No gimmicks, Lee Bob Watson & the Truth just rock

The former Jackpot musician is back with a full band and a new purpose

No politics, no statements, just music.

No politics, no statements, just music.

Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Miller

Lee Bob & The Truth perform at 9 p.m. on Friday, November 28, at Old Ironsides, 1901 10th Street. Tickets are $6. Kevin and Allyson Seconds and Brian Rogers are also on the bill. For more, visit

Lee Bob Watson disappeared for a while.

He moved to Asia and taught English. He went to Africa and sound engineered parts of a documentary. He traveled to Europe, just because.

Now the musician—perhaps best known locally for his years in the Sacramento rock band Jackpot—has finally settled down in Berkeley, and he’s got a new band and a new sound.

Lee Bob & the Truth makes its Sacramento debut on Friday, November 28, at Old Ironsides, the same venue that functioned as a home base for Jackpot back in its heyday. Watson remembers the club fondly, as well as the freedom and flexibility in Sacramento’s music scene as a whole.

“There was such a broad network for musicians; different scenes overlapped,” he says. “You had a real supportive community.”

That isn’t to say the Bay Area’s scene holds no sense of community. Rather, Watson’s just been off doing his own thing, often solo and on the road. Things may eventually change with the band, which is made up of Watson, Josh Lippi and Steve Wyreman—three accomplished artists with their own overlapping histories.

Lippi, born and raised in Sacramento, founded the Sammies Hall of Fame soul band Bucho. These days in San Francisco, he plays bass with The Park, a backing band for the likes of British soul singer Alice Russell and the electro-pop act Wallpaper.

Wyreman sometimes plays with The Park. He’s also a member of the hip-hop collective Cocaine 80s.

Then there’s Watson, who grew up in Sacramento by way of Los Angeles. Over the years he’s created a slew of unique, now-defunct projects—look up Western Family Orchestra and Santa Cruz Gospel Choir—and spent a few years as an Americana solo artist with Nevada City’s Grassroots Records. One short-lived, Sacramento-based project was the jazz-tinged funk band Happy Mayfield. It featured Lippi on bass—the pair met at Sacramento High School, while Watson was a substitute teacher and Lippi still a student.

Then, about a year ago, Watson felt ready to record another album. But he wanted a rock band—one with no tricks, no gimmicks and an organic approach to the studio process. He linked up with Lippi again and built his first real band.

“It’s a full collaboration but it also kind of feels like what I wanted to do as a solo artist,” Watson says. “This is my soul, my channel of energy.”

The debut record The Truth will be independently released sometime in early 2015. Watson describes it as “snapshots of the times” in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The first single “Mission Breakdown” is currently streaming online. It’s a tight, fast and upbeat track with Watson’s bluesy, slightly twangy voice describing the ideals and realities of San Francisco’s Mission District. Google Glass, Twitter and the start-up engine earn prominent shout-outs.

“’Mission Breakdown’ is a play on words, but there are actually a lot of heated arguments all the time. That’s real, and I don’t want to downplay that,” Watson says. “But every city or endeavor has a trajectory, a sense of purpose. And sometimes you start to see that sense of purpose break down.”

The Truth isn’t a political album, though. Folks are being priced out of neighborhoods—just about every San Francisco neighborhood—and Watson’s response is to reflect in some honest rock ’n’ roll.

“I have no big statement to make,” he says. “It’s more about people—what does this mean in people’s lives?”