Last Thursday, July 9, the Santee Trolley Square amphitheater was jumping to the sounds of Southbound Jonny, “San Diego’s Most Wanted Country Band.” The crowd was large and raucous, the music was loud and intense, and this “rowdy country band” was at its finest. The group, fronted by John Watson on vocals and acoustic guitar, played a wide variety of music, from Brooks & Dunn to Bob Seger to a “drunken redneck” version of the Beatles “Things We Said Today.” Watson was joined by lead guitarist/vocalist Glenn Wolff, drummer/vocalist Dave Largent, bassist/vocalist Tom Carper, and violinist/mandolinist/vocalist Dave Edelman.
Watson, a Virginia native, came to the San Diego area in 1997 following a successful solo acoustic career in and around Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. The tall Virginian is a commanding presence on stage, but what really keeps the crowd’s attention is his personality – a little bit redneck, a little bit comic, and a whole lot of fun.
If Watson is the focal point of the group, lead guitarist Wolff is the power pack. Another product of the VA-DC-MD region, the Baltimore native brought his high-energy guitar work to San Diego in 1991 and definitely puts the “rock” in country-rock. It was the pairing of Watson and Wolff that first created Southbound Jonny, and it’s easy to see the chemistry these two crazy musicians have together (see below).
Perhaps the least “country” of the group is New Yorker Edelman, who grew up in view of Central Park and originally trained in classical violin. But one blast of his foot-stompin’ fiddling leaves no doubt that, if not country born he certainly has country in his soul. After the concert he talked about trying to do something about his “grimaces” while playing, but those just accentuate the fervor of his playing. His mandolin playing, while it doesn’t have the passion of his fiddle, was a great accent to several songs.
Every good band needs that solid backbeat to keep the music running smoothly, no matter how crazy the front line might get. The rock of that beat is Miami-born drummer Largent, a talented singer and song writer in addition to his prowess on the kit. The second-most “local” of the group, he moved to San Diego as a boy and grew up to play opening act for the Beach Boys, Tom Johnson, and Dave Edmunds, among others. The group plays several of his songs in their performances.
The second half of the backbeat is bassist and San Diego native Carper – a multi-talented musician who cut his musical teeth on the trumpet in high school and later went on to play bass with numerous country artists. While his on-stage presence is overshadowed by Watson, Wolff, and Edelman, his playing more than holds its own.
As always, the dancing bug was biting full-force. Impromptu line dances were the norm, but partner and free-style had their place as well, as did circle dances with Miss Santee and her First Runner Up. The hit of the night, though, was one very young couple that had their moves down in spite of their age.
Winners of the “Cutest Couple” Award
Miss Santee, Sierra Billock, and First Runner Up, Kimberly Swank
Watson and Wolff Clown Around
“Kickin’ It” with Southbound Jonny
Next week Spectrum brings its high-energy dance music to the Summer Concert Series.