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Battle of the Bands Turns 50: A Look Back at the Legendary Event

Annual competition at Chabot College has launched successful acts for half a century. Auditions are in January.

 

The Annual Battle of the Bands, one of the longest running musical special events in the Bay Area, turns 50 on February 9, 2013 when it returns to its home at the Chabot College Performing Arts Center in Hayward.

As a child of the 1950's who grew up in the suburban East Bay flatlands, the Battle of the Bands was my and many of my contemporaries' first encounter with the live rock scene.

At age 11 my neighbor friend and I somehow persuaded our mothers to let us attend our first Battle of the Bands.  We saw a flyer about it stapled to a telephone poll and excitedly passed notes about it in school for days leading up to the big event.  It was the hot ticket in town.

We donned our bell-bottom jeans, Nehru jackets, leather fringe moccasins and love beads. Although no drugs were involved, for some odd reason we came prepared to camoflauge their smell, wearing a dab of patchouli oil and chewing scented violet gum. Our only food source during the concert was Pixy Stixs and barbecue potato chips which we smuggled under our shirts.

My mother dropped us off curbside in her whale of a station wagon with strict instructions not to leave the venue until she picked us up at a predetermined time. I still don't remember how we got home for certain (you can chalk that up to me having a "senior moment" or "selective memory" - take your pick)  but I vaguely recall some older boys and a low rider car being part of the  equation.

The concert, known by locals simply as "The Battle", was "groovy".  It was really "bad" and "so boss" (which meant good in the Bay Area in the 60's).  Forget the Beatles. We now had our own local rock stars to squeal over.  My friend and I even became pint-sized groupies, tracking down our favorite Battle of the Band competitors via the Hayward/Castro Valley White Pages then writing them love letters via snail mail and calling them over and over again from our rotary dial phones.

You can read an interesting history of that era, including a chapter about one of my absolute favorites of the time (The Castro Valley- bred Bristol Box Kite Band) in a book compiled by Bruce Tahsler called "The San Francisco East Bay Scene Garage Bands From the 60's Then and Now" .

Some of the bands which have competed in the Battle of the Bands over the years have gone onto full-blown stardom. According to the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District (H.A.R.D.), that sponsors the event, Faith No More, Y & T, Deep Purple, Mr. Big, Billy Satellite, and Metallica all played on the Battle of the Bands stage. You can go here to see a partial list of past Battle of the Bands winners.

Auditions for the 2013 Battle of the Bands take place Jan. 5 in Hayward. You can read details about the application and audition process here.
If you need more information about how to apply to compete, call 510-888-0211.

Prizes for winners change from year to year. In the past some awards have been complimentary photo sessions, musical equipment, free advertising and recording studio time.

Patch has learned, from reader Sim Mirande who is on the committee planning the Battle of the Bands from H.A.R.D., that their committee is looking for past winning bands to attend a 50th Battle reunion. If you were in a winning band or know someone who was and you want to learn more about an anniversary reunion, contact Sim Mirande via the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District at its main number 510-881-6700.

Oh, and one last thing before I forget. If you were a member of the Bristol Box Kite Band of Castro Valley or any of a number of other groups that competed in the Battle during the late 1960's, please know I am truly sorry for all those hang up calls. Really.

Peace, Love and Rock n' Roll.

Richard Moniz December 06, 2012 at 07:57 PM
I remember it well, I was the drummer in the band called The Opposite Direction.The band consisted of Rich Moniz on drums (Hayward High ) Mat & brother Chris Nolan both of ( Hayward High ) on organ, Steve Ferreia ( Logan High) on rythem guitar, George Guiterrez ( Hayward High ) on Bass, Gary Casassa ( San Leandro High) on lead guitar ,And Mel Lawerence ( Hayward High ) on Rythem guitar. We won the Battle of the Bands in 1967 we came in First place out of 75 bands that tryed out that year.I remember we worked very hard practicing for it ,And we did it .I still have the trophy to show for it . It a lot of fun in those days playing in a band we played a lot teen clubs and other venues. I played drums in different bands for about 7 years . You can read more about the Opposite Direction on page 63 of the book Garage Bands From The 60s Then And Now. Alot of good memories Rich Moniz
sim mirande December 07, 2012 at 07:32 AM
Hi Richard, I to have great memories of the battle, I work with the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District and a great battle committee that has been keeping the battle going for the last 49 years. Right now the battle committee are looking for past winning bands to attend a 50th battle reunion. If you or any of your band member are interested in attending this special event please contact me. You can reach me at the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District. Thank You Sim Mirande
Cal L. February 12, 2013 at 09:20 PM
I remember Pat Madden used to be involved with the battle,,when did he leave?? Cal L.
sim mirande February 13, 2013 at 05:10 AM
Pat left in 2000..

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