This time I decided to focus on two Sacramentans who are not predominantly musicians but have contributed to the River City music community so significantly that I felt I just had to include them.
I had known about Jerry Perry for years and came to respect his role in Sacramento’s ever-changing music scene before he and I became friends primarily through the sidewalk art festival Chalk It Up. (I eventually became a volunteer after serving a few years as an artist and Jerry was a dedicated board member.) Jerry was Sacramento’s premiere music promoter for many years beginning in the early Eighties. He also published Alive & Kicking, a magazine that featured local bands and musicians on its covers and in articles that made interviews more fun than what would be typically found in rock mags. (Jerry would sometimes take a band bowling or to a drive-in theater, for example.) He opened the Cattle Club to host shows for local bands like Cake as well as touring acts like Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. He successfully booked shows for many years for prominent clubs like Old Ironsides and served as the host and booker for the popular Concerts in the Park series each summer in Downtown Sacramento. Unfortunately, Jerry’s empire gradually began to crumble as each of these fell by the wayside. Other venues that he put on shows for like Bows & Arrows and Luigi’s Fungarden have since closed, and there are a number of promoters in town who have been giving Jerry more competition to deal with. However, Jerry was there at a time when virtually no one else was and saw there was a need for more involvement in order to bring Sacramento’s musical talent out in the open. And he’s still keeping busy putting on great shows at Harlow’s and organizing the Hot Lunch series at Fremont Park during the summer. For anyone who’s ever felt the compulsion to say “Hey, you just gotta hear this!,” Jerry truly is a hero in Sacramento. You can find a terrific two-part interview with Jerry here and here that shows just how much of an impact he’s had over the years as well as how much is gone now from his impressive career.
Jackson Griffith does occasionally play music in the singer/songwriter mode, but his claim to fame will always be as Sacramento’s most highly-acclaimed writer covering the local music scene. He began his career in earnest as the head writer for Tower Records’ Pulse! after initial editor Mike Farrace established the magazine in 1983. With Griffith leading the way (along with journalist Marc Weidenbaum and cartoonist Adrian Tomine), the initially-free Pulse! survived for years primarily on advertising until it folded in 2003, and it established itself as an authority on important bands and musicians not featured in more mainstream American rock publications like Rolling Stone and Spin. (One of my favorite segments was Desert Island Discs, which encouraged readers to submit their list of essential albums. I was quite pleased to have my own “Ladies Only” Top 10 inventory published, although it would be significantly different if I were to compile it today.) Jackson then made a name for himself on a local level writing for The Sacramento News & Review and Alive & Kicking, and I admit I’ve purchased a few CDs based on his reviews. I’ve already included a link for his piece about David Houston in my entry for Public Nuisance, but here’s another excellent article from the SN&R in which he wrote about a number of Sacramento’s lesser-known artists.
Jerry believes Jackson would be the perfect person to write the definitive book about the history of Tower Records since he had been employed with the company for several years before moving on to Pulse! I’d be inclined to agree and would also like to see him do an overview of Sacramento’s music history from past to present that would include both the breakout acts (Cake, The Deftones) as well as the more obscure standouts (any and all covered in Lost in Sacramento). But Jackson apparently hasn’t expressed an interest in taking on such projects and would rather focus on his own music for the time being. Let’s hope he’ll have a change of heart someday.