British Invasion rock star Ian Whitcomb is set to invade Playa del Rey, albeit without the big beat thunder of his 1960s Bluesville R&B combo.
Instead, these days Whitcomb prefers to invade with a somewhat lighter arsenal — with his trusty ukelele and a pocketful of Tin Pan Alley tunes.
Ian Whitcomb and His Bungalow Boys, featuring guitar mentor Fred Sokolow along with Dave Jones on upright bass, is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sunday, July 22nd, at Cantalini’s Salerno Beach Ristorante, 193 Culver Blvd., Playa del Rey. Admission is free.
Whitcomb’s brief blast of fame started in the early 1960s with the formation of Bluesville, an R&B dance hall band, taking influence from Alexis Corner’s Blues Inc. and other popular blues-fueled groups of the day.
Whitcomb and the combo combined their love of early rock ‘n’ roll ý la Gene Vincent and Elvis Presley with the new mod big beat sound that was taking over the British scene.
Riding a wave of the massive success in America of groups like The Beatles, The Animals and The Rolling Stones, Whitcomb knew it was his time to strike, and he struck big indeed with the novelty tune You Really Turn Me On, which reached number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1965. Whitcomb describes that pre-protest era time as “an idyllic summer when Californians looked beautiful and seemed innocently gorgeous and current affairs meant girls and not war or race riots.”
Whitcomb followed up with a few albums, including Ian Whitcomb’s Mod Mod Music Hall (1966), Yellow Underground (1967) and Sock Me Some Rock (1968), but never was able to repeat the success of the single You Turn Me On. Whitcomb also stakes the claim as the first rocker to be invited to play Doug Weston’s Troubador in West Hollywood, a then-folk-style club that is now a longtime staple of the Los Angeles rock scene.
With Whitcomb’s interests turning backward to turn-of-the-century Tin Pan Alley and jazz tunes and rock music blasting into the future with the harder, louder, hipper psychedelic sounds of Jimi Hendrix and his contemporaries, Whitcomb had fallen off of the rock ‘n’ roll radar by the end of the 1960s.
He has been a Los Angeles resident since 1979, enthusiastically bringing Tin Pan Alley, jazz and parlor songs such as Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go With Friday on Saturday Night? and I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate to supper clubs, libraries, private events and music halls looking for a portal to a long gone musical past.
Whitcomb also is on a gig playing ukulele with chanteuse Janet Klein and Her Parlour Boys, a group of musicians sharing a common thread of interest in the music, looks and customs of ragtime and vaudeville-era music.
Whitcomb has kept busy over the years with film scoring and consulting. He consulted on the hit film The Titanic and released a subsequent CD, Titanic: Music as Heard on the Fateful Voyage, which won a Grammy Award in 1998.
He also made the transformation to author, journalist, disc jockey and historian. He is employed by the State of California performing educational lecture-concerts at rural libraries throughout the state and he continues to release albums, the latest being Old Chestnuts & Rare Treats, featuring Whitcomb with his ukulele, accordion, piano, and orchestra.
Dinner reservations, (310) 821-0018.