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The Sounds of San Diego

While not as well-known for its music scene as some other West Coast cities, San Diego has been the birthplace (literally and figuratively) of numerous music acts. Check out these popular artists who got their start in America’s Finest City:

  • Dan Baird – Born in San Diego but raised in Atlanta, Baird was the frontman and chief songwriter for the 1980s band The Georgia Satellites, who achieved “one-hit wonder” status with the jangly “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.” As a solo artist in the early ‘90s, he repeated the feat with the grammar-themed gem “I Love You Period.” He has since written, produced and performed on other artists’ recordings, and occasionally issues his own music as part of the Yayhoos and, most recently, Dan Baird & Homemade Sin.
  • Stephen Bishop – Long before he achieved chart success as a performer, the San Diego-born Bishop was a publishing house songwriter, churning out tunes for the likes of Chaka Khan, The Four Tops and Barbara Streisand. He was “discovered” by Art Garfunkel, who recording some of Bishop’s songs and helped him land a recording contract. Bishop’s debut album, highlighted by the single “On and On,” was nominated for a Grammy. However, he has had a more significant career in movie music. In 1982, he sang (but did not write) the Oscar-nominated “It Might Be You” from the film “Tootsie.” Then, in 1985, he got his own nomination for “Separate Lives” (from “White Nights”), which was sung by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin. His songs can be found on the soundtracks to “Animal House,” “The China Syndrome,” “The Money Pit,” “Unfaithfully Yours” and many others. He has also made cameo appearances in a number of films, including “The Blues Brothers” and “The Kentucky Fried Movie.”
  • Blink-182 – Hailed by the New York Times as the most influential punk band of the 1990s, Blink-182 was formed in the San Diego suburb of Poway. Their music combines pop melodies with fast-paced punk for a radio-friendly sound.
  • Iron Butterfly – Formed in San Diego in 1966, the group remains one of the staples of the psychedelic rock scene. They were one of the first hard rock acts to receive extensive radio airplay. They were also the first group to receive a Platinum award from the Recording Industry Association of America. Their 1968 disc, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” remains one of the biggest selling albums of all time. The 17-minute title track was edited down to 2:52 for radio. In addition, the band’s name – which combined the “heaviness” of the group’s sound with an insect (popular at the time, due to the Beatles) – served as an influence on the name on another classic hard rock outfit: Led Zeppelin.
  • Adam Lambert – The 2009 “American Idol” runner-up was born in Indianapolis, but raised in San Diego, where he developed a passion for theater, which ultimately led to his music career. Thus far, he has parlayed his success on “Idol” into three top-3 albums on the Billboard charts, as well as well as a gig as the lead singer of the classic rock band Queen. His acting credits are all music-influenced, too, as he’s appeared in “Ten Commandments: The Musical,” had a recurring role on “Glee” and will appear in Fox’s TV remake of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” as Eddie.
  • Jason Mraz – Springing from the coffeehouse scene in San Diego, Mraz was born in Mechanicsville, Virginia. His first album, released in 2002, contained the hit single “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry).” After the release of his second disc in 2005, Mraz kicked off his tour at the San Diego Music Awards. In 2008, his single “I’m Yours” set the record for longest stay on the Billboard Hot 100, at 76 weeks. In 2009, he was awarded the Hal David Starlight Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He won two Grammy awards in 2010, for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Best Pop Collaboration (with Colbie Caillat). In addition, Mraz has made a name for himself as a social activist, supporting a number of causes, including the environment and human rights.
  • Stephen Pearcy – Though this San Diego-born singer may not be a household name, his screams and snarls were unavoidable on the radio (and MTV) in 1984, when his band Ratt – which appeared in the early days of what came to be known as “hair metal” – topped the charts with “Round and Round” and “Wanted Man.” In the years since the heyday of Spandex and hair spray, Pearcy has issued several solo albums, fronted a couple of short-lived bands – with names like Vertex and Vicious Delite – and routinely returned to the cellar with his Ratt bandmates, most recently for 2010’s “Infestation.”
  • Gary Puckett & The Union Gap – A San Diego pop-rock group that had a string of hits in the late 1960s, one of which (“Young Girl”) was used in a mash-up on an early episode of “Glee.” These days, the band is most widely remembered by a costuming gimmick: They dressed in Civil War-era Union Army uniforms.
  • Jason Scheff – In 1985, at age 23, Scheff – born in San Diego, the son of Elvis Presley’s touring bassist Jerry Scheff – was tapped to replace Peter Cetera as the bass player and co-lead singer of the classic rock band Chicago. Although he was chosen because he could closely duplicate Cetera’s vocal parts on the band’s existing hits, he emerged as a talented songwriter in his own right, penning their 1989 single, “What Kind of Man Would I Be?” Although only the founding members are named in the honor, Scheff will perform with Chicago at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2016.
  • Ann Wilson – Regarded as one of the best female vocalists in rock music history, Wilson – who, with her younger sister Nancy, form the nexus of the band Heart, which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. The Wilson sisters also have a side project called The Lovemongers. In 2001, Ann Wilson joined producer Alan Parsons in the live Beatles tribute tour, “A Walk Down Abbey Road.” She released her first solo album, “Hope & Glory” in 2006. In late 2015, she embarked on a solo tour, “The Ann Wilson Thing.”

To discover the music of San Diego, and to see the city that inspired so many performers, or to seek out the melodies of any of our other 40+ destinations, drop us a line at

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