Keeping Chico’s beat

Jerry Morano


Chico’s own mini-celebrity Jerry Morano is a cofounder, singer and percussionist for one of the area’s longest-running rock bands, Spark ’n’ Cinder. He’s also been a major recycling figure here for decades. He came to Chico back in 1969 after attending the legendary Woodstock Music Festival. Spark ’n’ Cinder is celebrating 35 years this March, with a weekend-long party starting at Manzanita Place March 18.

What brought you to Chico?

In 1969 my friend Victor and I went to the Woodstock Music Festival with about 10 of our friends from New Jersey. We had a great time helping Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farm commune serve food and do other tasks. I helped them mainly so I could get free food, since I’d arrived with only a loaf of white bread and some peanut butter. Two weeks later Victor and I decided to head to San Francisco, where his girlfriend was living, to start our own band. Soon after, his girlfriend left to attend Chico State, so we hitchhiked after her to this tiny town we’d never heard of.

How did Spark ’n’ Cinder come to be?

After arriving in Chico I told my other friends from New Jersey how great Chico was and they also moved here. We started the Supa Nova psychedelic surf band. In the mid-’70s several of us merged with Michael Cannon and the Butte Creek Family Band to form the East West Transcendental Spark ’n’ Cinder Band, which eventually was shortened to just Spark ’n’ Cinder.

How do you feel about the band’s history?

We’ve morphed over the decades but had a lot of fun all along. I’m proud to say we’ll be celebrating our 35th anniversary. We’re hoping to have all 40 members attend, with the lone exception of the late John LaPado, who passed away from cancer in 2006. John was a saint, and sometimes a sinner. Sorry my eyes are watering up, but he was really good to me, and everyone loved him. Our oldest member is Sam Yarbrough, who’s 70, and he’ll be there also.

What is your main occupation now?

I’m the manager for Fair Street Recycling, which is part of the Work Training Center. I oversee the three recycling branches in Oroville, Magalia and our home base of Chico. Last year we recycled 1,400 tons of material.

How did you get involved in recycling?

Twenty-five years ago I was working for the Work Training Center, where we had newspaper recycling boxes around Chico. When curbside recycling took over we started buying returnable bottles and cans from the public. It’s a great way of caring for the environment and many people actually make a living from it.