Rock City Angels
 
(established 2006; last updated 2/16/15)

The Rock City Angels were a popular Florida band that moved to LA in the mid 80's.  Johnny was the rhythm guitarist in the band for about 4-6 months in 1986 and continued to sit in with them for about a year.  
Thanks to Bobby D., Ringo J., Billy S. and Cat from Gold Coast Live for their contributions to this page.

     The Rock City Angels began as The Abusers in South Florida, with members Bobby Durango (aka Bobby Bondage aka Bobby St. Valentine) and Andy Panik among others.  They played punk rock and opened for bands like Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, and eventually developed into more of a glam band and changed their name to Rock City Angels.  According to a 2007 interview with Andy Panik (no longer available online), the lineup of Bobby, Andy, Jimmy James, Punkee Stevens and Jack Smack moved to LA on June 20, 1986.  Drummer Punkee Stevens quit the band 3 days after the move and then joined Johnny Crash, and Jackie D. ("Ringo") Jukes replaced Stevens as drummer.
     Soon after the move to LA, guitarists Jimmy James and Jack Smack were fired, and Mike Barnett (aka Mike Angel) joined the band.  Because they had always been a two guitar band, another guitarist was needed, and Mike's good friend Johnny Depp became their rhythm guitarist.  Johnny had just returned from filming Platoon in The Philippines.  It was evident from the start that Johnny would make the band; Andy Panik recalls Johnny learning an entire 12 song set during a rehearsal in which he was auditioning.  To this day, Panik describes the lineup of Durango, Panik, Jukes, Barnett and Depp to be the "quintessential" RCA lineup.  Johnny has described the band as "a cross between Muddy Waters and the Sex Pistols", and their site describes them as "an exciting mixture of punk-inspired glam-rock."  According to Andy Panik in a 2009 interview, Johnny only ever recorded one song with the band in the studio for what would have been the band's glam album.
     
Johnny had to quit the RCA when he agreed to do the 21 Jump Street Fox TV series, and was replaced by Doug Banx.  Taping for Jump Street began in Vancouver in December of 1986, but since Johnny was not an original cast member it's not certain if he moved to Vancouver this early.  However, by most accounts, Johnny continued to play with the RCA on occasion, even after getting the Jump Street role, through about the summer of 1987, perhaps with Nic Cage and Sal Jenco sometimes sitting in as well.  In a 2009 interview with Nashvillerock.net, Durango even says that Johnny spent time training Banx.  Some live gigs featuring Johnny that have been recalled by Jukes, Durango and Panik, as well as some added by Mike from the janesddiction.org site include:
  • Three to four shows at the Lingerie Club
  • A street fair for the homeless at Thanksgiving, presumably in 1986
  • A festival in Oxnard, CA
  • Several shows at the Scream Club, including one on Valentine's Day 1987, opening for Jane's Addiction
  • Several shows at the Coconut Teaszer
  • A show at the White Trash au Go-Go on July 3, 1987
(Please see the JD Rocks! Timeline and Live On Stage pages for several specific show dates in 1986 and 1987)
 
     At one point, Mike Barnett got in an ugly confrontation with Bobby Durango.  This, in combination with alleged drug use and many missed rehearsals and sessions on Barnett's part, led to his firing from the band.  According to Panik, Johnny was not in contact with any of the band members for many years after Barnett was kicked out.  Mike Barnes then joined the RCA as another guitarist.

    A&R rep Billy Siciliano recalls the first time he saw the Rock City Angels live at the Troubadour, being floored by Bobby Durango's voice and the band's great hooks.  He immediately called Grace Reinbold, who soon signed the band to their management company.  Billy kindly shares his story here:

"Hello there my name is Billy Siciliano, I worked for Grace Reinbold who managed the Rock City Angels. All these years later and the endless Story's that have been written, I thought I would take a minute and add something. As the Management's A&R Rep I had spent the Fall of 1986 searching for new talent, my background was working at Dutch East India Independent Record Distributor 1982-1986 home of Homestead Records and the Heavy metal label I was in charge of Pentagram Records. I had signed Ded Engine, N.M.E., Pentagram, did Distribution deals with New York EP Carry The Torch and Hammers Rule  out of Colorado. After leaving the Label I ended up working with Grace and relocated to Nashville where we found The Royal Court Of China who where signed to A&M in 1987. Then relocated to Los Angeles in the Fall of 1986 where I left off. I seemed to spend almost every night going to Clubs and there where no Bands that really had the it factor. One night I was sitting at the Bar in the Troubadour and I hear and see this skinny white guy in a cowboy hat singing Dock Of The Bay that would of made Otis Redding smile, Really got my attention, they did several more songs some with a Glam edge to them and a few which had great hooks. After the show I went and gave my card to the Band and said who I was and if you are interested in Management give me a call and we will set up a meeting with my boss. The next morning I was so excited about the Band I called Grace and said you have to fly to L. A. and meet with the band, which she did and a few weeks later we signed them to our Management Company. The band was put in the studio and recorded 16 track Demo's which where shopped to the labels, to this day in my opinion those Demo's blow away the album which was released on Geffen. I will never forget the night after the show at White Trash when Tom Zutaut ran up the stairs and said you guy's are signed to Geffen. There has been many a Story written over the years but for one who actually lived it in the end the Dreams and the Vision I saw that night at the Troubadour where just another sad story of a  Band's journey into the recycled bin."

    Thanks Billy!  In May of 1987, the Rock City Angels were offered a huge record deal from Geffen records.  Here is a photo from the day the contract was signed at the Geffen Records Office on Sunset Blvd:

RCA deal   RCA record deal2
left photo, top l-r: Stevens Weiss (Led Zeppelin's business manager), Billy Siciliano (band management), Theresa Ensenat (Geffen Records A&R);
bottom l-r: band members Bobby Durango and Jackie D. "Ringo" Jukes
right photo, top l-r: Tom Zutaut (Geffen A&R Rep), Grace Reinbold (band manager for RCA), Eddie Rosenblatt (Geffen Exec.);
bottom l-r (only partially visible): band members Doug Banx, Andy Panik, and Mike Barnes


    They were sent to Tennessee to prepare their debut CD, Young Man's Blues.  For a brief time, they had to change their name to the Delta City Rebels (or the Delta Rebels) due to a conflict with a gospel group of the same name, and even released a track on a Scream (nightclub) Compilation under the name Delta Rebels.

deltarebels

   They were able to revert to the name Rock City Angels before the release of the album.
The album features one song, Mary, for which Johnny co-wrote the music.  The band lineup consisted of:
  • Bobby Durango - vocals
  • Mike Barnes - guitar
  • Doug Banx - guitar
  • Andy Panik - bass
  • Jackie D. Jukes - drums
     The album was recorded in Memphis from Nov. 1987 to Apr. 1988.  It was originally mixed by producer Jim Dickinson, but the record company asked for a remix, and Dickinson left the project.  Durango got involved when he wasn't happy with the label's attempt, and the result was a compromise.   In 2009, the original Jim Dickinson mix was made available to fans.  Bobby Durango describes Dickinson's involvement and subsequent departure from the album project in a note that he sent to me in 2010:

BD note 1   BD note 2
 
     Young Man's Blues was released in 1988 by Geffen.  The official press release for the album is shown below:

press release ymb

     A 1989 blurb in the teen magazine Bop mentioned that Johnny's co-written song, Mary, was not included on the cassette or CD versions of the original release, just on the vinyl LP, but the press release contradicts this.  Gott Records rereleased the album in 2005 (with Mary on the CD).  The band was dropped from Geffen a few years later.  The story of the breakup and the theories about why Geffen dropped them are strange tales indeed, and would best be served by reading the stories yourselves.  See the links below, including an interview with Ringo and Bobby in 2003, an American Music Press in 2006, and most recently, a 2011 Itsaxxxxthing interview with Bobby that seeks to clarify the real RCA story once and for all.

     Ringo Jukes is a significant contributor to the Do It For Johnny documentary, that had its world premiere at the 22nd Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Jan. 28, 2007.  
SBIFF
   
    The film also had a screening at the Bug Theatre in Denver and additional film festival screenings throughout '07.  Four Rock City Angels songs are said to be featured, including Johnny's cowriting effort, Mary.  Unfortunately, the documentary has yet to see a theatrical or DVD release.

     In 2008, Bobby Durango and Ringo Jukes completed the long-unfinished RCA album, Use Once And Destroy, for release.  It can be purchased from CD Baby.  They also played some unplugged shows at the Tap Room on Beale Street in Memphis.  Ringo also played drums on a recent release by Elam McKnight called Supa Good.  The music is said to be hardcore punk/blues, and was originally going to be used for the film Black Snake Moan.

     In 2009, Durango revived the Rock City Angels, and they were active through 2012, playing shows in both Tennessee and South Florida, with the following lineup:
  • Bobby Durango : Vocals
  • Jimmy James : Guitar
  • Pagan Raygun : Guitar
  • Adam G. : Bass
  • Mike Dover : Drums
     In 2010, the RCA released an album, Midnight Confessions: Lost recordings from 1989 to 1992, on FNA Records.  It can also be purchased in digital format from Amazon and iTunes.  As of 2011, Bobby Durango also had another punk/blues band, Mondophonics, out of Memphis, TN.

     Sadly, in early June of 2012, Bobby Durango passed away.  At the time of his death, he had been working on a new album with the Rock City Angels, which was to be titled Devils in the Countryside and expected to be released by the end of 2012.  It remains to be seen whether the album will still come to fruition.  The lineup at this time was:
  • Bobby Durango : Vocals
  • Pagan Raygun : Guitar
  • Jimmy James/Jorge Hernandez : Guitar
  • Mark Binko : Bass
  • Mike Dover/Adam Keller : Drums
     Read some articles reporting Bobby's passing from UltimateRock.com, Noisecreep, and Miami New Times.  A Memorial Page has been set up on Facebook.

     In March-April of 2014, Johnny paid his first visit to Beijing, China, to promote his film, Trancendence.  While there, he visited the Li-Pi Record Store, and spotted a Rock City Angels Young Man's Blues LP in the bin.  He pointed and said, "THAT is my old band!"  A very nice shout-out after so many years!  

RCA in China

YouTube of Johnny visiting Li-Pi Records and playing some Chinese instruments
 
     Also in April of 2014, an Indian tabloid site, IndianTVNews, published a silly rumor, filled with inaccuracies and some facts that actually better describe Johnny's other band The Kids, claiming that Johnny put his career on hold to reunite with the Rock City Angels.  The article was considered by RCA and Depp fans alike to be a parody.  Even so, former RCA bassist Andy Panik posted to various sites including the Rock City Angels Facebook Page, reporting that he and Johnny had actually recently been in communication.  He said that they spoke about Bobby Durango's passing and former RCA member Mike Barnes, and also that "We spoke about jamming."  Whether they will actually ever get together to jam is anyone's guess-- we should take this with a grain of salt-- Panik says that their recent conversation had taken "25 years of weight off (his) shoulders."  Very glad to hear that!



     Young Man's Blues was ranked at #106 in Chuck Eddy's book "Stairway To Hell: The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums in the Universe."



Please visit the JD Rocks! Live On Stage page to see ads for several Rock City Angels shows during 1986-1987.



biographer Randi Reisfeld's account of Johnny's stint in the Rock City Angels:
(thanks Maggy!)

RR12  RR13  RR14

and an earlier mention from the Florida days:

RR3

Here's a mention from the April 1989 issue of 16 magazine, which tells about Johnny's involvement with the band,
as well as his contribution of the music to the song, Mary:

16 magazine


June 12-25, 1987 LA Rocks scans, with several RCA nods (but no direct Johnny content) (thanks to Mike from janesaddiction.com):
  • LA Rocks cover
  • White Trash show review (it is unclear whether Johnny performed at this show. He was already doing 21 Jump Street by then and not playing with the RCA regularly, but RCA were trying to schedule around him and the Jump Street schedule when possible.  Johnny was definitely back for a July 4 show at the White Trash shortly after this one)
  • Signing party article
  • Photo of RCA (without Johnny)
Record reviews:
Some Johnny-related RCA magazine blurbs:
Interviews (thanks to Ringo, Bobby and Jake for many of these):
     Bobby Durango did an exclusive interview with the Spanish music magazine, "This Is Rock", in the February 2007 issue.  (This is a Spanish language magazine).  
thisisrock

     The original transcript in English of Bobby's replies to "This Is Rock"'s questions for the interview, was compiled by Cat of Gold Coast Live.  The link to this translation has been broken; if anyone has saved it, please contact me so that I can restore it!
 
 
Additional RCA links:
Other related links:

 
Cover scans, Mary lyrics, and Liner Notes to the
2005 re-release of Young Man's Blues (click to enlarge)

ymbfront   ymb back   mary   ymb thanks

YMB liner1   YMB liner2   YMB liner 3


Scans from the Jim Dickinson mix of Young Man's Blues

dickinson cover   dickinson disc   dickinson sleeve


Scans of pre-Johnny Depp Self-Titled CD aka "The Glam Album" (originally recorded in1984
with additional recording done in 1986; released on New Renaissance Records in 2000)

rca front   rca back
 

Post-Johnny Depp releases: Use Once and Destroy; Midnight Confessions- Lost recordings from 1989 to 1992

use once and destroy   midnight confessions
 
 
Some other cool RCA-related pix (click to enlarge)
Mary
Lyrics To Mary
fontenoy
The Fontenoy, where Johnny and
several band members lived
illus
From "Johnny Depp:
An Illustrated Story"
barneys
Barney's Beanery
popular haunt of the RCA
club ling
Club Lingerie
The Rock City Angels played here!
RCA
Young Man's Blues-era
Rock City Angels

scream
Scream compilation
with RCA billed as Delta Rebels


Have any corrections or additions?  Please e-mail at info@johnnydepprocks.com Photos would be especially appreciated!




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