Take two top Big Bear bands, one that plays mostly folk music, the other classic rock, and merge them.
The result might be Street Music, a band with four veteran lead singers teaming together Fridays and Saturdays from 6-9 p.m. at Big Bear Mountain Brewery on Red Ant Hill. If the faces look familiar, it’s because you’ve seen them for years, back to the days when there was a vibrant local music scene with lots of bands, lots of venues. Now these four guys are about the last year-round band in town.
Rich Spaulding and Tom Burton were for many years the faces of Skeleton Key, whose distinctive folk sound was very different from what Terry Copley and Steve Johnson had been playing. For a long time the pair were in popular oldies group Slick City followed by blues and jazzy Catz in the Hats, maybe even more popular with a long run at the upscale Mandoline Bistro.
So guests hear everything from Gordon Lightfoot and the Grateful Dead to the Beatles and Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry to Tom Petty, John Fogerty to Johnny Cash. In addition to singing the four are all top musicians who have played locally for a long time and the band really jams.
Johnson for instance has been buried in the back of the stack for years as one of Big Bear’s top drummers, only occasionally emerging to croon Sinatra songs for the Catz in the Hats. He’s been a steady fixture in Big Bear for 18 years, taking only a year off from playing to care for his wife before she passed.
Copley has been around longer than that, 33 years in fact playing at the old Navajo among many other venues. His tenure includes bringing his talented bass to The Hook, a rock band going way back even before Slick City, and occasionally gets some solo time to show what he can do. When it’s time to sing lead on Beatles tunes like “We Can Work it Out” and “Eleanor Rigby,” Copley dons a mop-top wig to look the part.
Spaulding came to Big Bear in 1999 and started playing almost right away. Most of the time he’s teamed with fellow guitarist Burton in Skeleton Key, which has played at just about every venue in the Valley. Street Music also plays Burton’s originals that are good, like “Nobody’s Fool” and “Slow the World Down.”
“We’re the last regularly working four-piece band on the mountain,” Copley said. He, like the others, has played as many local gigs as there are stars in the sky, but even he burned out, taking a year off. “My girlfriend didn’t know I played music for nine months,” Copley said.
Street Music has been playing at Big Bear’s original brewery, where there’s craft beer with burgers and sandwiches around ten bucks, since November. Spaulding practically lives there, playing Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan among others as a duo with Rich Alfieri Thursdays and Sundays.
On occasion Street Music’s lineup puffs up to five or six. Like when Jai King sits in with her talented flute and saxophone, adding a whole new sound. Former Slick City-er Scott Arnett has sat in. Rusty Smith, who co-writes with Burton on bass, guitar and vocals has too. Even Al Ferguson, former guitarist of The Hondells, has sat in.
Big Bear Mountain Brewery is on top of Red Ant Hill at 40260 Big Bear Blvd. (909) 866-BEER.