One day I was performing at The Lookout Br & Grill in the beautiful Channel Island Harbor and my friend Anita Montgomery brought in a T-Shirt she printed up for me to look at. I have never had my own t-shirts and I really liked this one. It was simple but to the point. It had one of my popular “saying’s” on it, something I have been known to say to my crowd for over 30 years.
When I got it I sent it to a few people for their feedback and my brother Mike added a little sentence to the saying. I then decided since the back was blank, what should I put on the back. I decided to list all the major bands, clubs, songs & sayings that meant something to me over the years and the year I first introduced it.
I couldn’t stop there so I figured I would put a little booklet together to explain everything on the back of the shirt and this is what I came up with. I couldn’t leave well enough alone so I decided I would throw in a 45 of my Bumper Sticker Song and my 4-song Kangen Water CD and sell the package for $30/all in
Gary Ballen – “Life’s a Tour”
GARYOKE-2018-I tell people I had a baby with KARAOKE, and we named it GARYOKE. It was coined by my friend and bass player Donna Eyeman sometime in 2018. It is something I have been doing most of my life, getting people up to sing with me. Sometimes it is magic and sometimes it sucks but it is always fun.
Cool Hand Uke’s-2018-I lead a ukulele group every Saturday morning at the Harbor Cove Café in the beautiful Ventura Harbor and it is turning into weekly family fun for all of us. Twenty-Thirty people show up and we play mostly classic rock songs that are not too hard for beginners. We usually have happy brownies which add to the happy vibe.
The Human Jukebox-2017-Face it, I know a shit load of songs. I got my first guitar in 1961 and have been playing nonstop learning thousands of songs by heart over the years. I like to mix it up Brown Eyed Girl, Boyz in tha Hood, You Are My Sunshine, Jailhouse Rock, Beatles, Eagles…WHATEVER! I do not rest on my laurels and continue to learn new old songs constantly.
Volunteering-2011-Since I never served in the military I decided to grab my guitar and volunteer at the VA Hospital in Westwood, Ca which led to 4 years of other volunteering at the Jewish Home for the Aging, The TV & Motion Picture Home and various assisted living places. Extremely rewarding and I learned a lot of songs from the 20’s, 30’s & 40’s.
Check out Johnnie Horton Paris Hilton is a Rebel on You Tube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulGgpEF7ixs
Kangen Water Songs –2012- I learned about Kangen Water when I was taking care of my 86-year-old mom who was dying of stage 4 pancreatic cancer. A nurse friend of mine told me it was the best water in the world for her, so I bought a Kangen Water Ionizer. I fell in love with the water and Enagic, the Japanese company that manufactures them. I have been a distributor for 7 years now, (have not bought bottled water in 7 years), and the water is very inspirational. I wrote and recorded Four Kangen Water songs that I am immensely proud of and had some serious musicians help me, Jimmy Z, Bruce Fowler, Bob Boykin, Hagay “Gemini” Mizrahi, Joe Valdes and Brad & Teena Boeckmann. You can hear them on my website and for more info on Kangen Water check out our web site www.alkalinewatersogood.com
Rock & Roll Pizza-2011-Dave & Petra Vieira first hired me in 2011 to play for his small 1200 sq. foot pizza place in Woodland Hills. He used to serve me pasta and I would put pot on it and eat it while I played, lots of fun. Eventually he moved to a bigger room inside a nice pool hall called The Rack where we had some amazing jam sessions on the nights I played. He them moved out to Moorpark where I spent two years playing every week and having some real great jams with lots of my musician friends. Finally, he sold it to Ralph Michael, another great guy, and I played for him in Simi Valley & Camarillo
The Lookout Bar & Grill -2005-I have been playing on and off at The Lookout Bar & Grill for13 years and have worked for three owners, Gary Richards, Jeannette & Pat Millman the current owner. Pat used to see me play at Pickwick’s Pub in Woodland Hills when he was in college and when I moved to Oxnard, he hired me to play for him. I love this place singing every Thursday night and Sunday afternoon. We have our own “Family” every Sunday Fun Day at The Lookout. I met my very close friends Brad & Teena there which segued into me meeting Teena’s mom and the love of my life Marilou Valdes.
Harpers-2005-Rob Harper had me playing his two clubs from 2005–2008. Both clubs were a lot of fun and played mostly hard rock. Rob let me have my pre-teen son Jeremy’s band The Splinterz play there a couple of times, they were a big draw.
Straight Outta Compton-1989-This is one of the Eazy E/NWA songs I have been performing ever since I started working for Ruthless records in 1989. Most people still love it when I rap Boyz-n-Tha Hood and Gangsta Gangsta among others. I worked for Ruthless Records from 1989-1995 when Eazy E died.
Fuck That Song–1986-That came shortly after Money to Start, Money to Stop. Just to add insult to injury when I would stop playing someone’s request, I would say Fuck That Song. People loved it and I turned into the “Fuck That Song Guy.” I also launched my website www.fuckthatsong.com which is still alive & well.
Marijuanaville-1986–It is a takeoff of Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville with some new lyrics written by these two college kids at the time, Joe Dabovich & Scott Hoolahan. I threw a couple of different words in there myself as I usually do. The funny thing is Joe ended up marring Lisa and they had a baby, Alexis, that married Brandon whose dad Brad is one of my best friends and son in law to my girlfriend Marilou. Got That?
Money to Start, Money to Stop-1985-I created this sometime in the first 5 years of my 25-year run at Pickwick’s Pub. If someone didn’t like a song, I was singing they would come up and put some money in my jar and I would immediately stop the song and do what the new person requested. It immediately doubled my tips and turned into part of my act.
The Bumper Sticker Song-1983-This is a song I wrote with one of my childhood friends Barry Kaye who was the reason I moved to California. It was really popular at Pickwick’s Pub & Adam Rib’s and I have been playing it for some 36 years.
Adam’s Ribs–1982-I played here for 9 years, loved the owners Mike & Ann, it was a huge restaurant with a cozy little bar I sang in mostly on Friday Nights. Most of the employees were Cal State Northridge college students and it was packed all the time. I also played most of their New Year’s Eve. My drink of choice at that time was Long Island Iced Tea, it got crazy!
Pickwick’s Pub–1981-Super Legendary. I sang here for 25 years and three owners John McIntosh, Graham Rose and Craig Holman, most of those years the place was always packed. mostly with college kids. I had a huge following during those years and had some cool celebrities (Pink, Jimmy Fallon) that got on stage with me and I also played for Eazy E (I worked for him), Bone Thugs-n-Harmony (I managed Flesh-n-Bone) David Gilmour(friend for a month), Air Supply (I worked for them), Ronnie Dio (a regular) and Lisa Marie Presley to name a few. These were some of the greatest years of my life.
Air Supply-1980-I was a production manager for three years with the pop group Air Supply. On one of the shows on one of the tours in Cleveland Ohio the opening act did not show. The promoter, Jules Belkin knew me from Columbus and recommended that I open the show. The guys in Air Supply did not know I played, and I performed in front of 3000 people. It went over so well they let me open 9 more shows for them, the biggest one was 10,000 people at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
Rally in the Alley–1978-This was every Friday after work street concert in downtown Columbus, Ohio. I played there in front of 5000 people on my last day in Columbus, after my set I jumped into my van with my guitars, my big Community Light & Sound PA system and drove to California to start my new life.
Major Chords-1977–In the summer of 1969 I flew from Columbus to Los Angeles to hang out with some of my older cousins, Joanne Park, Ken & Barb Heller & the infamous Jerry Heller. My cousin Joanne took me to The Lighthouse, a famous Jazz Club in Hermosa Beach. I saw Sonny Stitt & Mose Allison and that experienced blew my mind. Eight years later in Columbus my buddy Fuzzy & I started a Jazz Club called Major Chords. Our first two concerts were Sonny Stitt & Mose Allison. I promoted the shows, owned & operated the sound system & I opened the shows with a four-piece jazz group called Gary Ballen & Friends.
Money Talks Bullshit Walks–1977-I did not invent it, but I have been saying it forever. When you work for tips it is a game to draw in as many bills as you can without being a total whore. Nine times out of 10 if someone came up to request a song with no tip I might say “Money Talks Bullshit Walks” and out of nowhere the wallet comes out
Blackjack-1977-This was my country rock band I was in and we were a damn good band. Crystal Reeves/violin & vocal, Cole Croft/pedal steel & guitar, Dave Davis/bass & vocals, Dave Rangler/drums & vocal & me on guitar & lead vocal. We played all over Columbus & Athens, Ohio. Crystal & I eventually hated each other and would cuss each other out on stage. We ended up friends years later.
Zachariah’s Red Eyed Saloon -1976– Legendary…. Three story night club on the Ohio State campus. When I was in high school it was called The Castle. The new owners brought me in to help turn it from a rock & roll bar to a country rock bar, which I did. The house band was called McGuffey Lane and I had some incredible memories with those guys. Eventually some national acts played at Zach’s including Marshall Tucker, The Outlaws, Papa John Creech, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Arlo Guthrie and Jerry Jeff Walker (I got to open that show). kept McGuffey Lane alive and they are still performing. RIP Tebes, Bobby Jean & Dick (Elongo Dongo) Smith.
Redneck Mother -1973- This song by Ray Wiley Hubbard and made famous by one of my hero’s, Jerry Jeff Walker was my go-to song in the 70’s. Country & Country Rock was big in Athens & Columbus, and I would always say Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother……, FUCKER! Another crowd favorite, my mom loved that song.
The Moosebone Lodge –1973- This was one of my college farmhouses I lived in in Albany, Ohio when I went to Ohio University. It was in beautiful southern Ohio and we would have epic jam sessions that lasted for days. Shroom’s & Weed was everywhere as well as Roher 714’s. Some of the wildest times of my life, some of my friends did not make it out alive, RIP Eddie Cannon & Jennifer Sterling
Swanky’s -1972- This was THE college bar at Ohio University, owned by Ivan Fiske, a real crazy New Yorker that was ahead of his time. I played there solo and with various bands I was in. Athens was voted the #1 Party School in Playboy magazine the year before, a natural school for me to go to. I got to jam with Ron Kovic (Born on the 4th of July) and Magic Dick from the J Giles Band, I did lots of tripping in that place. RIP Ivan.
Wipe Out–1971-This is my version of the big hit by The Surfari’s with the awesome drum solo. Being a solo guitar player, I had my crowd do the drum solos on the tables in the bar or restaurant. Most bar owners did not like this song because it could easily get out of hand and things (glasses, pitchers) tended to spill & brake. The owner of Pickwick’s Pub fired me three times for playing that…it is still a crowd favorite.
American Pie–1971-I learned this song when it came out. I’ve played in a million times and I do a real good version. It is in my all-time top three songs I have played. I saw Don McLean perform it last week in Ojai, Ca and it was like a religious experience for me, I liked my version better. (SCREAM)
The Contemporaries -1969-This was my 12-piece high school soul band complete with four singers out front, horn section, 2 guitars, bass & keyboards. We had matching outfits, silk socks and moved like the Temptations. We covered all Motown, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and played all the local parties, Bar Mitzvah’s, school functions and We Rocked!
The Pretzels -1964- My first band, I was 12 or 13 and we played mostly Beatle’s and British Invasion songs. We had sheet music & music stands; it was basic, but it got the ball rolling. We had a clarinet player, Greg Levy, who later in life was the head attorney for the NFL.
I have been extremely fortunate to be able to sing & play my guitar pretty much nonstop for the last 58 years, you would think I would have it down by now. My parents got me my first guitar (which I still have) when I was nine years old to try to change my wild and naughty behavior, still working on that one.
I have had so many amazing memories of people, places, gig’s and situations throughout the last 6 decades all because of my guitar and the great songs I have learned over the years.
I want to thank all the club owners, band mates, jamming buddies and my friends that have come and supported me over the years, I’ve had a wonderful life because of you, God willing I will have another 20 or so years at it.
I also want to thank Anita for printing up the shirt in the first place, I have never had one before and mostly I want to thank my love of my life, Marilou who never gets sick of my singing.