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POP MUSIC : Former Jacks Man Blue Rebounds With New Label

Six months after he abruptly dropped out of the San Diego music scene and took a job as a reporter with the La Jolla Light newspaper, Buddy Blue is back.

Last week, the singer-songwriter-guitarist, formerly with local “blue-eyed soul” band the Jacks, signed a recording contract with Rhino Records.

And, for the next two months, whenever he’s not out covering the education beat, Blue will be at Hit Single Recording Services in the College Area, working on his first solo album.

Joining him in the studio will be four fellow Jacks alumni and a bevy of guest musicians, including Richard Berry (who wrote and recorded the original version of “Louie Louie”), legendary rockabilly piano-pounder Merrill Moore, ex-Blasters guitarist Dave Alvin and local manic talkin’ blues man Mojo Nixon.

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“The best thing about the deal, to me, is that Rhino is a superb label,” Blue said. “They’re giving me complete artistic freedom, and I know from experience that they’re very honest and that they work very hard to promote their artists.”

In contrast, Blue has nothing but bad things to say about his former label, Rounder Records, which in the summer of 1988 released the Jacks’ brilliant debut album, “Jacks Are Wild.”

“They did nothing, less than nothing, for us,” Blue said. “They didn’t promote the album at all. We’d generate some publicity ourselves, send it to them, and then a month later we’d get back a bad photocopy with their logo on it, as if to say, ‘See, we’re doing our part.’

“And that’s really all they did.”

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Not surprisingly, the album was a commercial dud. Frustrated but undaunted, Blue said, the Jacks recorded some new demonstration tapes, which he subsequently shopped around to other labels.

“I spent the next year and a half trying to find another record deal, and when one was not forthcoming, I went back to Rounder to see if they wanted to do another album,” Blue said. “They didn’t, and that’s when I decided to pack it in.

“I was tired of the whole game. The Jacks, I felt, were the best band I had ever been in, and we just couldn’t get a break, no matter how hard we tried. We had some great new material, and I figured if I couldn’t sell this, I might as well give up.”

Last December, Blue disbanded the Jacks and went to work at the La Jolla Light. “I wanted to restart my journalism career, which is what I had been doing before I got into music,” he said. In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, Blue studied journalism at Grossmont College, served as editor of the school paper and free-lanced for the Daily Californian.

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“But after a few months, I started to get antsy,” Blue said. “For all intents and purposes, my musical career was behind me, but I still had all these great songs, I was constantly coming up with more, and I had no outlet.

“So eventually, I decided to pursue a solo deal. I called up Rhino, who I’d been with before, when I was in the Beat Farmers. I wasn’t really expecting anything to happen, but I figured there was nothing to lose. And just a few weeks after I approached them with the idea of doing a solo album, they said, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”

Blue said he expects to have the album in the can by the end of July, and he’s looking at a late fall or early 1991 release date.

In the meantime, however, he has no intentions of giving up his day job at the La Jolla Light in favor of plying the local nightclub circuit, as he did with the Jacks.

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“Until the album is released and I can hopefully make a living touring, I need to support myself some other way,” Blue said. “I don’t want to put myself in the position, ever again, where music becomes a job.

“I want to make sure I retain the creative edge, and don’t get to the point where picking up the guitar is like punching a time clock.”

The Commodores and Juice Newton were at The Studio in Kearny Mesa last week, recording their respective contributions to the second annual “The Stars Come Out for Christmas” benefit album.

Last Thursday, the Commodores cut the album’s title track, “When the Stars Come Out for Christmas,” which was co-written by Karla Bonoff and Steve Vaus, the album’s executive producer.

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Then, on Friday, Newton came in to lay down some vocal tracks for “Silent Night.” The final mix of the song will feature the voices of five country acts as well, blended together into a “choir,” Vaus said. Two weeks ago, he went to Nashville to record Paul Overstreet; next month, he’ll return to the country music capital to record Ricky Skaggs, the Oak Ridge Boys, Patty Loveless and the McCarter Sisters.

The album, scheduled to be released the day after Thanksgiving, will ultimately include contributions from nearly two dozen big-name pop and country artists, among them Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Stephen Bishop, Randy Travis, Don McLean, Barbara Mandrell, Kim Carnes and Kenny Rankin.

Last year’s inaugural “Stars” album raised more than $160,000 for Children’s Hospital and Health Center in San Diego. This year, the local beneficiary is the San Diego chapter of the American Cancer Society; the album will also be made available to other charities throughout the country for fund-raising use.

LINER NOTES: The 1990 Del Mar Fair grandstand concert series continues this week with 7:30 p.m. performances by The Band, tonight; Gordon Lightfoot, Thursday; Laura Branigan, Friday; John Kay and Steppenwolf, Saturday; Air Supply, Sunday; Natalie Cole, Monday, and the Gap Band, Tuesday. Admission is free to anyone who buys a ticket to the fair. Attendance figures for the first five grandstand shows have just come in. The Charlie Daniels Band, which played June 17, drew the biggest crowd, 17,500, followed by the Robert Cray Band (June 19, 16,500), Tom Jones (June 16, 14,750), the Little River Band (June 15, 7,500), and Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam (June 18, 6,000). . . .

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Tickets go on sale at 3 p.m. Friday for concerts by Jimmy Cliff with Fela Anikulapo Kuti, July 26 at San Diego State University’s Open Air Theatre, and Peter Murphy with House of Love, Aug. 5 at Copley Symphony Hall downtown. At 10 a.m. Saturday, tickets go on sale for the Aug. 4 concert at the Open Air Theatre by the Ramones with Debbie Harry, the Tom Tom Club and Jerry Harrison. . . .

This week’s concerts: Oingo Boingo, tonight and Thursday at the Open Air Theatre; Bobby Blue Bland, Thursday at Smokey’s in Mission Valley; the Monks of Doom with the Rugburns and Baby Flamehead, Thursday at the Casbah in Middletown; Firehouse with Elvis Christ, Thursday at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach; Wedding Present, Friday at the Bacchanal in Kearny Mesa; the Walking Wounded, Friday at the Casbah; Junior Walker and the All-Stars with Eddie Shaw, Friday at the Belly Up; Death Angel with Forbidden, Friday at Iguanas in Tijuana; Dick Dale, Saturday at Rio’s in Loma Portal; Dread Zeppelin, Saturday at the Spirit in Bay Park; the James Harman Band with the Harpoons, Saturday at the Belly Up; Savatage with Cold Sweat, Saturday at Iguanas; Michael Martin Murphey, Tuesday at the Bacchanal, and Dino Lee and His Luv Johnson, Tuesday at the Casbah.


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