MUSIC THE BOMBERS : In Flight Formation : The band won't let anyone forget about R & B. They've played everywhere and anywhere a zillion times, it seems.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

There's enough of them to make a baseball team, and it seems like the Bombers have been playing out West almost as long as those Dodgers have.

They (the Bombers, that is) will be playing in Santa Barbara on Friday night, offering up some rockin' blues at a swing dance.

"We had our 10-year anniversary last July," said Bombers trombone player Craig Woods recently.

He spoke from behind the counter at the Classic Carrot in Ventura, a health-food hangout that he runs, but his mind was on the band.

"The name was my idea--I always wanted to be in a band called the Bombers," he said. "We used to be the R & B Bombers but over the years, the R & B part got dropped. I used to have this World War II 500-pound bomb, just the casing, and we used to hang it over the stage when we had a gig."

The Bombers, who won't let anyone forget about Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, or B. B. King, have played everywhere and anywhere a zillion times, it seems--even for the city of Ventura, which has booked them to play street fairs.

"We do real well at the street fairs because people like to dance to our music--they absolutely dance in a big way when we play," said Woods. "We play rhythm and blues and swing blues with a rock 'n' roll flavor. And these swing dances, which, basically, are jitterbug dances, are really fun. . . . This one should be a real good gig because all the real Bombers are going to play--no subs. Sometimes we use subs because four or five guys live in L.A. now."

The Bombers started as a garage band, but outgrew the garage.

In fact, with nine members, they'll scarcely fit on any local stages.

Plus the Bombers ain't no cheap dates; they usually ask for $1,000 to $1,500 when they play.

"There are less places to play than there used to be," said Woods. "We used to play all over Ventura--at Andy's for a few years, then Avery's for a few years, then Eric's sometimes, then Bombay for a while. Now we play a couple of times a month. I think we've played everywhere in Ventura except Alexander's. . . . The places available to us are very limited because we're so big."

For Woods, Ventura, the Bombers and the restaurant are all results of a detour in the early 1970s.

"I had an audition with the Ray Charles Orchestra in 1973 when I was 22, and I got the job," said Woods. "I toured with them for a year. When they had a break for a few months, I came to Ventura with Horace Heidt, who had a 10-piece band, and we became the house band at the Holiday Inn. We played six nights a week. We played with the Four Freshmen, Tiny Tim, the Platters, the Vogues, Frank Sinatra Jr., the Sandpipers, people like that. In fact, I met my wife at the Holiday Inn. A guy in the band then used to always bring me to the Classic Carrot to eat, then when it came up for sale, we bought it. That was 16 years ago."

Later came the Bombers, and since then have come those scores of gigs, and a single album.

"You never know about another album in the works," said Woods. "We did some recording a month ago and did five tunes. We know 50, 60, 70--probably even more songs than that. We can play for a long time. But since we never practice, we never learn any new songs. But then again, we don't have to practice, everyone is a great player--we're professionals. Right now, one of the guys in our band, Dan Roberts, is shopping a tape of ours in Japan. So, you never know, maybe we'll go over there."

* WHERE AND WHEN

The Bombers at the Carrillo Recreation Center, 100 E. Carrillo St., Santa Barbara, 965-3813, Friday night, 8 p.m., $10.

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