40 Top Musicians From Contra Costa County That Have Entertained The World
This list of Top Musicians that have lived or are living in Contra Costa County. Two musicians from Contra Costa, Frankie G, and Patrick Dorn, helped me get the list started and research did the rest.
Let’s improve the list. Add “hip-hop artists” and young “garage bands” and any musicians that were overlooked.
You don’t need to be a recording star. Entertaining in Contra Costa County matters. Peer respect, artistry, and creativity are important.
Follow the link to suggest a musician (also at the bottom of the page). The first condition is they must live now or have lived in Contra Costa County.
R&B/Jazz Bass Player
Darryl started with the trumpet in the third grade and moved onto bass as a 14-year-old after hearing Brothers Johnson’s bassist Louis Johnson on “I’ll Be Good to You.”
Self-educated he believed he had what it takes to be a professional when he figured out how to play Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues.”
Darryl has worked with Tower of Power, Bonnie Hayes, Meters drum legend Zigaboo Modeliste, to name a few.
He has also worked on best selling products like Karaoke Revolution, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band.
His latest CD Darryl Anders AgapeSoul “Conversations” has two #1 singles and a top ten single.
Billie Joe Armstrong
Lead Guitar Player/Songwriter
Armstrong attended Hillcrest Elementary School in Rodeo. Carniquez Middle School and John Swett High School, in Crockett. Also, Pinole Valley High School, in Pinole.
Met Mike Dirnt, future bass player for Green Day in elementary school, formed a band as a 14-year-old. Later became GREEN DAY.
Their third album, DOOKIE, 1993 broke through into the mainstream and sold 60 million records.
They still tour worldwide.
Photo Courtesy of Wiki
Metal Thrash Band Vocalist
Billy, joined the Legacy band in 1986. Changed the name to Testament in 1987. He remains one of two original members of the band.
They’ve released 10 studio albums and tour consistently. His vocal style has changed over the years from, high pitch thrash to a lower death grunt sound.
In 2013 California State Assemblyman Jim Frazier honored Billy on the State Assembly floor for his positive influence on the Native American community.
Cancer survivor. Has lived in Antioch and Discovery Bay.
Photo Courtesy of Chuck Billy
Rock 'n Roll Bass
In the early 80’s Brett played with a popular local “garage band” band Flat Nasty at clubs like Baby Simon’s in Antioch.
March 30th, 1986 Brett got the call from his friend Mickey Thomas to join the Starship Tour. This began tours of the USA, Europe, and South America.
One of the biggest highlights for Bret was performing on the Academy Awards Show in 1987… The song ” Nothing Gonna Stop Us Now” was nominated for best song that year.
Photo Courtesy of Brett Bloomfield
Bluhm is a singer-songwriter from Lafayette who formed The Gramblers in 2008.
She moved to Nashville and has recorded at the legendary Sam Phillips Studio.
She toured rigorously on the “To Rise You Gotta Fall” here and overseas.
Since leaving the band she has recorded a studio album Toby’s Song.
Photo Courtesy of Nicki Bluhm
Bogios father played trumpet with the San Francisco Symphony and convinced his son Jim to stop beating on his mom’s pots and pans and get some drums and take lessons.
After school in 1992 he joined a band called Papa’s Culture. It was during this time he got the call to join Sheryl Crow. He toured, recorded and appeared on countless TV shows for eight years with her band.
In 2003 Counting Crows called and he has been touring and recording with them ever since.
When he’s not playing with the band he’s home playing music with his friends.
Photo Courtesy of Jim Bogios
Bonilla was born in Walnut Creek and went to Buena Vista Elementary, Walnut Creek Middle, and Del Valle High, all in Walnut Creek. He also attended Diablo Valley College, in Pleasant Hill.
Bonilla currently plays with the California Transit Authority Band. He has also produced, co-written and performed with Keith Emerson, Ronnie Montrose, and Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame drummer, Danny Seraphine.
His wiki page says he is on the soundtrack of several movies including The Scorpion Kings and The Bourne Legacy.
He has written a book Balance of Power For Guitar, (a lesson book), that promises to be the last guitar book you will ever need.
He continues to reside in Walnut Creek.
Photo Courtesy of Marc Bonilla
Jay Kirkland and Barbara Gorin are a couple that writes and performs original acoustic music that captures an audience’s attention.
Their romantic original songs are a perfect complement at wine tastings, weddings, restaurants, and art shows.
Their love of music extends past writing and performing.
They also teach guitar as volunteers in the National nonprofit Guitars-Not-Guns program. Barbara is the Director of the Contra Costa Chapter. This program provides free guitars and free guitar lessons to at-risk youths. She has been a volunteer since 2006.
Photo Courtesy of Barbara Gorin
Brooks was born in Oakland and raised in Pittsburg. She played in the nationally known and well-traveled Pittsburg High School Marching Band in 2004.
She moved to Los Angeles to attend the Musicians Institute in Hollywood in 2006. There she performed for television advertisements and then attended California State University, Northridge.
She toured with the band Scarlet Fever and Cee Lo Green in 2010.
She has appeared on TV many times and is a founding member of DDMC.
Photo Courtesy of Wiki
Guitar, Mandolin, Banjo
Dix began playing guitar at age twelve. He already knew how to play the piano by then. His interest, American folk music, jazz, and teaching.
When he is not performing he is teaching or writing books on how to play.
His band Back Up and Push explores the emerging possibilities of swing and jazz on acoustic stringed instruments. The band toured the west coast and released the Tuxedo Blues, an album that features many of his original instrumental and vocal compositions.
Photo Courtesy Dix Bruce
Buffalo, the son of a harmonica player, was born in Oakland and raised in Richmond. At John F. Kennedy High School he performed with a series of bands.
By the early 1970s, he had already played with many Bay Area groups including Elvin Bishop.
In 1976 he joined the farewell European tour of Commander Cody. Later that year he joined the Steve Miller Band.
He’s also recorded a couple of albums with his own band, Stampede, for Capitol records.
As a session artist, he’s appeared on 180 albums, including those by Bonnie Raitt, Doobie Brothers, Huey Lewis & The News, and George Thorogood.
Photo Courtesy of Norton Buffalo
Burke was born Oct 3, 1908 in Antioch, CA. He was still young when his family moved to Chicago. He attended University of Wisconsin-Madison and played piano in the orchestra.
After graduating he returned to Chicago to work at the Irving Berlin Publishing Company as a pianist and song salesman.
Transferred to New York City he wrote lyrics with composer Harold Spina. Their first hit in 1933 was “Annie Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” for the Guy Lombardo Orchestra.
Moving to Hollywood he partnered with Jimmy Van Heusen and together worked on 41 films for Paramount principally for Bing Crosby.
They won an Oscar together for “Swinging on a Star” in 1944.
Photo Courtesy of Leo Friedman
Burns was born in Oakland and schooled in Walnut Creek. Played his Dad’s guitar at 7 and moved up to a Fender and played in a band when he was in the fourth grade.
At Northgate High School his Legends Band was playing Allman Bros, Lynrd Skynyrd, Montrose, and Led Zeppelin.
In 84 it was the Sheila E Band and an America, Europe, and Japan tour with Prince.
In his band VU in ’88 he toured and recorded with the Who and Rolling Stones Bands.
He continues to work and record with the Stef Burns and Huey Lewis Bands.
Photo Courtesy of Stef Burns
Songwriter, Record Producer
Busbee was born in Walnut Creek, June 18, 1976. He began playing the piano when he was seven and a jazz trombone in high school in between he marched and played with the Blue Devils Drum Corp.
Busbee moved to Los Angeles in 2000 and started assisting a rock producer. There he began learning more instruments including guitar, bass, and drums.
He began working on his own as a songwriter, producer, mixer, and engineer.
He then moved to Nashville. He has written for Gwen Stefani, Pink, Katy Perry, Keith Urban, and Kelly Clarkson to name just a few.
He was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2019 and died on Sept 29th at the age of 43.
Photo Courtesy of Wiki
Singer, Songwriter, Bassist
Claypool was born Sept 29, 1963, in Richmond, CA. Raised in El Sobrante as kids he knew Kirk Hammett who would eventually join Metallica.
In the ’90s his Alternative Funk Metal Band became mainstream, with significant airplay, Late Night TV Shows, and as a headliner at Lallapalooza in 1993.
11 studio albums, video games, TV shows and a horrific touring schedule.
Photo Courtesy of Les Claypool
Singer, Songwriter, Bassist
Michael Ryan Pritchard, known professionally as Mike Dirnt grew up in El Sobrante. While at Carquinez Middle School, 10-year-old Dirnt met Billie Joe Armstrong and they started playing.
At 14 the two were at Pinole Valley High. Dirnt worked at the Nantucket Restaurant in Crockett to get money to buy a truck so they could go to Berkeley’s 924 Gillman Club to listen to live music.
Photo Courtesy of Wiki
Carroll was born and raised in Richmond, Ca. She started out in rock and roll with a band called Yakety Yak.
She has toured with blues icons Jimmy McCracklin, Sugar Pie DeSanto, and opened for Gladys Knight, Ray Charles, Patti LaBelle, and Tower of Power.
“Keep doing it” is her advice whether you are rocking it, jazzing it or going country, on good day and especially on bad days. Whether you are doing it locally or internationally you got to bring it.
In 2007 Tia Carroll was nominated “Best Traditional Blues Woman” by the Jus Blues Music Foundation and awarded “Female Blues Vocalist Of The Year” by the West Coast Blues Hall Of Fame.
Tia is currently touring California (dates can be found on her website) and working on her 3rd solo recording project, “Soul Survivor” which represents a large chunk of her life & times – stay tuned!
Photo Courtesy of Tia Carroll
Guitar, Producer, Vocalist
Cole grew up in Richmond and attended Kennedy High School.
Enjoying gypsy jazz, bluegrass, rock and pop led to a diverse group of bands to listen to and learn from.
He taught Green Days’ Billie Joe Armstrong for ten years and bassist Mike Dirnt.
Cole was a member of the band Big Blue Hearts from 1997–2000. He toured with Joe Walsh of The Eagles, recorded with producer Roy Thomas Baker, and they performed with Robert Cray, Ringo Starr, and Boz Scaggs.
Photo Courtesy of Wiki
Dorn lives in Oakley, CA. When he isn’t volunteering for the Delta Blues Festival or the Guitar Not Guns project he trains and inspires at-risk kids to play a guitar.
A lifelong musician (you only get that tag when you have been playing for 50 or more years) who enjoys a wide variety of music including George Benson and bluegrass music.
A devoted husband and father who eats well, hikes, and rides a bicycle many miles at a time. Thanks for knowing so many musicians, and for all your help with this list.
Photo Courtesy of Facebook
Carmen Dragon was an American conductor, composer, and arranger who in addition to live performances, recordings also worked in radio, film, and television. He graduated from Riverview High School, in Antioch.
He shared the 1944 Oscar for the musical “Cover Girl.”
He conducted the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra for 10 years.
He has a school named in his honor Carmen Dragon Elementary School, in Antioch.
Photo Courtesy of Wiki
Duogadjo is the name that Isabelle Fontaine and Jeff Magidson use when they perform.
Isabelle was born and raised in France. She was a singer. Later she became a fan of the gypsy swing of Django Reinhardt and The Hot Club of France.
Jeff Magidson was born and raised by musician parents in San Francisco. He learned to play the piano, guitar, drums, bass, and harmonica. As a Cal student on a year abroad program in Poitiers, France, he was drawn into the music scene and became a fan of Django Reinhart as well and stayed 10 more years.
The couple returned, married, and continue to play gypsy swing, and live in Martinez.
Photo Courtesy Duogadjo
Lead Guitar Player, Songwriter, & Vocalist
John, formed a band, in 1959, while in junior high school. He later attended El Cerrito High School.
After his military service, he renamed the band Creedence Clearwater Revival and recorded their first hits “Susie Q” and “I Put A Spell On You.”
From 1968-1972 the band was at their height and played at Woodstock in August 1969.
Three Top Ten Albums, 30 million albums and singles sold and induction in 1993 to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame making them a rock and roll band for the ages.
John continues to perform and lives in Redding, California.
Photo Courtesy of Wiki
Blues Guitar & Vocals
Freund was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1952. His mother played classic piano.
He moved to Chicago in 1979 and with Rusty Zinn appeared on the R.J. Mischo album West Wind Blowing.
By the late ’90s, Freund had regular residency at the bar/club The Saloon in San Francisco, almost always playing alongside blues pianist Wendy DeWitt, making several albums along the way — Set Me Free, Romance Without Finance, C for Chicago, and I’ll Be Your Mule.
Photo Courtesy of Steve Freund
Frankie Giovanni “Frankie G” has been a blues guitar player in Antioch for more than 20 years.
His heart is as big as his music. Fellow blues player and friend David Williamson started the Delta Blues Festival, Antioch, in 1999.
Shortly after the 5th annual show David was killed in an auto accident.
Frank Giovanni picked up producing the event for his friend David and did the outdoor show for the next 14 years before moving it inside the El Campanil Theatre in 2018. The money raised goes for scholarships to students. More than $27,000 so far.
Photo Courtesy of Frankie G
Gaines was born in Oakland, CA in 1960. She honed her funk/soul skills in the family group Unity with Gaines on the organ.
She went to Minneapolis, Minnesota to sing a demo for the Pointer Sister. Prince was in the studio and asked her to join his band The New Power Generation.
Her first appearance as a member of the band is on the Graffiti Bridge Album. She first toured with Prince on the Nude Tour. She continued with this band 1990 – 1992.
She has a 15 title discography.
Photo Courtesy bbc.co.uk
At age 15 Kirk picked up a Montgomery Ward catalog guitar and shoebox amp.
He attended De Anza High School, in Richmond.
In 1974 he took a job at Burger King to buy a Gibson guitar and Marshall amplifier.
In May 1983 he got the call from Metallica to join the band and tour Europe.
In 2009 Metallica was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Metallica has sold more than 125 million records. They continue to tour worldwide.
Loves comic books, horror movie memorabilia, and still lives in the Bay Area.
Photo Courtesy of Metallica
Jester is a native Californian living in Martinez. Prefers traditional electric blues energized and not songs overplayed at blues jams.
Musical influences are Tiny Grimes, Magic Sam, and Eddie Taylor on guitar. Junior Parker, Little Willie John, and Freddie King on vocals. I exclusively play Grez Handmade Guitars out of Petaluma.
Photo Courtesy Kyle Jester
Jinx Jones has been twice nominated for Male Rockabilly Artist of the Year by the Ameripolitan Music Awards.
He has received gold and platinum record awards for his work with R&B divas, En Vogue, he has also won songwriting awards and been recognized as one of the hottest acts on the San Francisco music scene.
Photo Courtesy of Jinx Jones
Greg moved to San Francisco in 1972 and worked in a Berkeley record store while forming his sound.
There he met bass player, Steve Wright from El Cerrito and together formed the Greg Kihn Band.
Their Top Ten single “The Breakup Song” was released in 1981 and followed by “Jeopardy” in 1983.
Every year KFOX hosts a concert at the Shoreline in Mt View called the “Kihncert” and hosts a show on the radio.
He was inducted into San Jose’s Rock Hall of Fame in 2007.
Greg continues to tour and lives in Clayton, CA.
Photo Courtesy of Greg Kihn
Katy Lawrence Band
Katy Lawrence, Dell E. Burchette, Tim Cecchini & Pep Salinas makeup the Katy Lawrence Band.
As one listener remarked after the NAMM SHOW “Dang that is a lot of talent all in one place.”
This band plays Rock ‘ n Roll, R&B, & Motown all over Contra Costa and the Bay Area.
Photo Courtesy of Katy Lawrence
McGee graduated from Deer Valley High School, Antioch, in 2004.
Her 10-year voice teacher Nuhad Levasseur said “he always knew she had the potential to be a country star one day.”
She describes her music as between soulful country and Aerosmith rock ‘n roll.
She recently recorded “Amen” in Nashville and keeps a full schedule performing at local bars, clubs, wineries, and festivals in the Bay Area.
Photo Courtesy of Facebook
Money was born on March 21, 1949, in Brooklyn, New York. A street singer since the age of 11. He sang in rock bands in high school to meet girls. In 1968 he moved to Berkeley. There he took vocal lessons and changed his name from Edward Mahoney to Eddie Money.
Singing in San Francisco clubs he got the attention of Bill Graham and signed a contract with Columbia Records and released his debut album in 1977. Two singles charted Baby Hold On and Two Tickets to Paradise.
In 1986 he recorded Take Me Home Tonight. In all he recorded 12 studio albums with 11 TOP 4o songs. He appeared on numerous TV shows and was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Photo Courtesy of WIKI
Mydland began playing trumpet in elementary school in Concord. He played piano, and graduated in 1971 from Liberty High School, Brentwood.
Grateful Dead founding member Bob Weir found and brought Brett to the band. They liked his voice, songwriting skills as well as his keyboard playing.
Brett died of a drug overdose at his home in Lafayette on July 26, 1990.
11 years with the Grateful Dead Band. 45 songs listed in his discography, inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Weir notes that the 80’s & early 90’s (the Mydland years) were his favorite years with the band.
Photo Courtesy of Wiki
Camaron Marvel Ochs
Cam’s hometown is Lafayette, CA. Her grandparents introduced her to country music early. She sang in choral groups in high school and learned how to play guitar in college.
When she fully committed to music she debuts a studio album titled Heartforward. Light folk-pop is what it was labeled. She wrote the songs from her experiences and promoted the album in Oakland and San Francisco.
She went to LA to collaborate with Tyler Johnson and write songs to attract Faith Hill. Tim McGraw’s manager heard and Maggie Rose and Miley Cyrus each recorded her songs. Soon she had her own songs and began touring to gain experience.
Her single Burning House became a top 5 hit on Billboard country songs and sold 500,000 copies in the US.
She’s been nominated for a Grammy, ACM, CMA, and American Music Awards. Married, living in Nashville and has just had her first child.
Photo Courtesy of ContraCostaLive
A transplant of the eclectic Austin, TX rock music scene of the early ’90s, Mike studied jazz at UT Austin and has been a gigging jazz guitarist throughout the bay area for 25 years. He has attended the California Jazz Conservatory (formerly the Jazzschool) and studied privately with Mimi Fox, Scott Sherwood, and others.
Mike has performed with big bands, combos, and in a duo with vocalist Stephanie Miller, creating fresh interpretations of jazz and rock standards on a 7-string guitar.
He has resided in east Contra Costa county since 2000.
Photo Courtesy Mike Oria
Piano & Vocals
Sin Silver came to Concord from Ireland in 2015.
Inspired by the sounds of Sinead O’Connor’s music (as a 9-year-old), she was inspired to be in the music industry.
According to one article, she got her start at Petar’s in Lafayette playing 70’s tunes and pop.
Since then she has formed a band titled Sin Silver and the Avenue and made an album titled the “Motherload.”
Photo Courtesy of Facebook
Mz SuMac is the daughter of legendary bluesman Craig Horton. She was born and raised in Arkansas.
She has sung with Millie Jackson, Bobby Rush, and Ray Charles. She has been sponsoring her own BLUES SHOW annually, since 2009, in Bigelow, Arkansas.
She is a popular local singer.
Photo Courtesy Facebook
Tamelier grew up in Lafayette and started playing guitar as a 9-year-old. He played in his own band at 11 years old. He attended Acalanes High School and was always been in a band.
In 1985 he joined Lydia Pense and Cold Blood.
Played lead guitar and toured with Tower of Power Band for ten years 1996-2006. He was also with Mickey Thomas and Starship.
Photo Courtesy of Jeff Tamelier
* Lots of fun!
Travis began his thrash metal band, Sadus, playing in an Antioch garage in 1984.
The band has stayed the same, less one (quartet to a trio), in all these years (since 1991).
Five studio albums. Worldwide tours and a 35-year history.
Photo Courtesy of Instagram
Drummer Jazz. Rock, Funk
Leo committed early to drums, first on pots and bands, then a couple of beginner sets, and then his first professional set at the age 12. Gigs in San Francisco nightclubs followed by 14.
A major influence was James Brown “he always had great drummers.”
I also like Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, David Garibaldi, and Tony Williams all great drummers.
Played with the ever-popular PHD Band
Inducted into Pittsburg Arts Hall of Fame in 2015
Photo Courtesy Leo Vigil
Eddie Reyes Antioch High School Class of 1971. Composes, performs, and produces music in a wide variety of genres including Musical Theatre, Film, Television, Commercials, Jazz, Orchestral, Pop, Rock.
Film/TV music scoring contribution to David Milch’s HBO projects DEADWOOD and JOHN FROM CINCINNATI.
Do you know Eddie Reyes? Do you have something to add? Go here.
Sage started his music career as a 10-year-old in a Concord garage.
He earned two performing arts degrees, one from Musicians Institute (GIT) and another from Cal State East Bay (Theory/Composition), he chose to teach music rather than play it and has taught thousands of students from Skyline College, Cal State East Bay, SF State, Musician’s Institute, and Diablo Valley College.
He inspired students to realize their musical dreams and believe in themselves. Earning the name “Admiral.”
Photo Courtesy of Linda Sage
Ron grew up in Pleasant Hill. He was inspired by drummers Ringo and Buddy Rich and formally trained. He played in bands all the way through school.
Contacts at BAM magazine lead to session and live drum work with Heavy Petting Zoo, Delta Dogs, Cover 2 Cover, Chris Loiter and the Hangouts and Jewel.
He continues to play as often as he can.
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