canciones & Lados” (Songs & Sides). Bottom: “No substitutions”. the same language you find on the menu at El Torero, 231 E. 26th St.
The three-disc collection includes tracks from Serfers, The Pills, Howe Gelb, Los Lasers, Jonny Sevin, River Roses, Gila Bend, Stefan George, The New Drakes, Chris Boroughs and The Nationals, Ned Sutton, Chuck Wagon and the Wheels , The Freds, Fish Karma, Dusty Chaps, Giant Sandworms, Rainer, The Sidewinders and Brain Damage Orchestra among others. There are 31 songs in all, several of which have never been released before, including a contribution from Howe Gelb, Hopkins said.
Hopkins, who owns Hurricane Records on North Fourth Avenue, curated the album largely from his own record collection.
“These are all groups that I already liked a lot. I had their records in one form or another in my own collection for years of listening to and buying records,” he said.
Other more obscure recordings were from demo tapes and one from a quarter-inch beat-reel reel.
All of the artists or their heirs in the case of those who have passed away have agreed to release the songs with all proceeds from the project’s sales to benefit the needy and homeless through the Casa Maria soup kitchen on East 26th Street.
“Nobody’s making any money,” said Hopkins, who funded the project. “Anyone can feel like they’ve contributed something.”
“It’s amazing. The whole production, I’m so impressed,” said David Slutes, a member of Hopkins’ band Sidewinders, music director at the Congress Hotel. am so proud of it. It’s a real document and I think people will really appreciate it. It’s a wonderful little document of Tucson’s music history.
The release party for “The Whole Enchilada” will feature performances by members of several of the bands featured in the book:
Howe Gelb and Giant Sand, who started life as Giant Sandworms with the late Rainer Ptacek
Hopkins’s Sidewinders, with founding leader Slutes
River Roses, whose member Chris Holiman said in the book, had arguably the most “consistent and fervent following” thanks to the songwriting/vocal chops of Holiman and Caitlin von Schmidt.
Von Schmidt, who released only one solo album after leaving the band
Comedic singer-songwriter Fish Karma (aka Terry Owen), who has recorded a dozen albums with titles ranging from “Rockin’ and Rollin’ with Little Baby Jesus” (“Sunnyslope”) to “Swap Meet Woman (“To Hell With Love, I’m Going Bowling”)
The legendary Chuck Wagon and the Wheels, who Hopkins said was at the top of Tucson’s musical food chain with George Hawke and Dusty Chaps and Ned Sutton, died last September at 73
Naked Prey by drummer Van Christian, who recorded a few albums on small independent labels and had a song, “The Story Never Ends”, featured on the TV show “Miami Vice”. Christian was also a member of the Serfers.
Gila Bend, the metal-tinged roots country rock band, with Al Perry, James Blackhall, Loren Dircks and Tommy Larkins
Billy Sedlmayr, who laid deep musical roots in Tucson, including playing with Giant Sandworms
And the blues and rock jam band Wayback Machine, which technically doesn’t fit into the 1978-94 period – they got together in the late 1990s – but whose members certainly had ties to that era.
“(The concert) reminds me a lot of the very first HoCo festival in 2005,” Slutes said of the lineup, which he helped organize. “It really resonated with me because of that, all the music that a lot of people grew up with here.”
The HoCo Festival at the Congress Hotel, which featured local bands alongside national tours, last took place in 2019.
Saturday’s all-ages concert begins at 4 p.m. at the Congress Plaza Hotel, 311 E. Congress St. Tickets are $18 in advance through hotelcongress.com; it’s $20 per show day.
Copies of “The Whole Enchilada” will be available for sale ($50) and band t-shirts and posters will also be on sale. The Plaza Eats food truck, part of the Congress Hotel, will sell enchiladas.
Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at [email protected] On Twitter @Starburch