The Friday, April 7, Column

Tommy Odetto – Photo: Carolyn McCoy

Local Musician Spotlight – Tommy Odetto

It was Codi Binkley that had booked the act the Bad Jones into his venue and then told us “you’ve got to check this guy Tommy Odetto out” and he wasn’t lying. Odetto tore the stage up that night with his blues based hard rock playing, which showed much more prowess than his 28 years on this earth should have allowed. But, after getting to know him a little, it became clear that it was no accident.

Born in Fairfax in Marin County to a fifth generation Fairfax family, there was not a lot of music in his house, his father was a police officer and his mother was a volleyball player, but that didn’t stop young Odetto from checking out the acts in the lively Fairfax music scene by peering through the windows. He put his first professional act, Soul Pie, together when he was just 15 years of age and has been on a quest to play with whoever he can ever since. That quest has had him personally jam with Carlos Santana and lately Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters and his act the Bad Jones has appeared on the marquee with acts like Foreigner, Eddie Money, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and more.

His introduction to Sonoma came with a gig at Steiner’s Tavern, when the venue was doing regular live music, and he quickly acclimated himself to the town. He is currently working on a big double-bill show at the Reel for the summer that will feature Michael Landau and some folks we can’t mention yet. Stay tuned for that, but in the meantime, Odetto will be onstage at the Reel Fish Shop and Grill on Saturday, April 8, to play with some of his Sonoma friends, including Junior Boogie, Zakk Murphy, Kind Daddy Murr and more. Also on the bill is Uncle Jesse and Tri Polar.

Lets get to know Odetto a bit.

1) Many musicians in our generation cite the Beatles or Elvis Presley on Ed Sullivan as that moment when they knew music was what they wanted to do. When and what was it that made you realize you wanted to be a musician?

TO > Funny you mention Elvis, as that’s exactly what it was. Even though I missed that original show by many years, somehow it was on television when I was about eight years old, the old black and white show, and it literally changed my life. I became obsessed with Elvis. I got my hair cut like him, only wore period-specific clothes, and even had the Elvis smirk down. As far as I was concerned, I was going to be Elvis. That eventually led to me discovering more of those artists from the ‘50s, Eddie Cochran, Bill Haley, all those guys.

Tommy Odetto as Elvis

2) That first instrument you owned. What was it and do you still have it?

TO > Yep, my mom still has it and I can go play it any time. It was a red Fender Squire Stratocaster, just like you can buy today. I played that guitar for the first three to five years in my first band.

3) Who are you’re primary influences in your music?

GM > ‘50s rock, clearly. Then when I was 13 someone had an older brother and lots of vinyl records, we didn’t have any of that at my house, and turned me on to Cream, Jimi Hendrix and it was like a whole ‘nother world opened up. But the reality is that I’m a Beatles freak, a huge fan. Rubber Soul is likely my favorite album, but even that’s hard to say. I listen to the Beatles a lot and Brain Wilson and the Pet Sounds album too.

4) What CD or playlist is in your car or your iPod?

TO > Otis Rush. I don’t have an iPod or playlists or any of that. I’m an old school CD guy. There’s also some Temple of the Dogs, Rubber Soul and lately this disc called “Sixties Psychedelic Nuggets” which is a bunch of recordings of totally unknown bands and guys from like ’65 playing some of the most god awful distorted songs through the fuzz boxes of the day, sometimes even out of tune, but it’s amazing.

5) Tell us about your current acts.

TO > The Bad Jones was my most recent band, which was actually the renamed Soul Pie that I have played with for like the last 12 years or so. We’ve played a lot of shows. Lately, and after jamming with Dave Grohl, I realized I wanted to be more of a front man and sing and play, so I’ve been doing a solo act, sometimes with guys I really don’t even play with, like the show this weekend. I’m also doing the Big Brother and the Holding Company gig as their guitar player fairly regularly.

6) If you could have written one song, which one would it be and why?

TO > Dude, just one? There’s so many. Hmm, “Castles in the Sand” by Hendrix, those guitar progressions just flow so naturally, but I would have to say “In My Life” by the Beatles from Rubber Soul. That would be the one.

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Fred and Jackie from Acoustic Soul

Set List – The Rundown

Annex Wine Bar, 865 W. Napa St. Sonoma, 938-7779
Tonight, April 7: Ralph Cetola. 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 8: Noah Trettor. 7:30 p.m.

Friday Farmers Market, Depot Park, 270 First St W. Sonoma
Today, April 7: Stewart Degner. 9:30 a.m.

HopMonk Tavern, 691 Broadway Sonoma, 935-9100
Tonight, April 7: Clay Bell. 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 8: Michael on Fire. 8 p.m.

Murphy’s Irish Pub, 464 First St. E. Sonoma, 935-0660
Tonight, April 7: Timothy O’Neil. 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 8: Blithedale Canyon. 8 p.m.

Olde Sonoma Public House, 18615 Sonoma Hwy. Boyes Hot Springs, 938-7587
Tonight, April 7: Ryan Tatarian. 6:30 p.m. Reggae Night with Byron Borges. 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 8: Karaoke. 7:30 p.m.

The Reel Fish Shop and Grill, 401 Grove St. El Verano, 343-0044
Friday, April 7: Acoustic Soul. 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 8: Junior Boogie with Tommy Odetto and Friends, Tri-Polar. 8:30 p.m.

Sonoma Speakeasy and American Music Hall, 452 First St. E. ste. G. Sonoma, 996-1364
Tonight, April 7: Jim Caroompas. 6:30 p.m. Magic. 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 8: Full Circle. 5 p.m. Grey Stripes. 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 9: Wine Country Blues Band, 5 p.m. Acoustic Blues Jam. 8:30 p.m.

Sonoma Valley Regional Library, 755 W. Napa St. Sonoma, 996-5217
Saturday, April 8: Charged Particles. 2 p.m.

The Starling Bar, 19380 Sonoma Hwy. Sonoma, 996-3055
Tonight, April 7: Half People, Old Earth and the Jigs. 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 9: Straw Wattles. 6:30 p.m.

If your gig isn’t in my column, you didn’t tell me about it. jmberry@sonomamusic.com

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