SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A stellar bill of luminaries from San Francisco and elsewhere come together this Friday night to give a rocking sendoff to the late Flamin’ Groovies singer Roy Loney at the Chapel.
Loney died of severe organ failure on December 13 last year at the age of 73 in San Francisco at the CPMC Davies.
Loney was a key member of one of the most legendary garage-rock bands to emerge from San Francisco during the ’60s. While the Flamin’ Groovies released a series of albums that made little impact on the charts, they exerted a major influence on many punk and power-pop acts that followed in subsequent decades.
Anchored by the songwriting partnership of founding wild man lead singer Loney and guitarist Cyril Jordan, the band embraced a mix of ’50s Sun Records rock and rockabilly (frequently covering songs by the likes of Little Richard and Eddie Cochran), feral garage-rock originals and an ear for punchy pop melodies that nodded to the British Invasion bands of the era. While they may have been out-of-step with the psychedelic sounds that dominated the era, the Groovies would endure to have just as much impact on rock as contemporaries the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane.
Loney got his start in the early ’60s playing guitar and singing with Tim Lynch in the San Francisco band the Kingsmen (not to be confused with the Washington state group with the same name that scored a hit with “Louie Louie”), which would later change its name to the Chosen Few before eventually bringing Jordan into the fold and transforming into the Flamin’ Groovies in 1965.
It wasn’t until they self-released their Sneakers EP in 1968 that they score a record deal with Epic. The resulting debut Supersnazz had so little commercial impact that the label dropped the group within a year of its release, but the album would later become a cult classic. Embodying the same kind of joyful celebration of primitive rock and R&B that would be echoed in both the New York Dolls and the Ramones, the Groovies delivered ferocious originals like “Love Have Mercy” that stood up alongside new renditions of already classic tunes “The Girl Can’t Help It” and “Something Else/Pistol Packin’ Mama.”
The band bounced back by signing to Kama Sutra Records and producing the equally spectacular Flamingo and Teenage Head (featuring the monstrous proto-punk title track), but growing tensions between Loney and Jordan over the direction of the band would lead to the singer’s departure after a performance during the final run of shows at the Fillmore West prior to the venue’s closure in 1971.
Loney would work in a number of music industry jobs — at one point serving as a sales representative for ABC Records — but it would take time before he managed to record and release any new music as a solo artist. In 1978 he released the EP Artistic As Hell with help from Lynch and Jordan before teaming with his new group the Phantom Movers (which also featured former Groovies Danny Mihm on drums and James Ferrell) for the classic Out After Dark album the following year.
The group would put out several more well-received albums and play live regularly before Loney took another break from performing music until he teamed with garage-rock/roots imprint Norton Records to release 1988’s effort with the Phantom Movers, the raw, reverb-drenched The Scientific Bombs Away!!! Jordan would regularly resurface during the ’90s and 2000s, recording with new collaborators like the Longshots (which included members of the Young Fresh Fellows) and making frequent appearances on San Francisco stages to deliver gritty takes on his classic Flamin’ Groovies tunes with admiring disciples.
While the reunited post-Loney Groovies line-up featuring Jordan with singer/guitarist Chris Wilson released the 2017 album Fantastic Plastic, Loney often joined the band onstage to play their classic early songs, The more recent activity eventually led to a string of shows last year performing the landmark Teenage Head album in full. For Friday night’s tribute concert playing songs from throughout Loney’s career, in addition to appearances by both the Flamin’ Groovies and the Phantom Movers, scheduled artists include Yo La Tengo members Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, Seattle musicians Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5, R.E.M.) and Jim Sangster (The Tripwires, Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5), local songwriting heroes Chuck Prophet and Stephanie Finch, SF punk icon Jello Biafra, and Bay Area tunesmith Peter Case (The Nerves, The Plimsouls). Comedian and actor Tom Kenny serves as Master of Ceremonies for this concert that will raise funds for Loney’s alma mater, San Francisco State’s School of Theatre and Dance.
Gonna Rock Tonite – A Tribute to Rockin’ Roy Loney
Friday, Feb. 21, 8 p.m. $30