Author Chris Epting explores rock and roll in OC at the Balboa Island Museum on September 16

Cover of the book “Rock and Roll in Orange County”

By Simone Goldstone | Columnist NB Indy Soundcheck

Elvis Presley learns karate. Jim Morrison’s muse, Pamel Curson. The 1960s hit song “Louie, Louie”.

What do these seemingly random signs from musical history have in common? The CO.

Elvis learned karate in Westminster from resident Mike Stone. Pamela Curson, the heir to Jim Morrison’s estate, grew up in Orange and is buried in Santa Ana. “Louie, Louie” was composed in Anaheim.

These are just a few of the often overlooked gems in Orange County music history that local author Chris Epting highlights in his book “Rock N Roll in Orange County: Music, Madness and Memories “.

Epting will discuss his book on Thursday, September 16 at a special evening at the Balboa Island Museum.

Epting is the expert in the sacred halls of concert halls that once brought the greatest legends of music to the CO. His book is the first of its kind to examine only the rich musical history of Orange County.

The book tells rare and nostalgic tales of the avant-garde that saw punk rock take root in basement parties, Meatloaf’s first time on stage, and Jane’s Addiction’s very first show at a small club that mixed readings. literary and heavy rock.

Author Chris Epting

Those of us who missed out on Orange County’s pre-SoundCloud golden years can relive the past through melancholy memories of Peter Gabriel, stories about the Golden Bear (the once-beloved place and now disappeared from Huntington Beach on the Coast Highway which brought names like Janis Joplin to the coastal town) and discover musical relics in our own backyard.

Mentored by author John Cheever and interning for Todd Rundgren, Epting has lived a life many people dream of. Known for co-authoring books such as “A Change of Season” by John Oat and Phil Collen’s autobiography of Def Leopard “Adrenalized”, Epting was a columnist for the LA Times and has written over 30 books, including ” James Dean Died Here ”.

Currently he is working on books with the Doobie Brothers and Traffic. Aficionado of the crossroads between history and music, Epting has traveled the country to write on the markers of pop culture.

In “Rock N Roll in Orange County”, Epting pays homage to electric guitars produced exclusively in Orange County: Fender and Rickenbacker.

rickenbacker guitar

The Rickenbacker is known to be the sound of 1963. The opening chords of George Harrison’s “A Hard Day’s Night” are strummed on the 12-string Rickenbacker, signaling the start of a new era. Not many people know that Rickenbackers are made exclusively in Orange County.

Fullerton was also the birthplace of the most famous guitar in history: the Fender. The book traces Leo Fender’s childhood from his beginnings with building sound systems and transitioning to the legendary guitars that made rock music possible. The invention of the solid body electric guitar put Fullerton on the world map.

Likewise, the song “Louie, Louie” was written by Richard Berry in Anaheim while visiting a local band called the Rhythm Rockers. Without a marker on the building that was once Anaheim’s Harmony Park Ballroom, few would know that such a seminal song was composed within its walls.

Bricks from the Golden Bear Historic Site can be found in the fireplace of a family home, or carefully kept in a keepsake cupboard, as the original grounds where the club once stood is no longer. Fans and spectators alike grabbed the stones that once built the place to keep them as sentimental keepsakes.

The Golden Bear

“Times change, tastes change and real estate increases in value over time. Culture is changing and things are taking their course. These are the times we live in, ”Epting said of the loss of those monumental clubs that were the launching boards for punk bands and where legendary stars could be treated like locals.

The Golden Bear, once located at 306 Pacific Coast Highway, was a favorite haunt of the Byrds, though you have to read the book to find the story firsthand why.

Ultimately, Epting would like the county to place signs on historic plots that have helped make modern music what it is.

“It only takes passionate people to create awareness,” Epting said of his future goals.

What makes this book so special are the first-person accounts of events from artists such as Peter Gabriel.

“Selfishly, I wanted to know more about it,” Epting jokes. “People are happy to tell their stories and they love to talk about their personal experiences. “

A glance into the memories of famous artists of their defining moments in the Orange County music scene makes this book memorable. The pages are colored with personal stories, such as Newport Pop Festival organizer Gary Schmidt recounting his story of flying the Jefferson plane in a helicopter over the fairgrounds.

Other gems include Led Zeppelin playing a show in 1969 at UC Irvine at the start of the band, and British artist Donovan recording his first live album “Donovan in Concert” at the Anaheim Convention Center in 1967. Who knew that the voice of the audience in “Mellow Yellow” comes from our own county?

Additionally, Orange County is the birthplace of folk singers Jackson Brown, Steve Noonan, and Tim Buckley. A few decades later, Black Flag and Social Distortion were devouring the punk scene and again catapulting OC into the limelight.

Maybe that’s because, as Epting explores in his book, Orange County is mostly made up of families. Parents can offer their children music and instrument lessons. Each group came with a built-in support system from family and friends to ensure there was never a lack of audience.

This sense of community allowed the groups to take off. Even in the American suburbs, and even in the shadow of LA, groups further south on the I5 have thrived.

Chris Epting will be at the Balboa Island Museum on Thursday, September 16 at 6 p.m. to discuss his book and tell the story of Orange County rock and roll.

The event is free for members, $ 20 for non-members. To reserve a spot, dial (949) 675-3952 or visit

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