A Wild Reggae Ride : Irie got its start on a strange serendipity to the Northwest. Now the band sticks closer to home, but Ventura is still on the itinerary.


So you want to be a rock ‘n’ roll star? Before you completely dismiss dear ol’ Dad’s idea that you attend The Whiplash Computer School, you might want to consider Jimmy Dale’s favorite rock ‘n’ roll horror story. Dale’s band, Irie, will be doing the Sunday night reggae thing at Eric Ericsson’s in Ventura, but first, as Marlon Brando once expensively mumbled, “the horror . . . the horror. . . .”

“My first gig was my strangest gig,” Dale said in a recent phone interview. “I was asked to go on tour to Seattle and Portland. So I walked into this house and there were all these Jamaicans, and I’m the only white guy.”

The trip turned into something of a “Magical Misery Tour” and the musical proof to the Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B” line, “This is the worst trip I’ve ever been on.” Dale thought that he was getting a hundred bucks per day so he could at least afford to pay attention. But the money became 75 bucks per show after a Mr. Toad’s wild ride up the coast in a van that Cal Worthington couldn’t give away to the blindfolded Beverly Hillbillies. Somehow the van made it to Seattle before it croaked. The band had to get a ride to the show and wait until someone, someday, someway could repair the van.

“One of the guys said that somebody would come to fix the van in the morning, but he was talking Rasta time which means ‘sometime,’ ” Dale said.

The van was repaired and rallied one more time and just long enough to get everyone excited--sort of like the Boston Red Sox. The group arrived the next day in Portland, at 10 o’clock for a 9 o’clock show--actually fairly punctual for rock ‘n’ roll time.


“Our hotel rooms were gone,” Dale said. “Then we figured, ‘Enough of this, let’s go home.’ ”

Good idea, anyway. The van got as far south as Corning, where it conked out for good. Corning is a small burg in Northern California where, according to Dale, necks were red and few are green with envy over a bunch of dreadlocked Jamaican reggae musicians. They’d rather slap Charles Bronson than dance to Bob Marley. Anyway, the band finally made it back to Southern California alive. And Dale said he never got paid a dime.

Things are considerably better for Dale and Irie these days. They’ve got a new CD, Ventura is much closer than Seattle and Eric’s pays.

“The band has four guys in it and has been around for four years,” Dale said. “We’re based in L.A.--we go as far south as San Diego and as far north as Santa Barbara.” And what’s a group without a CD and T-shirt to sell you? Right. Just a bunch of guys hanging out.

“Our CD is a little more commercial-sounding than most other reggae bands, but when we play live, we’re pretty much like the other bands. Hey, it’s reggae. We like to play in Ventura; we have a lot of friends up there. The group does all originals except for two covers, ‘Johnny B. Goode’ and ‘Stand By Me.’ ”

As the 50-millionth reggae band in Southern California this week, Irie has another of those names that most of us don’t know how to interpret or pronounce.

Irie is pronounced ‘I-Ree’ or ‘I-Ray’ and it means ‘to feel good,’ ” Dale said. “When people say ‘How ya doin’?’ you answer ‘I’m irie,’ which means ‘all right.’ ”

Reggae bands seem to be as ubiquitous as Dodger fans around these parts, judging by their sheer numbers and their growing legion of fans, mon. And being in a band sure beats working the local Stop ‘n’ Rob.

“Reggae is just what we play, and I got into it by accident even though I was always into Bob Marley,” Dale said. “I had just come off the road with the Diamonds, those oldies guys, and I saw this ad and I just fell in with this reggae band seven or eight years ago.”

Not a graduate of the Whiplash Computer School, Dale is the rare individual who actually is working in the discipline that he studied in college. He didn’t take Reggae 101, but he studied music at the Berklee School of Music in Boston and was a Banana Slug at UC Santa Cruz.

He’s the band’s guitar player and songwriter. Irie released a tape in 1990 and now it’s being reissued as a CD.

“In the last year or so, I’ve sent out 500 tapes to get this deal with TBA Records,” he said. “Now the record company is going to send out 500 CDs, but this recession is pretty rough.”

Sure, but rougher than the pennant race? Are the Dodgers going to do it? “Man, I sure hope so,” Dale said.

COP ROCK: About every biker in the tri-county area who can grunt “Harley-Davidson, man” will be at the Ventura Theatre Friday night to raise his fists in the air and howl like a maniac until John Kay & Steppenwolf plays their theme song, “Born To Be Wild.”

COPS DON’T ROCK: The Ventura P.D. cited Charlie’s on the beach in Ventura on Friday night, Sept. 20, for not having a dancing permit. It was the first night of the Ventura Music Festival and Charlie’s was an accredited venue for the festival.

ZERO HOUR: The Zeros show last Thursday at the Carnaval Club in Santa Barbara was canceled because the club itself got canceled. By the time you read this the Carnaval Club will be closed, leaving Alex’s Cantina and Zelo to fight over the rock crowd on that considerably quieter block of State Street.