The other side of Bill
Call me an armchair thanatologist. I’ll confess without embarrassment to being a lifelong reader of obituaries. So when our esteemed local daily ran an obit for local-media Renaissance man Bill Rase, who died May 18 at age 79, I read it with much interest.
The Bee did get part of the story in its May 25 obit: Rase’s career as a local bandleader of the pre-rock variety; his tenure at KCRA as a kiddie-show host named Bosun Bill (with quotes from two other big names in Sacramento television, Harry “Captain Sacto” Martin and Stan Atkinson); his stint as a radio disk jockey; and his post-TV career running a studio business, which recorded “everything from advertising jingles to educational videos to public service announcements,” as the article put it.
Missing, however, was the one thing that put Rase on the global map, at least among garage-rock fans: the Bill Rase Recording Studio and Talent Centre on Franklin Boulevard in South Sacramento, which recorded a number of primitive but great-sounding rock records from 1965 to 1968.
One way for Rase to pay the bills was to record the dozens of bands that were sprouting up like mushrooms in suburban garages around town in the wake of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, et al. Most of those local bands are now forgotten, except to hard-core record collectors, but the sides recorded by such combos as the Opposite Six, the Coachmen, the Children of Stone, the Liberty Lads and others still ring with the pure rock ’n’ roll authenticity of their time, a sincere and driving blend of British Invasion pop, So-Cal surf rock, Chicago urban blues, Greenwich Village folk rock and Chuck Berry.
In 2000, reissue label Ace/Big Beat—the English analogue to Rhino Records—released a CD titled The Sound of Young Sacramento: Nuggets From the Golden State, whose 30 tracks were recorded at Rase’s studio. The disc was compiled by Alec Palao, an El Cerrito-based consultant who works for the label. Palao has programmed a lot of sets for Ace, including a fine retrospective of the Merced Blue Notes, a legendary San Joaquin Valley R&B band.
Palao is probably the go-to guy for 1960s teen bands from Northern California, despite his English heritage, or maybe because of it. He got to know Rase when he compiled the record and he insists that, despite the technical limitations, Rase’s records had a magical quality. “His studio had a warm, folksy sound,” he said, contrasting it with Ikon, the other local studio that recorded teen bands (a history documented on last year’s excellent two-CD Frantic Records set, The Ikon Records Story).
Now, don’t get us wrong here. We’re not tweaking the other paper for cluelessness; Bee writer Chris Macias gave The Sound of Young Sacramento a nice write-up when it was released, and there are a few other writers there who have at least a passing familiarity with Sacramento’s garage-rock golden age. It’s just that none of those people are writing obituaries.
A big-band concert dedicated to Rase will take place at 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 17, at East Sacramento’s Bertha Henschel Park, located at 45th and A streets.