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With Songwriter Going, Tramps May Pack It In

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cadillac Tramps, a leading band on the Orange County independent-alternative rock scene for the past four years, will decide in the coming days whether to break up or soldier on following the departure of guitarist Brian Coakley, the Tramps’ most prolific songwriter.

Coakley said Thursday that he told his four band mates last weekend that he will be leaving to concentrate on Rule 62, a band he has led since 1993 as a sidelight to Cadillac Tramps. He is scheduled to play his last two shows with the Tramps this weekend in Seattle and Vancouver.

Warren Renfrow, the Tramps’ bassist, said that he and the other remaining band members--singer Mike (Gabby) Gaborno, lead guitarist Jonny Wickersham and drummer Dieter Hartman--will decide after the road trip whether to continue without Coakley.

“Brian is a very influential part of the band. We’re going to weigh out whether it would be feasible for us to go on without him,” Renfrow said. “Personally, I would like to. Gabby and Jonny are capable of coming up with good songs, but they don’t write them at the rate Brian does. It’s going to be a lot of slack to pick up.”

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Renfrow, Wickersham, Gaborno and Coakley are the founding members of the Tramps, whose only previous lineup changes have come in the revolving-door drummer’s slot (Hartman is the band’s fourth drummer).

Founded in 1987, Cadillac Tramps had become a club-packing phenomenon on the Orange County grass-roots scene by 1991, when it released the first of its three albums. The albums, all on Doctor Dream Records, have struck a balance between the streetwise humor that is a strong suit of front man Gaborno, and the dark intensity of some of its subject matter.

The band has toured extensively and, in a career highlight, was chosen by Pearl Jam to open two shows in Canada in 1993.

Coakley, 30, couldn’t single out a specific reason for leaving the band, but he mentioned a general dissatisfaction with its creative workings. He emphasized that he remains friendly with the Tramps and said he is willing to help them by playing gigs until they find a new guitar player, or by co-writing songs with them in the future.

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“I felt if I step aside, the continuing members will probably work really hard, and it’ll be a good thing,” Coakley said.

Mainly a guitarist and backup singer in the Tramps, Coakley is the lead singer and focal point of Rule 62. The band’s debut album, “Love and Decline,” came out last year on Lethal Records, a small Orange County/Long Beach label.

Coakley said that several record companies have been looking at Cadillac Tramps, whose contract with Doctor Dream ran out after the 1994 release “It’s Allright.”

“We were actually poised, and maybe the band still is, for a really good record deal,” Coakley said. “You could name a big list of labels that are interested in the Tramps. They’re waiting to hear what the new material sounds like.”

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Renfrow said the band had been getting ready to make demo recordings to court record companies when Coakley announced his decision to quit. At this point, he said, “there is absolutely nothing on the table” as far as attractive offers from labels.

* Rule 62 plays an acoustic set Monday at 10 p.m. at the Blue Cafe, 210 Promenade North, Long Beach. (310) 983-7111.


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