By Crystal Harrell
The Palm Canyon Roadhouse has been a famous venue in Palm Springs showcasing the Coachella Valley’s unique spectrum of talent. Musicians of all genres and ages have performed onstage to share their favorite original songs to bustling crowds, and now the Palm Canyon Roadhouse will be releasing a compilation album of the artists who have graced its stage called Good Noise. The CD was recorded from Melrose Music Studios in Palm Springs and mixed by David Williams. Good Noise features original tracks from the desert’s hottest artists, such as Derek Jordan Gregg, Jason Nutter & Jesika von Rabbit, and The Grady James Band.
The tracklist for Good Noise is as follows: Derek Jordan Gregg – “House of Cocaine”; The Refills –“One Good Friend”; Richard “Zack” Lindsay – “Footsteps”; The Brad Mercer Band –“Just Wanna Hear My Songs on The Radio”; Braun Fraulein – “You Know Who I Am”; The Grady James Band – “Born Again Country”; Jason Nutter & Jesika von Rabbit – “Joshua Tree”; Mikole Kaar – “Dynamic Dynamo”; Peter “Lucky” Johansen –“Palm Springs Blues”; Joss “Jb” Burrell – “Moon Motel”.
A release party for the Good Noise album will be held at the Palm Canyon Roadhouse on September 22, starting at 8 p.m. Predicted to be one of the biggest nights in entertainment in the desert empire, several bands featured on the compilation CD will be performing and physical copies of Good Noise will be available for purchase.
“Musicians have become our personal charity. Many are true artists with incredible talent but some don’t have two nickels to rub together. However, we get to know them like a second family. We hire them regularly. I know when they’re down on their luck and they never leave hungry or broke. Some have regular jobs too. Some in their teens, some in their 70’s. But they’re all fun. We never miss a chance to let them showcase their original material. Every now and then, you hear one tune and think, ‘Holy cow! This is a great piece of music! It should be on the radio so more people can hear it.’ I guess it’s been happening for so long we’d just become complacent,” explained Palm Canyon Roadhouse owner Greg Rivers.
Rivers got the idea to produce the compilation album a few months ago when Derek Jordan Gregg was performing at the Roadhouse. One of the bartenders praised an original song and expressed that they’d download it if they could. That was when Greg has the idea of recording tracks from different artists who performed at the venue. He told his wife Eleanor and talked with Steve Johns, the Roadhouse’s entertainment director. They both agreed it was a good idea and the timing was excellent. One of the big pluses was that David Williams, who owns Melrose Music Studios in Hollywood, had just opened a branch studio in Palm Springs about a year ago and had become, not only a regular patron, but a good friend of Greg’s as well.
“I called him, told him our idea, and he jumped all over it. The trouble was narrowing it down to just ten artists for the project. We wanted to represent every genre that plays here so we needed rock, country, easy listening, blues and jazz. We contacted a bunch of prospective candidates right away, said we were going to produce, pay for studio time, cover the artwork, liner notes, post production, sales and advertising. They were staggered. People are funny. The experienced guys jumped on instantly. We had our ten committed in 48 hours. None of this would have come to fruition without the expert guidance of Dave Williams and the crew at Melrose Music. I am truly looking forward to working with him on future projects. Of course, the unsung hero in all of this is my wife Eleanor, with her endless patience for my nitpicking and begging for her help with artwork, computer skills, and opinions. She should have dumped me ages ago,” stated Rivers.
The first step when putting the compilation album together was contacting each band and choosing the song they wanted included. Greg made the final decision on which songs would be used. The next step was to see if each band had a recorded version of the song or if a recording session was needed. Once all of the final mixes for each band were delivered, David Williams then mastered them as a new compilation. Since David did not record and mix all of the songs, they had to be mastered together so they had similar tonality and volume levels, meeting industry standards for all possible commercial audio situations.
“When Greg approached me about doing the Roadhouse compilation, I saw this as an exciting and challenging opportunity. Each of these bands brought something different and compelling to the project. The groups who had music recorded and ready to go delivered very high quality mixes ready for mastering. I recorded those who needed songs but had no previous recordings at Melrose Recording Studios in Palm Springs as well as at The Roadhouse with a mobile recording rig. Finally, everything was mastered at Melrose Mastering in Los Angeles. It was great to meet and work with all of the area’s musicians. I lived in LA for many years and still have a studio in Hollywood. I have been blown away many times by the huge talent in the desert areas! Making Palm Springs my home for the last five years has been the most memorable part of my musical journey so far. With so many great artists who have performed at the Roadhouse, it was tricky deciding who would be included on the first album so we proceeded knowing more volumes would follow,” said Williams.
Rivers has already listened to the Palm Canyon Roadhouse CD a thousand times at home, in his car, at the bar, and when asked which is his favorite track, he realized each one has been in its own time depending on his mood. He believes every single song is a winner, and provides his own thanks and commentary for each featured track here:
Derek Jordan Gregg – “House of Cocaine”: “Derek started playing here as a teenager ten years ago. He plays this throw-away riff at the bar one night, makes up these stupid lyrics, we all laugh, next time he comes in we ask him to do it again. It evolves, suddenly it’s a real song. His vocals, live, are absolutely searing. Dave Williams, who’s produced a billion songs, was very impressed with this offering. “High praise indeed!” Derek won Best Song at the 2020 CV Music Awards this past January for “House of Cocaine”.
The Refills –“One Good Friend”: “The Refills are one of our very regular Friday night bands. Four really nice guys and they play 80’s dance music, which all the girls love. It’s like having MTV live on stage. One night they play this kind of Duran Duran sounding 80’s tune and I just can’t place it. Eleanor comes over and asks me who does that song and I’m stumped, so I ask Woody. He says ‘It’s ours! An original!’ Now it’s Eleanor’s favorite and we couldn’t have done the CD without these guys. A fun dance-able tune by four genuinely nice guys.”
Richard “Zack” Lindsay – “Footsteps”: “Zack (my personal in-house Beatle) is retired U.S. Navy intelligence. He speaks a bunch of languages, plays a badass guitar, writes incredible lyrics, and drinks at our place almost every weekend. We go to his place each year for Christmas dinner. He makes the best Yorkshire pudding in the world! He plays mostly original music, but does incredible covers when he wants. One of my favorite guys, he had to be on this record. His voice is eerily similar to John Lennon’s voice. I’ve had more than one person come in the bar when Zack’s song is playing on the house system and ask, ‘Is this a John Lennon song that I just haven’t heard before?’ When I tell this to Zack he just grins and shrugs it off. Cool as a cucumber.”
The Brad Mercer Band –“Just Wanna Hear My Songs on The Radio”: “Brad Mercer has been a local radio DJ and musician here in Palm Springs since the late 70’s. A true professional. One day he’s playing our place and does ‘Just Wanna Hear My Songs on the Radio’ and I loved it immediately. He said he’d written it years ago, but it’s a timeless piece and is the perfect opener to the album. The finest moment? The slide guitar right after the breakdown by my good friend Pete Sutter (but don’t tell Brad that).”
Braun Fraulein – “You Know Who I Am”: “Jimi Heil, Mark Fry, and Eric Mouness formed this power trio Braun Fraulein several years ago. Jimi is another guy that can write like a poet laureate, backs it up with intricate musical compositions and rounds it all out with the most unique voice to ever grace our stage. This band has every gift that Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd has, except exposure. They were the first band I ever felt was way too good to playing a little venue like our place. They were destined for bigger and better things. They really should be playing Wembley Stadium. I’m in the sound booth and Jimi asks me for some feedback on a couple things, we talk, incredibly, he takes my tiny idea and incorporates it into his tune! Now when he plays it he tells people ‘Greg helped us write this tune.’ Not true, but very flattering of him to say. Jimi is a very true and close friend as well. In the words of Nigel Tufnel, ‘This one needs to be played at eleven!’”
The Grady James Band – “Born Again Country”: “Grady James, we absolutely love him! He played his first gig at our place several years ago. A young, shy, talented country music kid. We knew right away we had to keep our eye on this one! He possesses every single gift a performer really needs to succeed. He’s all- American good looking, has a great stage presence, smiles all the time, no drugs, no booze (well, very little), believes in God and country and doesn’t mind telling you so, his mom’s his biggest fan, and he treats her like a queen. He has that old fashioned ‘look you in the eye and shake your hand, Yes sir’ attitude about him. He moved to Nashville to follow his dream and it’s happening. Then he wrote this song ‘Born Again Country’, calls, and asks if he can shoot the video for it in our bar. We’re like, ‘Are you kidding?!?! Of course you can!’ Dale, our daytime bartender, even has a spot in it. To give you an idea where Grady’s head is at, when we were putting this album together and all the artists were vying for studio time and album placement, all excited like little kids of course, Grady’s first words to me were, ‘Gee, I can’t wait to hear all the other great musicians on this album.’ A sincerely nice statement and right from the heart. I want him to be the guy that makes it so big that people eventually say, ‘No way he played your bar!’”
Jason Nutter & Jesika von Rabbit – “Joshua Tree”: “Jason and Jesika are both great performers in their own right. They got together for this tune and it turned out perfect. Jesika lives up the hill in Joshua Tree, and has a terrific following. A very talented girl and I always enjoy her much too infrequent visits. Jason is a paradox. A big gruff looking guy covered in tattoos who you’d think would look more comfortable on a Harley than on stage, but when he picks up that guitar and you hear his mellifluous voice, you’ll do a double take just like everyone else does the first time they hear him. He has his fingers in many pots. He owns a record shop just up the street from our place, holds many fundraisers for underprivileged children, and we use him as an opener for many of our tribute shows. He’ll definitely be on Volume 2.”
Mikole Kaar – “Dynamic Dynamo”: “Mike Kaar, my little buddy with the big sax sound. Kind of quiet, almost subdued but with a great sense of humor and a ready smile. He’s been coming in and out of the Roadhouse for as long as we’ve been here. A true jazz master in the whole sense of the term. Mike runs our early Sunday Jazz jam, which he convinced me to let him try. Turned it into a raging success immediately. He’s usually a daytime dude, but occasionally he drops in on a Saturday night and sits in as a welcome guest with any band playing. Nothing enhances a rock band like a little brass. When I asked him to be part of the record, he was very happy to oblige. I said I wanted an upbeat jazz song and he said, ‘I’ve got just the thing for you!’ and gave us ‘Dynamic Dynamo’. I listen to this tune and it instantly transports me to Pacific Coast Highway in 1961, speeding along in a full-sized convertible. Mike is an absolute pro.”
Peter “Lucky” Johansen –“Palm Springs Blues”: “Lucky is one cool cat. A real live beatnik style half a century later, keeping it all alive. This tune, ‘Palm Springs Blues’ is so Palm Springs! I don’t think I can pay this song the homage it is due as a tribute to one of the finest eras in music history. But I knew I loved this song the first time I heard him sing the opening line. It’s got everything, everything a tune needs to be a hit. And it is absolutely magnificent in its simplicity. I find myself singing this song out loud when I’m driving my car, having a coffee, working in the garage. It fits anywhere, any time for anyone. A real personal favorite. It makes me want to wear a tux and smoke a guilt-free cigarette while holding a chilled martini.”
Joss “Jb” Burrell – “Moon Motel”: “For the album closer, we had to use one of my closest friends, Joss Burrell and his ‘Moon Motel’. Quick and easy, right? Except for, ‘no wait, we can’t do that one,’ he says the vocals are off, guitar needs changing. Okay, let’s go with ‘Look Away’. Okay yes, that will work. Oh no, he’s not happy with that cut. Harmonies are wrong… and so it went. Every song is in the can, but this one closer and it’s really dragging. I can’t seem to light a fire under Joss to finish. He finally comes clean with me that, as good as he is (and he is good), he just ain’t feelin’ it in the studio. His music is spontaneous, it’s live and written to be performed live. I finally understand his frustration, that his creation is a living thing and he needs the raw jungle feel of a live room for him to make it work. Dave Williams takes it all in stride and says he has it under control and can record him at the Roadhouse. So we record ‘Moon Motel’ live at the Roadhouse in the same fashion as Johnny Rivers at the Whiskey-Go-Go in the early 1960’s and all watch as JB hits the mark with the first take. And then finally, I recognize the predator, confident in his own hunting ground.”