News Column

Sacramento's Skip's Music to mark 40th anniversary with all-star concert

May 23, 2013

YellowBrix

May 23--Let's rewind for the moment, back to the '70s. In the early years of the "Me Decade," a music festival was launched called the Old Sacramento Dixieland Jazz Jubilee.

Around that same time, a small shop called Skip's Music had opened at 24th Street and Florin Road. It was stocked with guitars, drums and all the other tools for local musicians with dreams of rock stardom.

Now, in its 40th year, the Jazz Jubilee has morphed into the Sacramento Music Festival. Skip's Music has long since moved from south Sacramento and now calls Auburn Boulevard its home base, with additional stores in Elk Grove and Modesto.

For the past few years, Skip's Music has provided sound and production support for this festival. On Saturday, it'll be time to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Skip's Music. An all-star gathering of musicians from Sacramento and beyond will crank up their amplifiers at the Sacramento Music Festival's Firehouse Lot stage and pay homage to this local music institution.

The lineup features Frank Hannon of Tesla, Night Ranger co-founder and former Sacramento Bee delivery boy Jeff Watson, Brad Lang of Y&T, Kai Kln's Gene Smith and many others.

Also included in this all-star jam is Pablo Cruise, the superstars of 1970s "yacht rock" whose drummer, Steve Price, lives in Sacramento. And what do you know: Pablo Cruise was also founded in 1973.

"Everyone's turning 40 this year," said Skip Maggiora, founder of Skip's Music. "But it's not my 40th anniversary as much it is a salute to the talent that came out of this town in the last few decades."

A stop at Skip's Music has been just about mandatory for many local rock musicians, whether it's to pick up a set of strings or ogle the shiny new electric guitars on the walls. Deftones guitarist Stephen Carpenter even gave a shoutout to the store in the liner notes of "Adrenaline," the Sacramento band's major-label debut.

Plenty of music stores have come and gone over the decades, and a major competitor entered the local market when Guitar Center set up shop on Alta Arden Way in 2000. The national chain store also runs a large catalog and Internet business with competitive pricing.

But for Smith of Kai Kln, Skip's Music has remained a go-to shop for nearly 30 years.

"That's where I first got a taste of music and wanting to play," Smith said. "You'd go in and play for a minute and they never treated you like, 'Hey kid, are you going to buy it?' They treated you good, even for a young guy, and they continue to do that."

Coupled with retailer competition, the rise of electronic dance music has turned some musicians away from guitars and drums and toward computer software and drum machines. While Skip's Music sells some electronic equipment as well, the shop still emphasizes the time-honored guitar/ bass/ drums instrumentation of rock bands, along with hands-on music lessons.

"The world has changed, and young people are looking more for instant gratification," Maggiora said. "It takes time to learn to play guitar, but we teach over 1,000 people through all our stores. The return is well worth it."

Skip's Music has also nurtured local musicians through its long-running Stairway to Stardom and Weekend Warriors programs.

With Weekend Warriors, hobbyist musicians get a break from their cubicles to form bands and rock out through a series of jams and concerts.

Stairway to Stardom, which is entering its 33rd year, is one of the most successful youth programs of its kind. Musicians from the ages of 11 to 18 participate in an eight-week school of rock where they form bands, get coached by professional staff and participate in a battle of the bands finale.

Alumni include former Smash Mouth drummer Michael Urbano, while Eagles bassist and former Sacramentan Timothy B. Schmit has previously spoken at Stairway to Stardom about realizing dreams in the music business.

Randy Jackson of "American Idol" also served as a judge at Stairway to Stardom's battle of the bands in the early 1980s, when he played bass for the San Francisco supergroup Journey.

"He loved the program and said, 'Geez, we should do something like this nationally,' " said Maggiora, with a chuckle. "Unfortunately, I didn't listen to him well enough."

All of these good times from the past 40 years will be summed up through song and some storytelling on Saturday. The show will be hosted by a trio of radio personalities: KFBK's Kitty O'Neal, Charlie Thomas of KSEG "The Eagle" and KHLX's Tom Romano. The concert itself will run in a loose format, but expect plenty of musical fireworks and fretboard shredding.

"It's almost like a variety show," Maggiora said. "Everyone's excited about getting together and playing a more spontaneous show than a rehearsed one. It's going to culminate with a heck of a lot of singers and guitarists in the finale."

Call The Bee's Chris Macias, (916) 321-1253. On Twitter @chris_macias.

SKIP'S 40th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION

Featuring members of Tesla, Oleander, Steel Breeze, Pablo Cruise, Kai Kln and many more.

What: Sacramento Music Festival

When: 5 p.m. Saturday (festival runs through Monday)

Where: Firehouse Lot, Front and L streets, Old Sacramento

Cost: $20-$39; $110 all event festival pass

Info: (916) 444-2004, sacmusicfest.com

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(c)2013 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

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