Hot Gilroy Nights

The American Classic Hit Makers bring big sound to downtown

LEGACY SOUNDTRACK American Classic Hit Makers will perform in Gilroy at The District Theater on Saturday, Aug. 19. Photo: Provided by Jaime Kyle

The annual garlic festival put Gilroy on the map, but car shows and music might be the real spice of life in what arguably is the most aromatic city on the planet.

And as if to put an exclamation point on it all, the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce this year has revved things up a few decibels and turned its annual Garlic City Car Show for the first time in 16 years into a showcase for some of the music industry’s biggest talents.

Tiers above the normal South County fare, the combined talents of these singers, songwriters and musicians have sold tens of millions of albums and their work has become an intimate part of the echoing, legacy soundtrack of the 1970s and ’80s.

Their appearance in Gilroy, it is hoped, may finally put the city on the big time circuit like music venues such as the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and major houses in San Jose and San Francisco.

And who wouldn’t want to rub elbows with the likes of David Jenkins, leader singer and guitarist for the ’70s smooth rock group Pablo Cruise? Or Jaime Kyle, whose soul-searching song writing has graced the albums of country legend Faith Hill and the group, Heart, among others? And how about Walter Egan, whose first album, Fundamental Roll, was co-produced by Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac, and who penned such hits as Hot Summer Nights?

Rub elbows you can. And if you are fascinated by insider and behind the scene stories from the heady and sometimes foggy world of rock superstardom, here’s your chance to pull up a seat at the dinner table, dine with these amazing creative talents and hear some of their tattle tales from the road.

It’s all happening at the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce’s 16th Annual Garlic City Car Show on Aug. 19, featuring the newly minted, star-studded, oldies-laced touring band, American Classic Hit Makers.

The Parade of Cars is Friday evening, Aug. 18, beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Monterey Street between Fourth and Sixth streets. It’s expected to feature up to 200 vehicles.

“This is going to be very fun, intimate show,” says band member Jeff Strametz of Gilroy about the group’s engagement in town.

Strametz is a close friend of husband and wife Jenkins and Kyle, a former Chamber board member, President and CEO of Boulder Creek Musical Instruments, and a frequent performer locally with his talented wife, Juli. He helped make it all happen by bringing the group to Gilroy.

The show will take place at The District Theater, 7430 Monterey Road in Gilroy, which is donating the use of its venue, with Sweet Daddy and the Bad Cats opening at 7 p.m.

General Admission is $25, Meet & Greet is $40, and VIP Dinner plus Photo Meet & Greet and Reserved Seating is $100. Call 408.842.6437 or visit gilroy.org for more information and tickets.

In addition to great music, dinner guests will be treated to all those fun and sometimes-spicy road stories—like the one about how the group Pablo Cruise really got its name. It’s not what people think, it actually happened during a trip of sorts.

“It’s not what we used to tell the press in the old days when we were so concerned about our clean image,” says Jenkins.

“These are great stories,” said Strametz, who met and played with the couple in 2008 and made such an impression he has performed regularly with them ever since and now is part of the new touring bad, playing percussion.

He started in drums as a kid in Morgan Hill, playing for Live Oak High School’s famous marching band. Although he performs with the big act and runs a demanding, international business out of his Gilroy office, Strametz and his wife, Juli, still perform every Wednesday night at the Milias Restaurant in Gilroy.

And he loves the tales from the road, like Egan’s story about the night he finished his hit album Magnet and Steel?

I had been in the studio recording my first album with Stevie (Nicks) and Lindsey (Buckingham) producing,” said Egan. “It was my song Tunnel O Love and Stevie was doing her unmistakable banshee wailing background vocal. I was smitten by the kitten. Yes, Stevie Nicks is the magnet.”

Only Egan has the rest of that story, but he says it involves a “pimped out” Lincoln Town Car with the memorable license plate: “Not Shy,” he said.

Music royalty such as Egan is new to the popular downtown event, says Mark Turner, CEO of the Gilroy Chamber, who hopes it’s a sign of things to come.

While for years the car show has showcased good, local bands playing throughout the event, “This is the first year for the evening concert with big name entertainers such as David Jenkins from Pablo Cruise, Jaime Kyle and Walter Egan,” said Turner, who heads the 700-member organization that has been around since the early 1950s.

The Chamber’s goal, he said, “Is to develop a premier annual car show event for the residents of Gilroy and the surrounding areas to enjoy. To keep it fresh and exciting, we are looking to add new and different components each year,” he said.

The newness of Gilroy mirrors the newness of the American Classic Hit Makers band, which Jenkins, Kyle, Egan and Strametz put together when they realized there’s a great following and hunger for their music, not only among the baby boomers who made the music chart-topping, but to younger generations who come to listen, too, according to Jenkins.

“We just launched it,” said Jenkins, who, with Kyle, lives in Nashville and Northern California and is an avid surfer.

“It’s all about the hit songs people are familiar with.”

At a gig not long ago at Vanderbilt University, the three played the old songs and “the crowd went crazy for us and I thought, we need to make this a thing,” he recalled.

“Jeff called and we thought, (now) we have percussion and we have acoustic (guitars) and we’ll tour in Northern California.”

That’s how all that classic music they’d done in the ’70s has been reborn for devoted fans, and a sometimes-new audience in the band, American Classic Hit Makers.

And of course, along with the music comes the tales from the road they share with the crowds—or in the case of the Gilroy car show, the private dinner guests.

Did you hear the one Jenkins tells about the Pablo Cruise song, Cool Love?

The song was only partially written when the band went on stage at the old Waldorf in San Francisco and played it anyway.

By the time they’d finished singing, its verses had been made up on the spot, with inspiration unexpectedly from…well, Dave can tell that story.

Or how about the story Kyle—a frequent performer at Nashville’s legendary Bluebird Cafe—tells about Faith Hill’s monster hit “Wild One,” and how it almost didn’t get recorded because someone tossed the only copy…oh, well, let’s just let Jaime tell that one over the dinner table in Gilroy.

The American Classic Hit Makers will be performing on August 19 at The District Theater at 7430 Monterey Road, Gilroy. The show begins at 7pm. For tickets and more information, visit tinyurl.com/CarShowandConcert.

Jack Foley

Jack Foley

Senior Editor at Gilroy Dispatch
Longtime local journalist and Pulitzer co-winner Jack Foley has worked for San Jose Mercury News and Gilroy Dispatch for more than 20 years and has covered Gilroy for much of his 30-year journalism career. Since 1976, Foley has lived in and around Gilroy.
Jack Foley

Latest posts by Jack Foley (see all)

About Jack Foley
Longtime local journalist and Pulitzer co-winner Jack Foley has worked for San Jose Mercury News and Gilroy Dispatch for more than 20 years and has covered Gilroy for much of his 30-year journalism career. Since 1976, Foley has lived in and around Gilroy.