Johnny Stingray

I guess it was ‘75 or so, I was working at an appliance store in Burbank, CA and living in Santa Monica with Kidd Spike (then known as Jeff Austin) and his sister, Gaye. Gaye was my high school girlfriend, she and I had  moved to CA a few years earlier.

On my long commute, I usually listened to KROQ. In those days it was still an AM radio station, but they played music that was outside of ‘normal’ AM radio – Velvet Underground, New York Dolls, ect..

Where else could you hear ‘Heroin’ by VU in the middle of the afternoon?

One day they played a track from a New York based band called The Ramones. It blew my mind, I had never heard anything like it! I used to buy 2 new albums every payday, so The Ramones were at the top of my list for next paycheck! 

My roommates were quickly on board and we played it start to finish every day.  Beat on the Brat. Blitzkrieg Bop.  Havana Affair. The classics!

Kidd Spike actually learned guitar playing along with The Ramones. I showed him a couple of chords and in a few short weeks, he learned every song and we started talking about starting our own punk rock band, not knowing the change we were about to experience. I wasn’t that crazy about my job as a salesman, so this was a very tempting idea!

We started listening to Rodney Bingenheimer’s radio show (also on KROQ). I believe he was on Sunday nites. He regularly announced local gigs, but one Sunday he told SoCal about a LOCAL PUNK ROCK SHOW! We immediately made plans to attend.  

This was to be a pivotal moment.

Zeros, Germs and the Weirdos. Couldn’t ask for a better first punk rock show! All 3 were in their prime, snotty glory. 

Zeros were cool, like a cross between the Beatles and Ramones- only Hispanic! Suits with skinny ties, loaded with hook filled songs – just COOL.

Germs were snotty, brash and loud. Darby was still going by the name ‘Bobby Pyn’. They weren’t as polished as the Zeros, but still COOL!

The Weirdos were incredible. They managed to be polished and raw all at once. Great songs and a great look. They looked like they had rolled around in one of those bins where old ladies dropped off their dead husband’s clothes. Marshall amps, loud as fuck…

That night we met Al Hansen, he was to become a huge influence on us. 

We did not know he was a world famous artist, and his daughter was a Warhol girl, among other things. Truth was, he was just hitting on my gf. He carried around a camera and had us ‘pose’ for him. We were punked out, trying hard to be cool, turns out there was no film in the camera! It was how he got girls to talk to him! 

After talking to Al and lying that we had a band, he invited us to meet and play a couple of songs for his daughter and her husband, David Campbell. Al told us David was a record producer (he was). We didn’t meet David when we showed up at their house, but the die was set, he did eventually make a record with us, Suburban Suicide, on Siamese Records, 1978.

Controllers first gig and mine, was at the legendary Masque, late summer, 1977. Brendan Mullen was running a very cheap rehearsal space in a basement under Hollywood Blvd. and decided to expand into an unlicensed underground (literally underground )venue for punk. He needed a PA, which we had and in exchange for loaning it to him for the night, he let us on the bill. We did 3 songs, as I recall. The only one I remember was ‘Neutron Bomb’.

Our first drummer, Hillary Dillary Fuck, looked the part, but couldn’t really play. We replaced her shortly after with Charlie Trash, who could actually play when she wanted to, but that’s another story!

I was a co-founder of KAOS, with Amy Wichmann and her friend, Lisa Addams. Made one great single. 1980 or so.

Later, I moved back to Lansing, MI and was pressed into service as bass player for Lansing punk legends Just Say No. We did an album and a tour, disbanded when Steve Fucking Miller quit.

In 1980, I was co-owner of ?What Records with Chris Ashford. Historic punk label! We put out the KAOS single and what ended up being Michael Penn’s first recording, Hard for 2 rugged individuals to partner, so we split up in 1984 or so.

Still friends!

Trivia of interest about myself: First song I ever wrote was Neutron Bomb, recorded and released in 1977. Not bad for a first try!

These days I’m retired due to disability, Parkinson’s disease. I still live in Hollywood CA. Still married to my second wife, I have one son, Johnny. He’s 35, lives with his mother in Nevada.

I play guitar, bass, piano and keyboards, slide guitar, steel guitar, uke. Until Parkinson’s struck, I was a one man band, recording in my humble home studio. I don’t play much punk these days.

You can hear more of Johnny’s music here:

(8″x8″ black watercolor paper, colored pencil, charcoal – SS 2021)

  1. Jay Sarin

    Love hearing stories like this, thank you Johnny Stingray! Long live The Controllers!

  2. Jay Falconer

    Awesome story, Stingray…!
    Keep on doing what you do best, making music…!

    • Johnny Stingray

      Thanks so very much for your response to my story and I hope you have enjoyed the music and that you are I will continue to be very good friends and I thank you again !

  3. Vincent Ramirez

    Johnny, great to hear your story. Great to hear anyone from that first generation. L.A. punk scene. I did manage to see The Controllers twice. Once at the Hong Kong Cafe, I think. Not sure what year. “Maddog” (Charlie Trash?) on drums. The other time at Cathay de Grande 1982. Played with the Plugz. I took a few photos. Shot a bunch of photos of the L.A. scene. They are up on my Instagram at vincentrramirezphotography

    • Johnny Stingray

      Thanks,,incredibly nice of you to share your experience with me as well as the people who are working with me on this project.
      I’m very excited to be able to share my experiences in the punk music scene 🎬 and to see what you think about it is very important for me!

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *