Spotlight Band - The BluCoats

Jim Peretti: Guitar, vocals
Larry Caird: Vocals
Wade Johnson: Drums, vocals
Medardo Canales: Guitar
Tom Boyce (not pictured): Bass, vocals
(Name was also spelled Bluecoats.)

One afternoon in 1965, fifteen year-old, Thousand Oaks drummer Wade Johnson began combing his neighborhood, tracking down someone he heard playing Herb Alpert's The Lonely Bull on a guitar. He had to find whoever that someone was.

"I had never been in a band before, but I had been paying off a brand new Ludwig Super Classic drum set for about six months. I found Medardo Canales in a garage surrounded by tiny kids listening to him. I asked him if he would be interested in starting a band and he said yes."

Medardo told Wade that he knew another guy down the street who also played guitar. Enter Jim Peretti, who brought with him Larry Caird and, about a year later, Tommy Boyce (not to be confused with Tommy Boyce of Boyce & Hart fame). This could so easily be a typical story of the typical start of a typical band, but this one has a deeper element, and that's about friendship, personal ethics, and loyalty.

"We were truly a band of brothers and had a common goal of getting better through the years," Wade says.

From1965 to 1969 the BluCoats wrote original music while covering songs by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Paul Revere & the Raiders, the Monkees, the Byrds, Bob Dylan, and many others. Wade and Larry beagn a songwriting partnership that wrote most of the band's originals, and Jim also became involved with the song writing process.

The band entered several Battle Of The Bands competitions at  the Hollywood Paladium, Pacific Ocean Park, and the Park Oaks Mall in Thousand Oaks, and took 1st place in the Thousand Oaks Battle Of The Bands. Then "the breaks" began to happen. Because of their closer proximity to L.A., Thousand Oaks bands received more contract offers than did those a little farther north, and the BluCoats found out they'd been scouted.

Jim recalls, "A Hollywood record producer signed us and we began to record our original music in the same recording studio that Phil Spector had worked his musical magic in."

Although they recorded six or seven songs, none of them were ever released and six months later, after being approached by David Records, which had an office in Hollywood's Max Factor Building, they broke away.

In 1966 Tandym Almer (who'd written Along Comes Mary for the Association) and Eddie Hodges (Knock On Your Door), came to hear the band in Wade's garage. The band played several tunes for their esteemed visitors, who, afterward asked Wade and Larry to take a ride in the limo that sat out by the curb.

"They offered us a deal, but when we found out it was only for the two of us, we declined it," Wade says. This is where the BluCoats' story becomes atypical. The offer must have been tempting, especially for two young  guys at a time when grabbing the brass ring was everything to every aspiring or seasoned musician.

Undaunted, the band played throughout Ventura County, continuing to work on their original songs as they grew not only as musicians, but as tried and true friends. They disbanded in 1969 when Wade moved to Memphis to pursue a recording and songwriting stint with Dan Penn at his studio, Beautiful Sounds, and joined Freedom Street.

Do they regret their decision not to go with the Hollywood big boys? Not on your life. Still the best of friends, the band has reunited on several occasions to perform at the Thousand Oaks Bandtree Reunion concerts. Wade, who now lives in Texas, performs with bands Gunpoint, 4 Way Street, and Festus and continues to write music. Larry lives in Oregon, where he still writes lyrics. Tom, still in Thousand Oaks, plays with Sea Cloud and still writes music. Medardo is in Ventura, still playing guitar, and Jim lives in Oxnard, where he writes songs and teaches guitar.

So what is success, really? Is it only found in securing a lucrative contract, playing stadiums, and having gold and platinum records nailed to the wall? Or is it found in the brace of friendship, of sharing memories and smiling at each other while you're playing an old, favorite song? The BluCoats have made it very clear that it is the latter that truly matters.

The following video was shot over a period of years on an 8mm movie camera by Jackie Peretti, Jim's sister. Remembers Wade, "The song is called Hazardous To Your Health and was written by myself and Larry, and we both shared the lead vocals on it. We didn't ever have a lot of money and when we went into the studio to record it, I'd broken the heads on my two tom-toms (couldn't afford new ones). It was recorded with a snare, kick drum, and cymbals only. The recording has picked up noise over the years, but the original recording was very clean."

Thank you to both Jackie and the BluCoats for this video, which, for me personally, brings back the feelings of the times: the youth and excitement, and all the possibilities we cherished.


jperetti said…
Just to give credit where credit is due... the video was produced by my wonderful and creative sister Jackie Peretti. It was made with 8mm film collected over several years.
SK Waller said…
Thanks Jim! I'll fix that.
With all the film that I remember being shot, why is there so little of.....and so much of.....Nah. Jackie did a great job with what she had to work with. Thanks, for everything.
SK Waller said…
LOL Larry. Nice to meet you!