Evil Empire

“Kim Fowley is seeking groups, solo artists, composers, and lyricists who dream of international stardom,” read the large display ads running in the Reader circa late 1980. Several photos of the man behind jailbait rockers the Runaways accompanied each ad, including one of him with Jimmy Page, along with a request for cassettes, bios, photos, and “a summary of your career goals.”

Thirty-eight years old at the time, Fowley (whose half-brother is San Diego County Treasurer Dan McAllister) was considering a permanent move from L.A. to San Diego and had already been scouting the city for his next all-girl band for nearly a year. His interest was first piqued by locals the Dinettes, who — á la Josie and the Pussycats — had a black girl in the group, guitarist Joyce Rooks (at least for a while in ’79). Fowley booked the Dinettes for his Battle of the Girl Bands at the Coo Coo’s Nest in Costa Mesa, expressing interest in signing them to some unspecified label or rep firm. However, that band’s constant lineup shifts and an aggressive fast-talking manager named Gene King led Fowley to instead pine for local Girl Talk singer Lauralei Combs (though they never signed a deal).

“I spent a good portion of my formative years in San Diego,” he told local Kicks magazine in November of 1980. “The kind of music I’m producing now, most of it sells and is released outside of the continental United States. I can record records in, let’s say, San Diego, and get them out all over the world without having my acts go through the psychological rape of playing the horrible L.A. clubs.… Right now, if you’re a San Diego band and want to have an American record out, you have to move to New York, L.A., or Nashville and start all over again at the bottom.”

For Fowley’s local talent search, he said, “I’m looking for people to work with who, in the past, have held back selling themselves to the San Diego rock community, either because they don’t think there is a rock community in San Diego or because they have bigger ambitions than being the most popular thing from National City to Leucadia.

“It’s necessary for a band to have charisma, and it’s necessary for a band to have a Kim Fowley in there someplace. The behind-the-scenes people are as much a part of rock ’n’ roll as the guys onstage.… Kim Fowley is a necessary evil.”

Fowley — colorfully portrayed by Michael Shannon in the new Runaways movie — ultimately opted to maintain his evil empire near L.A.

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Formed in Spring 1979 and originally an all-girl band, the Dinettes released a single recorded at Accusound, “Poison” b/w “T.V.” They also recorded demos at Straighta Head Sound, and a live tape was later circulated from a November 1979 gig at the Deaf Club in San Francisco (which is indeed for deaf people). Rooks split in 1980, and the Dinettes later allowed men to integrate the group, though they ultimately split for good around 1981.

Rooks had come from the Cockpits, who were also originally all-girl, tho they later allowed men in that group too (most notably future Beat Farmer Country Dick Montana).

Rooks went on to join Trowsers, later becoming a cello player. She turned up around 2003 in Cabaret Oscuro, with Bauhaus bassist David J.

Joyce Rooks I joined the Cockpits in 1978 by answering a Reader ad. I had a guitar and amp and a cello which I kept hidden as it didn't seem punk rock enough at the time. The Cockpits played their first gig at Porter's Pub at UCSD, opening for the Alley Cats, one of the coolest L.A. punk bands. Soon after the band changed members and became the Dinettes. I played rhythm guitar and sang backing vocals. Doriot Negrette was the lead singer and wrote all the songs. I left in about 1980 and later joined Trowsers, a ska/reggae band which Kim Fowley also had a fleeting interest in. After the Trowsers I hooked up with the Penetrators as a back up singer. Along the way I would sing with the Country Dick Montana's Pleasure Barons Revue and record with the Beat Farmers on their "Poor and Famous" album. I had worked at Tower Records Sports Arena store for four years and then moved to L.A. to work for CEMA Distribution (Capitol, EMI Music) from 1988-1994. During the L.A. years I continued to play guitar with a reggae band called the Ideals. I also did some recording gigs with Carla Olsen of the Textones and eventually began playing cello again with a band called Wait For Nothing. We recorded a CD and did a couple of European tours. After I left the music biz and moved back to San Diego, I played cello with folk singer Elizabeth Hummel, and on several occasions with Cindylee Berryhill. I also recorded two CD's with Formula, a band with made up of employees of Lou's Records. I met David J in early in early 2001 after he had finished the Bauhaus Resurrection tour.

Great to hear from you, Joyce! Thanks for filling in the blanks!

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