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Play it Loud: San Diego's Pop Music History

Meet some of the music stars from San Diego

San Diego's history of pop-music achievement reaches back decades.

San Diego's track record of musical milestones dates back decades and includes a whole lot of famous artists. And with its combination of great venues and seriously tuned-in audiences, San Diego is bound to remain a musical launching pad for a long time to come.


1962 - Rosie & The Originals' "Angel Baby" is a nationwide hit in 1962, and is later referenced in song by John Lennon.
1966 - Iron Butterfly is formed in San Diego. Their 1968 hit "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" won them a reputation as the first heavy-metal band.
1967 - Gary Puckett & The Union Gap forms in San Diego and goes on to record major hits from '67 through '71.
1967 - Frank Zappa, former student at Grossmont and Mission Bay high schools, forms The Mothers of Invention. Their eclectic/progressive rock sound eventually help give Frank Zappa legendary status.


1972 - Tom Waits is working as a doorman at The Heritage Club in San Diego. The next year, he releases the first album of what will be a long and storied career: "Closing Time." 
1974 - The Belly Up Tavern opens in Solana Beach, providing a venue for local and nationally touring artists.
1974-1978 - R&R radio station KGB begins the "Homegrown" album series. Local artists are invited to write and record songs about San Diego County. Approximately 10-12 songs are selected per album, and proceeds go to a selected charity. (The liner notes for the first two albums are written by San Diego's Cameron Crowe, then a teen-age correspondent for Rolling Stone magazine, who would go on to write and direct such hit movies as "Jerry Maguire" and win an Oscar for "Almost Famous.")
1976 - Stephen Bishop submits a song to KGB's Homegrown Album series. The submission is rejected because it was submitted too late, Bishop later reveals. He eventually releases the song, "On and On," on his first album, with a lyrical reference to Jamaica instead of the original La Jolla. The song goes on to reach No. 11 on the national charts in 1977.


1981 - The first Adams Avenue Street Festival. Every year in September, local and national artists perform in Southern California's largest free music festival.

1982: The San Diego band The Monroes records a minor national hit, "What Do All the People Know?," and performs on the nationally televised "Merv Griffin Show."
1983 - The Beat Farmers combine alternative rock and country music to create an original sound and quirky songs. Known for their wild live performances, they build a huge fanbase.
1984 - The first San Diego Street Scene music festivals in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. For many years, this annual festival brings new talent to San Diego for a three-day, multistage event.

1984: With three San Diegans in its lineup, the metal band Ratt drops its platinum debut album "Out of the Cellar," featuring the hit single "Round and Round." The band goes on to record three more platinum albums. 

1986 - The Rugburns, led by Steve Poltz, meet at UCSD and start playing in the San Diego area.

1989 - The Casbah, a close-quarters (75 capacity) music venue, opens near downtown. Bands renowned in various underground music movements make the Casbah a staple in the San Diego scene.


1990 - San Diego singer Eddie Vedder receives a demo tape of songs from three Seattle musicians. After adding vocals to the demo, Eddie travels to Washington State to join them, and Pearl Jam is born.
1990 - The punk band Rocket From The Crypt forms in San Diego.
1991 - Buck 'O Nine, a mutation of metal/punk/reggae/ska, forms in San Diego.

1992 - The Christian nu metal band P.O.D. forms in San Diego's South Bay. The group will go on to record 10 albums, earn three Grammy Award nominations and tour internationally.
1992 - Stone Temple Pilots builds a fan base in San Diego to avoid the Los Angeles corporate scene. Their first album, recorded after moving back to Los Angeles, is a major national hit.
1992 - With roots in Poway, Blink-182 starts playing and recording irresistible pop/punk tunes. They sign with Geffen Records and go on to become a multi-hit, internationally recognized band.
1992 - The Rugburns' first release on Bizarre Planet Records, Morning Wood, gains the duo some national notoriety.
1994 - The Casbah moves to a larger (200 capacity) venue near San Diego International Airport.
1995 - Jewel Kilcher is singing at the Innerchange Coffeehouse. Not long after, she is noticed and signed by Atlantic Records. Her first album goes platinum. Two of the hits were co-written with Steve Poltz of the Rugburns.
1996 - Switchfoot forms to create spiritually evocative alt-rock music. They receive acclaim in the Christian music market.


2001 - Jason Mraz is playing with a trio in local coffeehouses. He signs with Elektra Records in 2003 and releases his first CD, Waiting For My Rocket To Come. A single, The Remedy, receives radio, MTV and VH-1 attention. Mraz goes on to win two Grammy Awards, and continues to record as well as operate an avocado farm in a rural part of Oceanside in North County.
2003 - Switchfoot releases its major label debut, "The Beautiful Letdown." The band is still releasing new work and touring. Switchfoot also sponsors the Annual Bro-Am Surf Contest and Concert Benefit.
2009 - Adam Lambert is a runner-up contestant in American Idol Season 8, which launches him into a singing and acting career.


2015 - The singer-songwriter Andra Day, a graduate of the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, releases her debut album, "Cheers to the Fall." It makes the national charts, and Day receives two nominations for the 2016 Grammy Awards, at which she also performs.

2019 - Singer-songwriter Kat Hammock of Encinitas makes it into the Top 5 of "The Voice," the much-watched NBC-TV singing competition. She releases her debut album, "Better Than I've Been," in October 2022.

Check out San Diego's Live Music Venues to discovers the future stars from San Diego.

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