Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1969-70)
- Ron Armstrong (RIP 2017) -- drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Bob Desnoyers (RIP 2011) -- lead guitar, backing vocals
- John Fergus (RIP 2018) -- bass, backing vocals
line up 2 (1970-71)
- Ron Armstrong -- drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Bob Desnoyers (RIP 2011) -- lead guitar, backing vocals
- John Fergus -- bass, backing vocals
NEW - Steve Williams -- vocals, harmonica
- Ron Armstrong Band
- Little Rock
- The Misfits (Ron Armstrong)
- Steve Williams (solo effort)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Country/State: San Diego, California
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: SOLD 1483
Price: SOLD $30.00
So rather than speculating about the band's roots, I stumbled across drummer Ron Armstong's website which included some material on Jamul. Here's what he had to say about the group:
"In 1970 I joined a new powerful roots rock band, Jamul, on drums and singing, which was led by San Diego based guitarist/lead singer, Bob Desnoyers. Bob inspired me into writing songs for which I’ll always be grateful. (Bob has since passed away) Sunrise Over Jamul and Movin’ To The Country got some airplay, but Bob’s killer version of John Loudermilk’s Tobacco Road got the most. On bass we had John Fergus, playing a punchy groove style that was easy to lock into. John also wrote a song I loved, Nickel Thimble. Later we were fortunate to add a great harmonica player/singer Steve Williams, making our trio now a solid 4-piece unit. We did very well packing the clubs and ended up making an album produced by Richard Podolor with Gabriel Mekler as executive producer. (Same team who produced Steppenwolf & 3 Dog Night) Jamul, title of band and album, was named after a small town East of San Diego. It got national attention reaching # 93 nationally, as listed in Billboard magazine.
I was fortunate to have included 4 songs I wrote for the album. One of them, Sunrise Over Jamul, was named “newcomer pick of the week” in Cashbox magazine. Another song included was a funky cover of Little Richard’s; Long Tall Sally. After Richard heard us playing it at the Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood, CA., he asked for us to back him performing his first music video in Washington DC. This became part of Barry Richards TV Production, DVD now available. Besides Little Richard, backed by Jamul, it featured many top acts like Alice Cooper, Bob Seger System, Humble Pie, Fats Domino, Muddy Waters, The Byrds, etc.
Having played around the San Diego club scene (National City's Club Pleasure), the band apparently caught a break when Gary Puckett (of The Union Gap), caught one of their shows. The resulting attention led to a contract with Gabriel Mekler's Ampex-affiliated Lizard label. Produced by Richard Podolor (Melker serving as executive producer), 1970's "Jamul" offered up a mixture of then-popular covers and band originals. Powered by Steve Williams' powerful, growl of a voice, the band offered up a raw, rough, and occasionally ragged mix of bar band and blues-rock that's always reminded me at least a little bit of Steppenwolf (who were frequently produced by Podolor and Mekler). That comparison certainly seems apt on tracks like the leadoff single 'Sunrise Over Jamul', 'All You Have Left Is Me' and the roaring closer 'Valley Thunder'. Was it the most original album you've ever come across ? Certainly not and according to some of the folks who heard the band live, they studio set comes off flat compared to their live repertoire. Still, the set has more than a couple of impressive moments including the lysergic-tinged 'Nickel Thimble' and two blues-rockers 'Ramblin' Ma' and 'Valley Thunder'.
"Jamul" track listing:
1.) Tobacco Road (John D. Loundermilk) - 3:50 rating: *** stars
Powered by Steve Williams' growl of a voice, their cover of John D. Loudermilk's 'Tobacco Road' was nice enough; certainly tougher than The Nashville Teens version, but nothing particularly original. YouTube has a clip of the band performing the song for a Baltimore PBS station: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxVXxIKemLA
2.) Long Tall Sally (Penniman - Johnson - Blackwell) - 2:58 rating: *** stars
Certainly one of the more interesting covers of the Little Richard classic - imagine Blues Traveler covering the tune. Not hard to understand why Richard was interested in the band's blues-up rock arrangement of the tune.
3. Sunrise Over Jamul (Bob Armstrrong) - 3:00 rating: *** stars
As mentioned, the album's always reminded me of a Steppenwolf collection. Williams' gruff voice certainly bore more than a passing resemblance to John Kay. A nice bar rocker, this one actually picked up some speed and energy as it went along. The tune was also tapped as the band's debut single:
- 1970's 'Sunrise Over Jamul' b/w 'Tobacco Road' (Ampex catalog number X21001)
4.) Movin' To the Country (Bob Armstrong) - 3:56 rating: *** stars
Nice country-rock ballad with one of the album's more tuneful melodies. The song was tapped as the album's second and final 45:
- 1970's 'Movin' To the Country' b/w 'Ramblin' Man' (Lizard catalog number X21004)
5.) Hold the Line (Bob Armstrong) - 2:19 rating: ** stars.
Distinctive '60s hippie vibe going on here with Armstrong turning in kind of a Lou Reed reading of the lyrics.
6.) Jumpin' Jack Flash (MIck Jagger - Keith Richards) - 4:44 rating: *** stars
Give them credit for being brave enough to take on this Stones classic; especially so soon after it was released by The Stones themselves. Now that isn't to imply their cover was great. Slowed down to a funeral march pace, you were left to wonder if Williams was going to make it to the end of the song. Kudos to Bob Desnoyers for unleashing one of the grittiest solos on the album.
Ragged bar band rocker that again bore comparison to a second tier Steppenwolf performance.
2.) Nickel Thimble (John Fergus - Brown) - 2:45 rating: **** stars
Co-penned by bassist John Fergus, 'Nickel Thimble; was the album's most lysergic-tinged performance and one of the highlights. Not sure who sang this one.
3.) I Can't Complain (Bob Armstrong) - 3:39 rating:*** stars
Almost funky, 'I Can't Complain' was probably the best of the four Armstrong tunes. I'm guessing Armstrong handled the lead vocals, which were kind of an acquired taste. As a singer he wasn't anywhere near as good as Williams, but give him credit for turning in an enthusiastic try.
4.) Ramblin' Man (Steve Williams) - 4:19 rating: **** stars
Williams' only songwriting contribution, 'Ramblin' Man' was also the album's heaviest blues-rocker. Intense, dirty, growling sound. Jim Morrison would have traded John Densmore and a high draft choice to have come close to this sound.
5.) Valley Thunder (Bob Desnoyers) - 3:49 rating: **** stars
Want to hear someone tear their larynx out ? Check out Williams' performance on the molten metal 'Valley Thunder'. The tune sported another killer Desnoyers guitar solo. Shame there wasn't more stuff along these lines on the album.
Before passing on in 2017 Armstrong was still involved in music and had a website at: http://ronarmstrongmusic.com/
Bob Desnoyers died in 2011
John Fergus passed on in April 2018.
In April 2020 the lone survivor Steve Williams did an interview with the online It's Psychedelic Baby blog: https://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2020/04/jamul-interview.html
I've never heard it, but Williams released a 2003 gospel album "Change" (CPR catalog number 5637486257)
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