Arts & Entertainment

Traveling to 2020: Best local supergroup

Illustration By Leif Jones

The Mulletville 6

Times had grown tough for hard-rock staple Tesla long before the Mulletville 6—formed in the winter of 2017—was even a vague idea in guitarist Jeff Watson’s fevered mind. Of course, there were the reunion tours of both Tesla and Watson’s own Night Ranger, and there was Tesla’s subsequent “live greatest hits” album in 2010. Although it did as well as previous “greatest hits” repackaging, how many greatest-hits packages can one band recycle? The rock ’n’ roll fire was gone.

It had been a similar story for Night Ranger, Journey and the Eagles: Each had gone on its own slow death spiral through the casino circuit in the first two decades of the 21st century, trying to milk out a lifetime of rock when even their groupies were reaching into their 60s.

Of course, the period between 2010 and 2015 was probably the worst for all of them. Tesla bassist Brian Wheat’s post-rock obsession—New Age religion and transcendental meditation—was to become, for a time, a local in-joke, as the turban he took to wearing around Sacramento alienated him from most of his old fans. It was a similar story with Night Ranger’s Watson. Resettling in Sacramento, his childhood hometown, Watson collected baseball cards and comic books, buying a small house in Midtown and spending long hours staring out the front window as Sacramento summers faded into fall.

What neither Watson nor Wheat knew was that other former Sacramento residents turned classic-rock icons had returned to Sacramento. Jefferson Starship guitarist Craig Chaquico had returned in 2011, and former Dokken guitarist George Lynch in early 2012. Lynch and Chaquico both had joined the Rotary Club and had become fast friends sometime around 2013, reminiscing fondly about their days of heavy-metal excess in the golden years of the 1970s when the drugs were good, the women were willing, and the money kept rolling in. Oh yes, those were the days.

It was Watson who found Wheat’s phone number in the “Spiritual Advisers” section of the Yellow Pages in 2017 and asked if he wanted to jam. Wheat—tired of patchouli oil and incense—agreed. Before that fated evening was up, the two had written the majority of what would become the Mulletville 6’s debut album, which appeared three years, five producers and two record labels later: 2020’s platinum-selling Here Comes the Pussy Wagon. A few more calls brought Lynch into the fold, and it wasn’t long before Lynch convinced an initially reticent Chaquico to join, as well.

Of course, three lead guitars and a bassist do not a band make. For one thing, a vocalist was needed. How the band managed to secure the services of two other former Sacramentans—the Eagles’ Timothy B. Schmidt and Journey’s Steve Perry—is a matter of some controversy. Some say it came down to a game of cards; others, that Wheat had threatened the two with some New Age unicorn crystal hex. The fact remains, though, that both singers joined the group, forming harmony vocals that sent hordes of 65-year-old women into peals of orgiastic glee, brought dogs running from neighboring counties and drove whales to beach themselves up and down the California coastline.

The Mulletville 6 never produced another album, breaking up in a haze of controversy midway through a tour of Japanese temples. The band will be remembered best not for its platinum-selling CD, its revitalization of the “classic rock sound,” the band’s countless tours or the way its very presence changed the median age for groupies from an illegal 17 to a more mature 57, but rather for the way it changed rock fashion. It wasn’t until after the Mulletville 6 that tight leather pants could safely stretch over dangerously rotund asses everywhere.