The List: 101 who mattered
From A-Z, these are some of the many people who’ve had a major influence on the musical world of Northern Nevada
Lists are always controversial. When Rolling Stone released its list of top 500 albums of all time, the comments came fast and furious. “Thanks for completely shitting on hip-hop and the influence it has had,” wrote one reader. “According to this list who needs the last 20 years anyway?” wrote another. Even seemingly safe choices proved divisive. “Please get the stinking Beatles off these lists. They are a glorified pop band that for some reason we are all programmed to believe were great.”
Essentially, the comments revealed the problem with lists—they are incredibly subjective and getting two people to agree on what should be included is an exercise in futility. We expect this list to have the same issues.
In fact, the Reno resident who has arguably had the greatest impact on music isn’t included—Reno High School graduate and MTV executive Andy Schuon. The problem is that Schuon, while having an enormous impact on the national music scene, hasn’t specifically influenced Reno music. The same goes for Dolora Zajick, the world’s premiere mezzo-soprano. Or Willy Vlautin, the author and frontman for internationally acclaimed Richmond Fontaine. Or even Olivier Desmet, a person who deejayed in Reno before moving to San Francisco to found Amenti, one of the most influential house and techno labels in the world.
With that in mind, here’s our list of the most influential people in Reno music over the last 25 years. While we know not everyone will agree with the choices, we look forward to the dialogue it will generate.
Donn Arden: The musicians who were employed on Arden’s Hello Hollywood Hello number in the hundreds, many of whom are still in the community today.
Barry Auman: Reno Philharmonic manager who established Pops on the River and was called by Jack Neal “one of the major forces in making the Reno Philharmonic the increasingly important regional symphony orchestra it is.”
Darren Barnes: He has been involved in the Reno music scene since the late ‘80s from deejaying techno under the name D6 to playing drums in local pirate punk band Scurvy Bastards.
Tommy Bell: Casino performer who played at the Peppermill and was known as the “king of late night.” “He made you a believer and you were stoked about going to work the next night because of what you had learned from him,” said longtime Reno musician Gary Setzer.
Bizarre Guitar: This has not only been the place where locals get their guitars, but also one of the only places that you can walk in and have a chance of running into members of Van Halen or touring punk bands. Also one of the few places you can buy a gun along with your guitar.
Rob Brooks: As the current entertainment director for John Ascuaga’s Nugget, he’s brought in famed acts such as Morrissey while also booking local acts such as Kate Cotter. When he was the program director for KRZQ and KTHX he “got more local acts on the air than any deejay I know,” according to local producer Tom Gordon.
Bob Carroll: Catered to the easy listening market for years as a deejay and according to Tony Savage and many others would frequently get local talent on the radio to play their music.
Champagne and Bacon Productions: Steve Emmerich and Ryan Chernick formed Champagne and Bacon in 2005. They specialize in underground electronic music, reggae, hip hop and rock and are well thought of for their Burning Man-inspired productions.
Paul Clark, Chris Green and Noah Khoshbin: They helped start Reno’s first punk club, Daughter Judys, back in the ‘80s along with the highly influential underground radio show Bottom 40.
The Collective: A quintet of professors from UNR whose accomplishments and influences in the local jazz community, both as teachers and players, is practically unrivaled. Trumpet player Larry Engstrom reenergized the Reno Jazz Festival. Peter Epstein on saxophone was credited by the All Music Guide as “creating a contemporary modern sound all his own.” Pianist David Ake has authored the highly regarded book Jazz Cultures. Drummer Andy Heglund organizes the annual Northern Nevada Day of Percussion. Hans Halt, the bass player, has played alongside many famous musician including Ravi Coltrane and Cedar Walton and is credited by Tom Gordon as “guiding more screamin’ bass players out of UNR than you can shake a stick at.”
Jeff Cotton: Promoter who has worked for decades in Northern Nevada booking shows at Rancho Nevada, Big Ed’s, and for most shows at Bartley Ranch.
Daniel Cook: Worked at every level of Reno radio, from local deejay (as “The Sarge") to general manager of Reno Radio Representatives. He was the program director for KOZZ in the 1980s when it ruled the airwaves—unlike any local radio station since.
Kate Cotter: Cotter’s credited by many as being the most popular female singer-songwriter to come out of Reno in the last 25 years. Her dreamy songs and hypnotic voice have influenced many playing in Reno today.
Asa Dakin: He’s played in some of Reno’s biggest bands (Crushstory, Big in Japan, December) and is a name that was continually mentioned by musicians when they cited influential bass players.
Zac Damon: As a guitar player and songwriter he has played in some of Reno’s most influential bands (Zoinks!, Crushstory, Big in Japan) as well as in famed national punk band Screeching Weasel.
Del Mar Station: For rock, this was the club in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Many locals still regard it as a kind of landmark.
Caleb Dollister: Played with the Electrosonics, Grace Gatsbys, and is now touring with Sol Jibe. He’s a jazz drummer that many in the community look up to.
Dotkom and Buddha: Deejays who are credited as being a vital force in the underground hip-hop scene in Reno. They have an underground rap show on the radio and did a weekly hip-hop show for years.
Bruce Van Dyke and Harry Reynolds: These two honchoed one of the great all time Reno radio stations, the X, which was one of the first in the country to play blues and cross-over country. According to Paul Doege, “They are the reason why one-third of the artists who play in Reno have an audience: whether that is Lyle Lovett or Jonny Lang.”
Mark Earnest: Earnest earned respect in the Reno music scene not only as a musician but also as a promoter and journalist.
Jack Fegely: A philanthropist who supported the Reno Philharmonic for years by helping to, among other things, fund the Sunday concerts.
Johnny Fingers: A member of GunShot Licker and Saddle Tramps, as well as a local guitar icon whose style of frantic twang has influenced numerous local guitarists.[page]
Steve Foht: In the ‘90s if there was one rock singer associated with Reno, it was Phat Couch lead singer Steve Foht. He has also been a club owner and is currently in Sex Rock Suitcase.
Cece Gable: Gable’s a jazz songstress who is a frequent local performer and is known as one of the premiere jazz singers on the West Coast.
Ernest and Judy Gardner: Owned and operated EJ’s Jazz Café which, according to Tony Savage, “created a place for jazz to happen in a nice atmosphere. Reno could use a few more of those places.”
Vince Gates: He worked at Maytan Music Center for years before opening up Play Your Own Music in Carson City. He has recorded local artists from The Atomiks to Crushstory. He is also known as a talented guitar and bass player.
Jason Glines: Regarded by some as the most worshipped man in Reno’s music community, he was the role model for almost all Straight Edge kids in town.
Dan Gomez: As the president of Destiny Recording Studios in Stead, he’s made a legitimate business from a home recording studio and recorded dozens of Reno acts for a reasonable price.
Tom Gordon: Worked as a producer at Granny’s and now at Inspired-Amateur Productions. George Pickard credits him with “giving local bands … world class sounds.”
Joe Grissino, Joe Warren: as members of Cosmic Freeway, Reno’s quintessential jam band, they have played with groups such as The String Cheese Incident and Los Lobos. They have also been listed in the High Times Hemp 100.Josh Hageman: This grungy songwriter, guitar-player and drummer is the basement star of a number of bands, most notably This Computer Kills, the group that every Reno punk rock kid between the ages of 17 and 25 is currently trying to rip off.
Ryan Hall: Guitar player in Cranium and Verbal Kint. Tom Gordon calls Ryan, “Reno’s Math Rock king.” He’s also studied around the world with Robert Fripp of King CrimsonHouse Orchestra Conductors: As conductors at some of the major casinos, Donn Conn (Harrah’s and Nugget orchestras, Seventh Floor Funroom), John Carleton (Harrah’s orchestra), Brian Farnon (Harrah’s Tahoe Orchestra), and Al Tronti (Sahara Tahoe Orchestra) hired and inspired multitudes of musicians. They were there during the heyday, the ‘60s-'80s, and played behind all the major entertainers.
Grace Hutchison: As a singer for The Grace Gatsbies, the current education director of the Reno Philharmonic, as well as a teacher of music, she has inspired numerous local musicians.
Barry Jekowsky: One of Reno’s most beloved conductors, he has used his talent and position to encourage young people’s involvement in music, expanding the youth symphony orchestra to two full orchestras and also helping to create the Discovery Music Ensemble and Young People Concerts.
Wally Jones: For years he had the Wally Jones Trio and performed behind every performer at Harold’s club. He was also the conductor of the orchestra at MGM and now plays piano at the Silver Legacy. One of Reno’s most respected musicians.
Vahe Khochayan: Led the Reno Chamber Orchestra for 29 years and in 1984 received the Governor’s Award for Artistic Achievement.
Theodore Kuchar: The second music conductor for the Reno Chamber Orchestra, he is known as being one of the most recorded conductors of his generation, making over 90 CDs for the likes of the Brilliant Classics, Naxos, Marco Polo, and other labels.
Ron Legg: He was the musical director of the Nugget house band, as well as a teacher in local schools. Tony Savage credits him with being “one of the best music teachers to hit this area.”
The Lenz Family: The first family of Reno music. John, Peter, Paul, Andrea and Ruth have been called a “local treasure” by Barry Jekowsky, while Jack Neal opined that “every Lenz seems to be the best at their instrument.”
Matt Mayhall: He has played in some of the best rock ‘n’ roll bands in town (Whiskey, Crushstory, Keyser Soze, Big in Japan) and is also a well respected jazz drummer. Zac Damon says, “He is probably the best drummer to ever come out of Reno.”
Justin Maximof: Started J-MAX, a production company that within the last five years started bringing larger alternative bands to Reno, often at the New Oasis. “He was also booking for Chico and found if he booked for both places he could get bands to do a loop in the time they had between San Francisco and Portland,” said Paul Doege.
Maytan Music: A staple in Reno music for more than 50 years. If you took a music class in Reno this is where you went to rent an instrument.
Joe McKenna: Area legendary jazz bass player who also played with Eat At Joes, The Fantods (the Willies) Gordie Brown and Smoky Joe’s Café. The perfect blend of jazz and pop playing.
Bob McNamara: Helped found the Reno Blues Society in 1993 and helped bring in shows that fertilized the Reno blues scene.
Pete Menchetti: Ran two influential labels, 702 Records and Slovenly Recordings, and has booked shows going back to The Ryland House. Commonly referred to as “the sticker guy” his influence on the local punk scene can’t be overestimated.
Mirabellis: The grand dame of Reno music stores, it set the bar for local stores in terms of service and having a knowledgeable staff.
Mark Moots: Lead singer of December and The Swamp Donkey whose range was envied by many other hardcore singers. Jon Nelson-Kortland: The leader of the influential noise-rock band GOB (not to be confused with the Canadian band “Gob"), Nelson-Kortland also founded the Satan’s Pimp Records label and was a co-founder and manager of Resurrection Records. He currently plays in the acclaimed Seattle grindcore band Iron Lung. Frank Perry: Tony Savage calls him the most influential teacher they have at Maytan. Many of his students are top players in the Reno music scene today.
George Pickard: Lead singer of The Atomiks, one of Reno’s longest lived and most popular bands, he managed to combine rock ‘n’ roll with UFO conspiracies and debaucherous excess.
Robbie Polanski: Longtime area promoter under the name Renegade Productions. He has always been known as “the reggae guy.”
Marianne Psota: Known affectionately as MarAnarchy, she booked for the Blue Lamp. The Zephyr, Area 51, Planet 9 and Brüka Theatre. She was also the office manager of Sierra Sonics Recording Mansion.[page]
Gary Raffanelli and Sandy Selby: Started as Gary and Sandy and the Common Ground at Fitzgerald’s in 1978. They’ve performed everywhere, most recently in a tribute show to Abba at the Grand Sierra. Gary is also the creator of the Slam Grand Piano.
Nick Ramirez: As a member of Phat Couch and Astronot, he was part of two of the most popular bands from the ‘90s. Tom Gordon credits him with writing “some of the best songs this town has ever seen.”
Recycled Records: Owned by Paul Doege, this store is not only known for its wide selection but also its colorful and knowledgeable staff. It’s hard to imagine a music store that has been more influential over the last 25 years.
Barry Rivlin: Managing partner of Hacienda del Sol thru the ‘80s and ‘90s. Often put his own money on the line for shows that he felt were important rather than shows that made good business sense. “In sheer dollars, Barry outranks most individuals in Reno music history for that,” says Jeff Cotton.
Scotty Roller and “Big John” Von Nolde: Founding members of one of Reno’s extremely popular local bands, The Saddle Tramps. Their rockabilly style continually pushes the envelope in terms of lyrical decadence.
Phillip Ruder: Recently retired concert master of the Reno Chamber Orchestra and Reno Philharmonic. Also an influential teacher at UNR.
Michael Russell: Rapper from Element who goes by the name Metaphysical. With over a decade under his belt, he is one of the earliest and most well-known proponents of hip-hop in the area.
Tony Savage: Legendary area jazz drummer who has played with everyone from Englebert Humperdink to Dizzy Gillespie. Also helped start the Reno Jazz Orchestra back in ‘96. “No one has the fluidity that Tony has,” says Tom Gordon.
Jen Scaffidi: She’s a singer/songwriter as well as a bass and guitar player who has played in several influential Reno bands including Crushstory and The Spark. She is currently with Blunderbusst and also supports musicians with an open mic in Carson City.
Kevin “Seconds” Marvelli: Lead singer of the biggest band to come from Reno, 7 Seconds. His influence was both national and local.
Greg Shanklin: Local blues icon who was an owner of the 3rd St. Blues, arguably the most important blues venue in the last decade. Also did the Blues Project radio show.
John Shipley: Vice president of the Nevada’s chapter of the Musicians Union, he was also a founding member of the Jazz Fusion Band Hiroshima.
Tim Snyder: Violin and vocalist for Sol Jibe, a band that has not only garnered a loyal following with their blend of rock, roots, flamenco, jazz, and world rhythms, but is also gaining national exposure as well.
Soundwave CDs: Local store that was highly supportive of local bands. They also tied in with the X and made it easy for fans of cross-over country and bluegrass to get that type of music.
Todd South: Hosted open mic nights all over Reno and provided venues for local up and coming artist to spread their wings and learn the craft. Currently, hosting an open-mic at Maytan Music.
Eric Stangeland: Has had his hand in numerous areas of Reno music, from guitar teacher at Maytan Music Center, to booking director of the Zephyr and Flowing Tide. He was also a guitar player in Audioboxx and Convicted Innocence.
Starsound Audio: The place in town where locals have gone for years to get their professional sound equipment. Owner Scott Bergstrom has also probably mixed more local and national acts than anyone in town over the last 30-plus years.
Chris (Christophe) Stolle: Area techno/house deejay who threw Reno’s first rave. He was also the first to bring influential deejays to Reno from the Bay Area and beyond.
Jammal Tarkington: Singer and sax player of Keyser Soze, Verbal Kint, Mudsharks and Who Cares. Former booking director of the Green Room
Toni Tennille: Performed in Reno Clubs during their heyday, also did quite a bit of fundraising for Reno music. “Toni always had her hand in helping things get started. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of selflessness on her part,” says Jeff Cotton.
Jason Thomas: Influential drummer of local groups Cranium, December and Kate Cotter, among other. Many say that his talent leaves other drummers drooling.
Cami Thompson: Reno’s diva and show singer extraordinaire with several independent CDs, annual concerts and loads of private students. She performs locally quite a bit and has performed in most of the area’s showrooms. When it comes to the Great American Songbook, there’s probably no one more influential in town.
Bjorn Thorsrud: Former head engineer of Granny’s House and now head engineer and co-producer of Billy Corrigan and Smashing Pumpkins. Produced several local bands and had his own jazz fusion group Fear of Success.
Stacey Tolle: Singer-songwriter for GunShot Licker, Tolle was one of the great Reno rock band front women. Crafted engaging and truthful songs about Reno culture.
Ernie Upton: Mouthpiece and MC for Who Cares. Did Future Rockers with Buddha and Dotkom, an all-ages event where they played old records and explained its impact on hip-hop.
Max Volume: During the ‘80s, Max Volume was the face of heavy metal on local radio station KOZZ. His career in radio is extensive, and he’s one of the great personalities of the Reno scene.
Mike Ward: He was at the forefront of the Straight Edge Hardcore resurgence in the late ‘80s with his bands The Expelled and Discipline. Love it or hate it, Mike definitely changed the shape of Straight Edge to come in Reno.
Levi Watson: Lead singer of Fall Silent. He took the concept of lyric writing for metal to a new level with highly political and topical themes.
Johnny Woytek: Longtime owner of the Zephyr and bass player for Mama’s Trippin. Some have called him Reno’s answer to Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.