By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer– There was a lot of live music in our region over the weekend of October 14 and 15th. There was Dive Bar Folk Rock at Moe’s Music, Classic Rock at Xin Bowl’s Band Night, and Uptown ATX covered most genres of danceable music from the 20th and 21st century in two clubs in Ridgecrest and at Trona’s 2022 All School Reunion.
Uptown ATX hails from Austin via Trona and Ridgecrest, with a couple of well-known musicians from other parts of the country. Austin, Texas is considered “The Live Music Capital of the World” and Uptown ATX has been deemed “Austin’s Premiere Dance Band.” These musicians are pretty astute when it comes to picking songlists to delight specific audiences. In Austin they play Disco, which gets everybody dancing. For their “Sagebrush Tour” of Five Fingers Pub, Partners Bar, and Trona’s Alumni dance, Vocalist/Drummer Johnny Young says, “As a variety cover band you want to always have something for everybody in your pocket.” They delighted locals with Motown sounds, Classic Rock, Country, Funk, Metal, Grunge, and a little disco that emphasized a rock beat.
Johnny Young on drums, Chanin (pronounced Shannon) Edge lead singer, and Jimmy Young on keys all consider the desert their hometown. Johnny and Jimmy are stage names, locals knew them as John and Jim.
These fellows grew up in Trona. Chanin lived in Ridgecrest for 22 years and is a Burroughs High Graduate. Also in the band is Bass Player Manny Morales, well known for being in the heavy metal band, Deliverance. Guitar Player Nate Bushmaker is from a well-known Seattle Grunge band called Emergency Brake. Add to the mix is keyboard/guitar player Gary Reece.
These professional musicians had to do a bit a of sacrifice to come to California. Johnny jokes, “They would probably say, ‘Johnny gets what Johnny wants,’ but I would say you love me.’ This was a big sacrifice for these guys to indulge my craziness and come to California with me and play my reunion.”
Johnny graduated from Trona High School in 1986. He remembers, “Back in the 80s Trona High had a jazz band along with the orchestra and the marching band .I was part of that jazz band and we went to a jazz festival in Wasco near Bakersfield. It was a big memory because I won this huge gold medal for outstanding soloist and no one else in the band won anything.”
For Trona Alumni of a certain age, Band Teacher George “Pug” Pilcher is remembered with high esteem. Johnny did play with Pug. “I was well known in town as being a pretty good drummer when I was this high (he gestures to below chest level). So Pilcher brought me up from sixth grade into the high school band. That’s the only reason I was ever had him as my band director because he left before I ever made it to high school.”
Jimmy Young graduated from Trona High in 1976. He remembers Pilcher, “I was in the stage band and jazz band and he got us a spot at the Reno Jazz Festival. We came in second. He said you have to wear white pants and he bought us all the same shirt. It was a blue shirt with little white polka dots all over it. We hated that. We couldn’t go unless we all wore the same thing.” He adds, “He was good music teacher.”
Chanin Edge lived in Ridgecrest from 1985 to 2004, graduating from Burroughs High in 1989. She was into sports during her high school years. ‘I was in volleyball my freshman year. I got bumped up to varsity and was one of the star players. I also played softball, and I went straight to varsity. My favorite (softball) memory is that we were playing against a tough team. Nobody was hitting and I got up there and hit a double. I remember I made the paper.”
Johnny and Jimmy’s mom, Edna Whiddon, was honored as one of this year’s Trona Treasures for the 2022 Trona All School Reunion. (See News Review October 7). Johnny says, “She always been a treasure to me. I think it’s awesome that the town recognizes people like that who have been there their entire lives and been dedicated to Trona and stayed there when it would have been so easy to move to Ridgecrest or somewhere else. ”
Johnny captures the true essence of Trona when he says, “There’s a something about growing up in Trona that is different than anywhere else. A lot of people in the bigger cities will have 15 elementary schools that move into four middle schools that move into three high schools. In Trona it’s not like that. You have one elementary school and all those kids go together into intermediate school and together into high school.
“So lifetime friendships just grow and start from there. Even though we all go our separate places when we leave town or when we are old enough to move out. And even though we go live our lives the way we do, or get in trouble the way we do, or whatever happens then, we always have that Trona bond with us.”
Ridgecrest in the 1990s had live music six nights per week in a club near Ridgecrest Cinemas. Johnny and Jimmy were in the house band. Johnny’s not quite sure of the many names the club had, he offers Shenanigans, Double L, Mickey’s Pub. The band was all-male but for special engagements they would hire a female lead singer. In this setting, Johnny and Chanin got off to a rocky start. He was a bit worn out by inebriated women wanting to sit in with the house band. He got a bit tired of that. He tells us, and she concurs, “And so here comes another one. ‘Hey, can my friend sing?’ So I go up to her and I say, ‘What do you want to sing?’” He used a tone of voice that suggested, “Can we just get this over with?” Of course, she was excellent and went on to sing with him in various bands on occasion until she moved away to Texas.
“We were planning to get the old band back together for a concert at Mickey’s in Ridgecrest. We asked her to come back out. At that time we both happened to be single. She came back and did this reunion concert. We hung out together.” For four days they hung out together having a wonderful time. They eventually married and she wanted to live in Texas.
After 40 years of living in the desert, it was a big change for Johnny. But everything fell together in Austin. He found a day job and played his way into the music scene. “It was hard for me because you might be the best drummer in Ridgecrest or Trona. Then you go to Austin, and you’re just an average drummer in a sea of amazing, great talent. It humbles you.”
Professional musicians do not limit themselves to being in one band. In the amorphous world of ever changing and blending bands, Johnny and Chanin have been in many bands. One of which was named Ever World who played and recorded a CD of original Christian Rock music.
Let’s hope these amazing musicians get homesick and come back to play for us.