The Valley’s Legendary Dr. Madd Show

By Julie Horner

Picture Thanksgiving, 1976, San Francisco’s Winterland. The Band is performing its last concert coming down from 16 years on the road. Some numbers they do just them, other songs include guest artists. Together they played tribute to “the friendships, the harmonies, the hijinks, and the wear and tear that add up to a last waltz.” (IMDb, “The Last Waltz,” 1978)

On Sunday, November 29, 2015 Don Quixote’s hosts The Dr.Madd Show, an evening like no other featuring a full cast of local music legends including the Doctor himself (guitar, vocals), Louie (sax), Diana (keyboard, vocals), Johnny (drums), and Norm (bass). Doc says they’ll be “playing some of the good originals, getting some of the old band members on stage.” There’s going to be a lot of variety: Rock, country, their own pieces, and “Louie doing some blues…joyous covers, swingy and easy, with creamy sax that’ll get yer trotters shakin.” And all timed perfectly for Dr.Madd’s 70th on December 1.

The man known as Dr.Madd grew up in McKeesport, PA, near the confluence of the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers where the biggest steel mills used to be that manufactured iron pipe and sheet metal that was shipped to Detroit to make cars. “You could wash your car and an hour later you could wipe the dust off with your finger.” Blast furnaces at night made the sky glow red and “people would go down, park, and watch the slag dump…pig iron…I can say I know molten hot metal.”

He was a medic in Viet Nam stationed at two neurological hospitals. “We got all the head cases. I remember thinking, I gotta do something with these hands.”

“First time I played rock n’ roll was in the spring of 1965 in army medic training, talent night, played the drums behind a Mexican kid doing a Peter & Gordon song…that was before they sent me to Germany.” He remembers walking back to the barracks one night. “I got in the middle of a mortar attack…the ground shakes and your spine rattles and instantly you know there’s a round coming. Instead of a weapon I had an electric guitar.”

One night he walked into the service club after dinner. “A guy runs up starts shaking my arm, ‘You gotta hear this! You gotta hear this!’ It was Bob Dylan.” After the next pay day, he went out and bought a nylon string guitar and started finger picking, buying Dylan records. “Then Jimmy Hendriks came along and turned everything on its head.”

He wound up playing bass for 35 years. In 1969, after his stint in the war, he lived in Philadelphia “when Led Zeppelin was new.” It was then that he “turned his back on rock n’ roll and started studying jazz…from Coltrane to Louie Armstrong.”

He left in the middle of the night, “started hitchhiking with a couple of knapsacks from Philly to San Jose” eventually hooking up with “an unmanageable dozen or so” musicians from music theory class at San Jose City College. They became the legendary outfit, Dirty Butter, gigging around San Jose and Sunnyvale until ’73, when the Doctor and some of the other members moved up to Boulder Creek and stumbled upon the now-infamous Club Zayante. At some point some of the members lost track of each other. Dr.Madd went to New Orleans for a while to play on a yacht in the Dr.Madd & Jesse James Band, which cycled through a few players to become “The Dr.Madd Show.”

Dr.Madd says it’s been quite the trip: “50 years of rock and roll and you survived.”

At the November 29 gig at Don Quixote’s, they’re playing the first set, “all our covers and originals.” The second set will be “like The Last Waltz…with all the old friends.” And the venue, he points out, is veteran friendly with easy wheelchair access. It will be a night rockin’ good times to remember.

To have your name placed on the concert reservation list, go to:

(c) 2015 Julie Horner

Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin November 2015

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Email: On the Web:


The Crooked Road Céilí Band ~ A Presidential Performance at Filoli House

By Julie Horner

In bold late October sunshine, Filoli House stood magnificent and sprawling, its lush gardens, vines, and hedges sweeping like wings verdant and moist against the dry, tawny expanse of rolling California oak lands. Catering staff was adding finishing touches to the tables stationed throughout the grounds – local wine, lustrous crystal and silver on small tables draped with white linen under fragrant boughs.

The Crooked Road Céilí Band had been invited to play traditional melodies in the courtyard at the storied mansion’s front entry – hammered dulcimer, fiddle, and guitar to welcome guests as they arrived for a gala garden party as if from a page out of Alice in Wonderland.

The motorcade pulled abruptly to the graveled walk promptly at 3:15. Irish President Michael D Higgins and his wife, Sabina, escorted by an entourage of secret service and local insiders, were ushered past, smiles and polite nods, into the reception in full swing. What an honor to share this glorious day of music and cheer with the Bay Area Irish community – a rare, celebrated instance of international import.

Based in the Santa Cruz Mountains, The Crooked Road Céilí Band is anchored by Julie Horner and David Chadwick. David and I met at the Sunday traditional Irish seisiún at O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub in San Jose a dozen years ago and have hosted the Tuesday night seisiún there ever since. I cut my teeth on Celtic music at John Taylor’s iconic King’s Head Pub seisiún in Campbell back in the day and performed for many a Highland Games in the 1990s with the now defunct group, Celtic Blacklyst. David rode his bicycle across Ireland with a mandolin strapped to his back, spending years woodshedding the music on fiddle back at home.

The Crooked Road Céilí Band features a high-ranking roster of professional musicians to round out the trio, and sometimes a quartet, to provide lively acoustic music for a wide variety of events including weddings, dances, and public and private occasions of all kinds. We share our love of traditional music prolifically, keeping a calendar bursting with musical endeavorings.

We discovered our regular third member, guitarist and singer-songwriter, Ken Bewick, at the seisiún at the Poet & Patriot Irish Pub in Santa Cruz. Ken puts the groove to our traditional tunes, taking the energy to new levels. Adding another layer of interest, we often ask local bluegrass legend, Mark McCornack to join us on 5-string banjo, which gives our sound a down-home Americana feel. And when we’re fortunate, bodhrán player, Russ Bennett is available when an event calls for the drive of the traditional frame drum.

Together in many forms, The Crooked Road Céilí Band has been invited to play on stage at Ardenwood’s annual Tartan Day celebration; the highly regarded international music festival, Church Street Fair in Santa Cruz; the Big Trees Scottish Festival and Highland Games at Roaring Camp; and for the South Bay Scottish Society Robert Burns supper – eight years running if you include the years we were playing as Cooking with Turf!

Doug Lowder (fiddle) and Jack Gilder (concertina, flute) make up The Crooked Road quartet. We met at the famed Plough & Stars Irish seisiún in San Francisco, and Jack, David, and I are regulars at Lark in the Morning annual music and dance camp in Mendocino. The Crooked Road plays once a month for Irish set dancing at the Plough and we host the enormously popular twice-a-year Irish céilí at the Felton Trout Farm Inn.

The Crooked Road Céilí Band is also in demand to play traditional dance music for Scottish céilídhs, joining forces with callers Linda Henderson and Juliet Davoren for numerous private parties throughout the year.

One of our favorite specialties is providing music for weddings. We’ve traveled as far as Mammoth Lakes and Lake Tahoe to help families celebrate very special moments, performing in cathedrals of stone and cathedrals of redwood forest alike. The hammered dulcimer is much sought after for adding an evocative magic to traditional pieces like Amazing Grace and Pachelbel’s Cannon in addition to melodies from the Irish and Scottish tradition.

The Crooked Road Céilí Band plays for the sheer joy of making music and being able to share our enthusiasm with our community, aiming to put a jig in your step and a song in your heart! Longtime hosts of the traditional Irish seisiun at O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub on Tuesdays in downtown San Jose, the Poet & the Patriot in Santa Cruz, and Thursday’s at Rosie McCann’s in Santa Cruz (RIP).

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Phone: 831-325-1974


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