Ray Brandes

Under Appreciated


The blog entry on the Crawdaddys is headlined:  “In a Ché Underground exclusive, Ray Brandes offers the first comprehensive history of San Diego’s original retro-visionaries.”  Ray Brandes was previously a member of the Mystery Machine, which contributed a mind-bogglingly great song called “She’s Not Mine” (written by Carl Rusk) to a Voxx Records garage rock band “competition” called Battle of the Garages, Part 2  


The Ray Brandes post begins:  “The Crawdaddys have been called one of the most influential bands ever to come out of San Diego.  When one looks at the groups its members have spawned, as well as the recurring popularity of ’60s-style punk and rhythm and blues over the past 30 years, it’s hard to dispute that assertion.  Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of music history, an uncompromising commitment to artistic integrity, and a roster of musicians with unparalleled talents and distinct individual styles, the Crawdaddys single-handedly gave birth to the revival of garage music in the late 1970’s in the United States.” 


Tim LaMadrid came on the scene again to help out the band; Ray Brandes calls him “an unsung hero in the history of the Crawdaddys”.  Besides taking all of the band’s photographs, LaMadrid borrowed a four-track, reel-to-reel tape recorder from his school and supervised the recording of the tracks for their first album over a two-day period. 


Ray Brandes describes the band’s approach to the recording sessions:  “Since the Crawdaddys’ legendary obsession with authenticity also applied to the equipment used to play and record the songs on the album, every sound needed to be justified by a musical recording of the era; and this of course meant no instruments manufactured after 1965, and no round-wound bass strings, nylon picks or synthetic drum heads.”  Jack White basically felt the same way. so the White Stripes similarly used vintage equipment in many of their recordings. 


Mike Stax’s return to San Diego in May 1982 triggered the exit of the original Crawdaddys bassist Mark Zadarnowski.  This time, Stax came to town with an agenda; Stax is quoted by Ray Brandes:  “I returned with lots of tapes of obscure ’60s beat, R&B and garage stuff; and we began to learn a lot of new covers, stuff like ‘Chicago’ by the Phantom Brothers, ‘She Just Satisfies’ by Jimmy Page [which I had figured inspired the band’s original “I’m Dissatisfied], the Bootsversion of ‘Jump Back [Baby]’ and the SorrowsYou Got What I Want’.  The rest of the band was finally open to doing stuff like this, which I’d been advocating all along, rather than being a purist R&B/blues band who only did songs by the original black artists.”  


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Members of the Crawdaddys went on to populate many other California bands; I have already mentioned several of them.  The future UARB (probably by year’s end) and another like-minded San Diego band called the Tell-Tale Hearts (named after a famous Edgar Allan Poe story, “The Tell-Tale Heart) has numerous connections with the band.  Former Crawdaddys bass guitarist Mike Stax was a founding member, as were Mystery Machine alumni Bill Calhoun and Ray Brandes (I praised and heavily borrowed from Brandes’s fine biography of the Crawdaddys in preparing this post).  Another past CrawdaddyPeter Miesner contributed guitar on two tracks on the Tell-Tale Hearts CD that I have, High Tide (Big Noses & Pizza Faces), with the name adapted from that of the first Rolling Stones retrospective album, Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass) (1966)


(January 2015/2)


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Another bandmember in the Tell-Tale HeartsRay Brandes is also an author.  His book on the San Diego underground rock scene, Getting Nowhere Fast came out in December 2015.  I had previously borrowed heavily from his history of past UARB the Crawdaddys that I found online a few years ago.  The blurb in Amazon says:  “1976-1986 was a period of time in which urban tribes staked out and ferociously defended their territories; a time when San Diego began to establish for itself an identity as more than just a Navy town with a great zoo.  Getting Nowhere Fast, written by Ray Brandes of the Tell-Tale Hearts, looks at the origins of this period of ‘new’ music in San Diego, and provides an insider’s look at a handful of bands who never quite hit the big time, but who developed cult followings around the world.  The histories of the Zerosthe Penetratorsthe Unknownsthe Crawdaddysthe Tell-Tale Hearts, and several more groups are presented here for the first time in print.”  Remarkably, three of the five bands on this list – the Unknownsthe Crawdaddys, and the Tell-Tale Hearts – are among the UARB’s. 
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The Mystery Machine was formed in 1982 by veterans of several other like-minded bands like the Hedgehogsthe Crawdaddys, and Manual Scan.  Bandmembers included Ray Brandes (vocals), Carl Rusk (acoustic and electric guitar), Mark Zadarnowski (bass guitar), Bill Calhoun (keyboards, saxophone), and David Klowden (drums).  The band stayed together only about one month, but that was long enough to create one of my long-time favorites called “She’s Not Mine” that was included on three different Bomp! Records/Voxx Records compilation albums:  Battle of the Garages, Part 2The Roots of Power Pop, and Destination: Bomp!
Mike Stax joined with Ray BrandesBill Calhoun and David Klowden of the Mystery Machine in creating the Tell-Tale Hearts, along with Eric Bacher who had been in a band called Freddie and the Soup Bowls.  Their first gig was in September 1983 at a yard party; Gravedigger V made their debut at the same event, though they were known as the Shamen at that time.  The Tell-Tale Hearts seemed to hit San Diego at just the right time and quickly became a fixture in several local clubs, serving as the house band for Studio 517 for a time. 
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Stephen Cook with Allmusic gives the album 4½ stars and writes:  “Taking Brit blues invaders like Themthe Animals, and the Yardbirds as a template, not to mention plenty of ’60s garage inspiration, San Diego’s Tell-Tale Hearts forged a fairly original beat homage between 1983-1986.  A bit too gritty and blues-based to really fit in with L.A.’s contemporary Byrds and pop-psychedelia revival (the Rain Paradethe Three O’ClockPlasticland), the Hearts only cut one album, an EP, and a smattering of singles and live tracks. . . .  Compiled by bassist Mike Stax and featuring the snider-than-Van Morrison vocals of Ray Brandes, the 21-track collection includes studio highlights like ‘(You’re a) Dirty Liar and ‘Me Needing You, as well as some super lo-fi demo covers and a live rendition of the Seeds’ ‘Satisfy You.” 
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After the Tell-Tale Hearts broke up, their former bandmembers and those from another popular local band, Manual Scan joined forces in creating the Shambles, a power pop band that formed in 1990 and is still active.  Kevin Donaker-Ring and Bart Mendoza, both of Manual Scan, started playing with first Ray Brandes and later David Klowden of the Tell-Tale Hearts, plus Mark Z, formerly of the Crawdaddys.  Another ex-Heart, keyboard wiz Bill Calhoun was added at a later date.  The Shambles have had a revolving membership over the years; from what I can tell, none of the bandmembers from the Tell-Tale Hearts are currently with the Shambles
(September 2017)
Last edited: April 7, 2021