|The area of San Diego known as Pacific Beach|
San Diego in the early 1990s was at the center of a growing musical movement in the United States. Tired of making miserable wages in the usual downtown jazz holes, many of the area musicians began playing music that blended the jazz improvisation they loved with the sensibility of the soul and funk music they grew up with. Being more akin to instrumental pop music than traditional jazz, this new genre quickly sprouted a healthy following. Being a year-round destination for tourists and corporate events, San Diego was especially well-suited for the new “smooth” jazz. Soon it seemed every hotel lounge, open-air shopping mall, city park, conference center ballroom, and upscale nightclub in the county featured live music sponsored by FM radio’s “Light’s Out” station, 92.7. Gigs were plentiful and for most of the local performers embracing this new fusion it was the first time they were able to make good money playing music they could still consider jazz.
Smooth jazz became so commonplace that its practitioners soon needed to find new approaches to market their sound. Reggae music had recently been popular in the area with groups like the Cardiff Reefers, the Trevor James Band, and the Rough Boys filling the beach bars with the college crowd. Vocalist Kenneth Bogard, known simply as “Bogie,” saw the potential for combining the rhythms of Reggae music with the refined qualities of smooth jazz and eventually created a unique style of music with his band “Dr. Chico’s Island Sounds.” This group featured the unusual instrumentation of steel drums, guitar, a keyboardist who played chords and bass lines, drum set, and, instead of the typical saxophone in a jazz group, an electronic woodwind controller hooked up to a synthesizer. They became a San Diego mainstay and worked solidly every week. I saw them several times at some of the nicest venues in town and, being a musician primarily involved with the local blues scene, envied their popularity and remuneration.
|Playing reggae with The Trevor James Band, 1989|
At the height of Dr. Chico’s popularity I got an unexpected phone call from their singer after he tracked down my number from a mutual friend. “Eh mon, my name is Bogie and I need a keyboardist for a few gigs. Are you interested?” I knew the hard truth—no one confused me with the top keyboardists in town. Guys like Rick Helzer and Shep Myers were a cut above my abilities but I did have a couple aces in the hole; I was young enough to still get better and I could play a wicked left-hand bass. Most keyboardists I knew felt playing bass lines was beneath them and flat out refused gigs where it was expected. Me, I grew up forever trying to musically impress my bass-playing older brother and found I could sometimes do it with left-hand prowess. Playing “key bass” while comping right-hand chords was a skill I became proud of and it eventually earned me thousands of dollars my peers were willing to leave on the table. But, even with my growing reputation for this níche, the voice on the phone, with a blended New York and Jamaican accent, caught me off guard. Not hearing an immediate response from me, Bogie continued, “My regular guy needs a couple weeks off for medical reasons so we need a sub for some gigs in Mission Valley.” I vaguely knew the keyboardist in question and hoped it was nothing serious. Months later I heard a rumor that penile enlargement was involved but I never put it to the test. If I could land the gig, even temporarily, with Island Sounds, my credibility among musicians in town would quickly rise so I tried to answer in a tone that sounded interested but not desperate. “Sounds fun.”
A couple days later Bogie showed up at my place with a guitar case slung over his shoulder and holding a small amp. He wore a headband that highlighted his short but spikey blond hair (think lead vocalist of Loverboy singing “Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend”). His grin of slightly crooked teeth bordered on dopey but my first impression was to like the guy. I already respected him as a musician and was quickly drawn to his laid back style so what was not to like? We set up in my bedroom and played through a few tunes from his usual setlist. My ego would love to recall how we easily blended our styles and knew within the first chorus we had found a long-lost musical brother but it just didn’t happen. The syncopation he was used to just didn’t feel natural to me. I plodded roughly through our first rehearsal and within fifteen minutes knew there would not be a second. I started looking around the room pondering how to extract myself from the situation and was moments away from feigning excruciating gas pains when, in a moment of blissful co-understanding, Bogie asked, “You like Thai food?” Within minutes our gear was packed and we were headed over to the Copper Dragon on University Avenue.
“You’ve got to try the lemon-grass chicken. It’s wicked good.” I took Bogie’s suggestion and also ordered a pot of green tea for us to share. This was working out after all. Even if we weren’t to become serious musical partners, at least we could cross paths in the future with no awkward moments pretending not to see each other. As he hungrily cut into his breast meat we chatted about the local music scene and he referred me to a percussionist friend named Biter who was looking for a keyboardist. After enjoying the rest of our conversation and meal, I took a final sip from the tea cup and we rose to say our goodbyes. He picked up the tab and I laid down a tip. We waved at one another with him pulling away in an undistinguished sedan and me on my Yamaha. Except for some upcoming appearances on local television I never saw the man again.
|Around the time I had auditioned for “Dr. Chico”|
San Diego State University, usually called “State” by its 35,000 students, was one hell of a fun school back then. Playboy magazine rated it as the third-best party school in the nation which quickly gave rise to t-shirts and bumper stickers proclaiming, “#3 and Improving.” The riotous student life necessitated an active university police force that spent considerable hours patrolling the neighborhood parties sometimes attended by hundreds. The school cops were specifically on the hunt for a flasher who had been accosting lone females as they left parties. He had been nick-named “Zorro” due to the Lone Ranger-style mask used to cover his face. Eventually, one of these women thought she recognized Zorro as a popular San Diego singer but without more evidence the campus police could only watch and wait for the man they now suspected was Kenneth Bogard to make a mistake as the so-far harmless but annoying SDSU flasher.
|Playing at one of many frat parties at SDSU in late 1980s|
Meanwhile, a seventh rape victim was in the news. The P.B. Rapist struck again except, instead of his usual ski mask, this time he wore a Zorro mask. At first the city police thought it might have been an inaccurate copy-cat but the SDSU cops thought differently and turned over a name from their pervert files. Using a ruse, police convinced Bogard to provide a saliva swab to clear him in a case he knew he had nothing to do with. Still a new forensic tool at the time, Bogie had not considered that one of his victims had the presence of mind to collect his DNA after he raped and terrified her. “Son of a BITCH,” I said out loud when I saw the news on TV how the police had arrested their number one suspect—the same guy I had shared a pleasant meal with only a month before. Eventually, Kim Caldwell’s evidence and brutally accurate court testimony was convincing enough to gain not only a guilty verdict but a ninety-six-year sentence for the P.B. Rapist, Kenneth Bogard.
|Kim Caldwell testifying against Bogie|
About a year after the conviction I picked up Biter so we could share a ride to a gig playing in a musical theater pit band. I had followed up on Bogie’s recommendation and Biter and I had played several gigs together before this one came along. As we drove south on I-805 towards Chula Vista I turned on the radio to hear the top-of-the-hour local news. The announcer commented how Kim Caldwell was continuing the fight for rape-victim advocacy and would not allow herself to be a silent statistic. During the P.B. Rapist case she had fought hard to embarrass the city into creating a rape task force and now she was using her clout to further the rights of women often too afraid to speak out for themselves. I thought to myself, “How could anyone not be awestruck by this woman?” and was about to verbalize my thoughts when Biter vehemently interjected, “Fucking Kim Caldwell! I wish that bitch would just shut the fuck up and go away. I can’t believe what she’s done to Bogie.” I asked him to explain how any of this wasn’t Bogie’s own fault but his response was only a decrescendo of hate-filled muttering. The rest of our drive was spent with me in stunned silence. Biter’s views were, I hoped, not in the majority but I knew in my heart he wasn’t alone. There were others out there saying the same thing to those who would listen. After all, what was not to like about Bogie? He was a cool guy and sang in a cool band. So he had a problem with women—what man doesn’t? Can’t we just let the man serve out his time without further trashing his reputation?
That was the last gig ever I played with Biter. As for Bogie, he will be 82 years old before he can be considered for parole. Good riddance, “mon.”
|Kenneth Bogard facing conviction|