Hermosa Beach, California, and Austin, Texas
Records with Sonobeat in 1970
No commercial releases on Sonobeat Records
Wildfire lead guitarist Danny Jamison
courtesy Barbara Light Lacy
Southern California trio Wildfire is invited to Austin, Texas, in 1969 to play a private concert at the popular Hill on the Moon venue at City Park on Lake Austin. The trio, well known in Orange County, California, home to Disneyland, have made a name for themselves at Newport Beach's Salty Cellar and Costa Mesa's Finnegan's Rainbow, playing loud rock that California teens love. The band finds Austin so appealing – often attributing Austin's charm in part to The University of Texas co-eds who attend the band's performances – that the boys decide to stay indefinitely. By the late '60s, Austin has become a lifestyle magnet attracting progressive bands from across the U.S., but, like most groups that make the trek to Central Texas during the '60s and '70s, Wildfire never breaks into the big time as do acts like Freddie King, The Sir Douglas Quintet, The Allman Brothers, and ZZ Top, with whom Wildfire shares the limelight in their Texas performances. Nonetheless, the hard rock trio plays all Austin's great venues, including the iconic Armadillo World Headquarters, and other venues throughout the state. Although Wildfire doesn't become a nationally-known band, it makes a remarkable impression in Texas and even today remains the subject of great affection and admiration on fan blogs.
From 1969 until the band breaks up in 1972, Wildfire makes Austin its home during The University of Texas' fall and spring semesters, returning to Southern California during the summers. After laying down partial tracks at The Beach Boys' California recording studios in summer '70 – Wildfire guitarist Randy Love is Beach Boy Mike Love's cousin and plays with The Beach Boys in the late '90s – the trio returns to Austin and eventually ends up, toward the end of the year, at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin. There they cut a demo of original material. Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. produces and engineers Wildfire's eight-song album demo in what is likely the first of Sonobeat's "work for hire" sessions – those in which Sonobeat simply provides studio facilities and engineering services in exchange for hourly fees. Since Wildfire pays for its sessions, it owns its master tapes and, with Bill's assistance, self-releases the resulting album entitled Smokin'. The album, following the style of Sonobeat's classic demo LPs, is released in a plain white jacket bearing hand numbered stickers. The album's initial pressing (band members recollect variously from 100 to 1,000 copies, but it's likely the actual number is under 500) rapidly sells out, and today an ultrarare copy of one of those original vinyl pressings is a "must have" for devoted hard rock garage band collectors. A bootleg of the album circulates in the '90s, made from a cassette tape copy of the original masters. Sadly, the master tapes – except for one track, Down to Earth – have been lost for decades, and there isn't a backup copy in the Sonobeat archives. But, happily, in 2006, the band releases a CD of the album, followed by a limited vinyl edition, both re-mastered from an open reel copy of the master tape that Barbara Light Lacy, the band's long-time friend and present producer, has held onto for more than 35 years. And, by the way, Barbara is co-author of the Austintatious quartet of music-based historical novels set, of course, in Austin, Texas, beginning with 19th and University: A Tale of 1968 Austin, that grace our bookshelf.
Band members recall that when they cruise around Austin with producer Bill Josey, he's always on the lookout for a 7-11 convenience store, where he stops for a Mars chocolate bar.
Pig State Recon's January 17, 2009, review of Wildfire's Smokin' album
The trio consists of Donny Martin, Randy Love, and Danny Jamison. The unit breaks up in 1972 with Danny Jamison's departure, but Randy remains in Austin, playing Texas venues as "Wildfire" on his own in the years that follow. Donny eventually relocates to Seattle, Washington, where he joins the mildly successful Black Diamond, later touring with Native American band Redbone. Donny eventually ends up in Placerville, California, where he retires soon after marrying and the birth of his first child, but retirement doesn't last long and in the late 1990s he joins and still performs regularly with Placerville favorite Jelly Side Down. Danny Jamison passes away in 2014. The band's retrospective web site features lyrics and sound clips from all eight songs on the highly prized Smokin' album along with other interesting tidbits about the band and its members. Wildfire's site also offers the remastered album for purchase on CD. We also run across an illuminating new interview with Wildfire drummer Donnie Martin at It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine. We can assure you that where there's smoke, there's fire... Wildfire, that is.
Danny Jamison: bass and lead vocals
Randy Love: guitar and vocals
Donny Martin: drums
Free (Randy Love & Danny Jamison) • 5:39
What Have I Got Now (Danny Jamison) • 4:25
Let It Happen (Randy Love & Danny Jamison) • 3:06
Quicksand (Danny Jamison) • 6:22
Stars in the Sky (Danny Jamison) • 2:56
Down to Earth (Danny Jamison) • 3:18
Time Will Tell (Danny Jamison) • 3:02
Don't Look for Me (Randy Love & Danny Jamison) • 10:46
Although never released by Sonobeat Records, Wildfire self-releases a limited edition of the album on vinyl soon after it's recorded; that release is packaged in a plain white jacket. In 2006, with the assistance of Barbara Light Lacy, the band formally issues a CD version.
Recorded at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive Studios, Austin, Texas, in late 1970
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice 665 microphones, ElectroVoice Slimair 636 microphones, Sony ECM22 electret condenser microphones, Scully 280 half-inch 4-track tape deck, Stemco half-inch 4-track tape deck, Ampex AG350 quarter-inch 2-track tape deck, custom 16-channel 4-bus mixing console, Fairchild Lumiten 663ST optical compressor, Blonder-Tongue Audio Baton 9-band stereo graphic equalizer, custom steel plate stereo reverb, Ampex 681 tape stock