True to their school
SoCal’s legendary Paladins to make a rare appearance at Duffy’s
Scorching up the Left Coast from their native San Diego toward Seattle, The Paladins will be dropping by Duffy’s Tavern on Tuesday night to lay down their distinctive brand of rockabilly. It is a sound that has created a hardcore cadre of fans who have supported the band over the course of 20 years and seven albums.
The working-class trio has built its reputation on a hard-pumping rhythm that not only exemplifies straight-ahead rockabilly, but also shows such influences as country, early rock, blues and jazz, with an eclectic set list that can veer from a rhythm & blues groove to Tex-Mex road trip. Underlying that seemingly disparate olio is a swing vibe that damn near demands that if you’re not dancing, then stay the hell out of the way of everyone else.
Formed in late 1980 by singer/guitarist Dave Gonzalez and stand-up-bass player Thomas Yearsley (the true constants in a line-up that has changed only slightly over the past two decades), the band took its name from the character played by Richard Boone in the old western TV series Have Gun, Will Travel. From the very beginning, patrons of the SoCal club scene knew that something special was afoot with this band, at that time a four-piece. The backlash against the disco era was in full swing, and playing hole-in-the-wall dives with such Los Angeles contemporaries as Los Lobos and the Fabulous Thunderbirds, The Paladins fought to bring a true alternative to club-goers hungry for live music with cojones.
Paving the way for the rockabilly revival in the early ‘80s, the band—with no real major-label support to help carry it on the burgeoning wave into the public eye—found itself overshadowed by such pop phenoms as the Stray Cats and the Blasters … overshadowed perhaps, but not outlived.
As the other bands that basked in the limelight eventually splintered off into what were essentially novelty acts, The Paladins stayed the course, developing a strong national and international following. Touring over the intervening years with the likes of the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughan and seminal L.A. punk/country rockers X, they seemed (and still do) to be constantly on the road, although in reality they average “only” about 200 live dates a year (passing over 75,000 miles of pavement in their trusty Dodge van, which has clocked over 400,000 miles on the odometer). Obviously, The Paladins are the real thang, and it’s the emphasis on the live shows that have kept them around for as long as they have.
“We thrive on the sweat and the energy that our crowds create,” Gonzalez says, explaining not only the enduring loyalty of the fans, but also the band’s longevity. “We’ve resisted gimmicks and pigeonholes since the beginning. We just play music we believe in.”
The Paladins clearly continue to enjoy themselves, as exemplified by their long-standing habit of “Paladin-izing” obscure old-school covers, slapping the songs around a bit until they agree to abide by the band’s own rules. Also helping to maintain the traditional feel is the band’s allegiance to vintage equipment, old tube amps and instruments, filling the clubs they play with an authentic roar that rarely has been heard since the days of Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Carl Perkins. Line-ups may change (currently anchoring the trio is drummer Brian Fahey), but The Paladins continue to hold true to the code of the road, and to their fans.
On tour in support of their new album, Palvoline 7, The Paladins appear Aug. 21 at Duffy’s. Tickets are $8 advance, $10 door (if not sold outseating is limited). Show starts at ten-ish, Chico time.