611 & THE S.O.S.

2 May


When I look back on how I got to where I am now, living/breathing in London in 2007 – occasionally, I’m actually honest about it.

OK, so: in the early/mid 80’s, there was once this neato SoCal band with the unfortunate name of 611 & THE S.O.S. They were a tight little band, that 611, with a light and airy, harmony-laden sound that made you smile no matter how fuckin’ punk you thought you were. They’d grown out of an earlier band called THE DOCTORS, and their spritely tunes referenced ’60s-’70s pop/rock (THE BEATLES, THE BYRDS, EVERLY BROTHERS) as much as the then-current jangle/college rock thing (THE dB’s, REM, et al). Their bassist, Joey “Aquaman” Burns, once got miffed when it was suggested rock might be too strong a word to describe their polite sound: “it’s rock and roll; mellow rock and roll.” These guys were the nearest thing to contenders my immediate neck of the woods would offer up to the music world at the time, and years later bassist Joey would relocate to Tucson, join GIANT SAND to help make their best records ever, and then go on to co-found FRIENDS OF DEAN MARTINEZ and CALEXICO.

For a while there, I wanted to be a rock and roll star too, and so I took some acoustic guitar lessons from lead 611-er Ken Bewick. He was cool and patiently tried his best to teach me THE BEATLES’ “Blackbird”. Sadly, my fingers always let me down. A bit later, when 611 recorded a demo record with Ethan James at Radio Tokyo in June, 1985 (entitled A Good Day for Weather, which was apparently “a Flipper Fish Records Production”), Ken graciously floated me copy, repleat in a handpainted cover. I didn’t care that the cover was ugly and some of it kinda sounded like LET’S ACTIVE outtakes. Dude – this was local rock action, and I lived for this stuff. I was stoked.

Now they must’ve played up in Hollywood a bunch, but I wouldn’t know about any of that. I was still a young teen and more likely to run into them playing at a neighborhood party or on the outdoor stage at P.V. High School. And I must admit that, being your garden-variety, idiot punker enthusiast, I always secretly hoped they’d ditch the smiles and politeness and get real, real gone for a change – since it was soooo obvious they could all play alot wilder than their well-mannered tunes allowed them to.

But hey: it was still a righteous experience to listen to these guys lay that melodious gtr thing of theirs into the ether so goddamn well, in the intimate surroundings of, say, a Lunada Bay backyard bbq or a highschool lunch line. And although it was animals like BLACK FLAG who really taught me what the hell this ROCK thing was all about . . . all the while, guys like 611 & THE S.O.S. were quietly getting me to pay attention to pretty melody and a sweet, sweet song.

611 & THE S.O.S.Sand & Heat

This may not blow you away, but it’s what I’ve got, and I owe em one. A big one. Even midgets started small – how else we gonna grow?


8 Responses to “611 & THE S.O.S.”

  1. Ken Bewick August 31, 2007 at 7:17 am #

    Wow. I’m blown away. I don’t even know how I came across this. What a very nice thing to read about music I made so long ago. It was a true gift to play with Joey and Josh and John.
    Still making music all the time, tons o’ tunes in the bag.
    Josh LaBelle(the drummer) and I are in the midst of a new set of recordings as I write this. Joey’s doing great with Calexico. Saw him last year when he toured through Santa Cruz.
    Please drop me a line and tell me who you are. I’m not recalling the ‘Blackbird’ guitar sessions, but I will if I can put a face/name to ya.
    611 became Red Eleven, when John Spalding went off to SLO for college. Then, we became MORE LOVE NOW. Did well on French radio, for some reason. Then, we got to a point where Joey was out of town working with Giant Sand some of the time, and I was keening to leave L.A. for the north.
    Been in SAnta Cruz for years now. Making recordings and gigging with Mudfrog. Solo stuff, recording and playing with Josh. Still melodic, I hope. Perhaps still too polite. My songs really haven’t changed all that much.
    Pedro and the Minutemen changed my universe in those days. They were the reason we chose Radio Tokyo. There were alot of incredible sounds around the south bay back then. I wonder what’s percolating there now???
    Thanks again for such a cool bit of writing. Brought back so many memories!
    Ken Bewick

  2. Rick Hedrick January 11, 2008 at 8:02 am #

    Wow, I love the internet! I have looked several times for stuff about Six Eleven.

    I used to see the Doctors in high school playing at dances and at schools. And I used to see Six Eleven where ever they played. Great clubs like Madaam Wongs and Gazaries (spelling?). It was great at the Hollywood clubs. All these heavy metal bands would play and then Six Eleven would come on. They all had short hair and dressed sort of normal. Especially John who would where a collared button up shirt. Everyone would look at them like…what the hell? Then they would start playing with clean guitar sounds, words you could understand and with great harmonies. And they were really tight. All the heavy metal people would go…hmm pretty cool.

    Six Eleven really affected me. They were a great band and I still miss hearing them play. I still have four track tapes that I listen to from time to time or theirs.

    Ken – drop me an email if you read this. I would love to hear from you.

    Rick Hedrick

  3. mrowster January 11, 2008 at 8:35 am #


    Six Eleven really affected me

    I do think I know what you mean. Thanks for reading!

    Ken wrote me not long ago and said he and Josh still play together, and that they are reworking/re-recording some their old material at present. He can best be reached via the site of his current band, MUDFROG:


  4. Ted July 28, 2008 at 7:32 pm #

    The Web really amazes me sometimes. I, too, am not sure how I landed here. I think that I was searching for info on John. I am the old bass player for the Doctors. Joey replaced me when I decided to leave. We were all friends back in those days from many different bands. The talent in that area around that time was fantastic. Interestingly, I exchanged emails with Ken yesterday as I was digging up some old recordings that we had done together. His newest collaboration with Josh LaBelle is called “Bottle of Sound” and they just released some music. You can check them out at http://www.bottleofsound.com/.

    I had lost contact with Joey forever ago and had no idea that he was still active in music. We shared bass duties in high school jazz band, and he was a very funny, very creative character! OK… back to looking for John…

  5. mrowster July 28, 2008 at 7:53 pm #

    Ted: Is there a Doctor in the house? Good to hear the music still gets you movin’. Question: did The Doctors ever record? I’m not aware of anything, but I’d love to hear it.

    Confession: Joey was kind of a hero to me, seeing as he’s one guy that actually kept it going, cutting a distinctive/creative musical path for years – and actually making a living out of it too! Gotta admire it. I’ll always make a point to go see whatever project he’s currently involved with; it never fails to impress.

  6. Ted July 28, 2008 at 8:20 pm #

    I wish that I had kept up with Josh and realized that he was playing all over. I am sure that I have been in many cities where he was playing. All those guys were good friends and fun people. Unfortunately I moved towards San Diego and they migrated north. I emailed Josh Labelle a few months ago and we caught up a bit. At one time Josh and I played together in a band called “The Shad” that had Mike Petak on guitars and vocals, who went on to form Carnival Art (as Mike P. Tak) and later release a solo CD called “Pretty Little Lonely,” which is pretty darn good and got some great reviews. Josh also had a pretty successful career playing with some serious cats (such as T-Bone Burnett). Yes, I still have the music in me and I still play locally. I never wanted the fame or the touring, which is a big reason that I stepped down at a very young age. However, I loved the music and this group of people.

    The Doctors did record some things. There were a handful of 4-track sessions that were nothing great, but did show some good songwriting and musicianship starting to develop. A few of these songs are what I found over the weekend and starting to transfer to MP3’s for nostalgic reasons. Then, somewhere, somehow, someone paid for us to record in a pro studio in LA. I don’t remember who footed the bill for that one. As of right now I cannot find copies of those songs. I know that Ken has long since lost them (over 20 years ago). John was the last one with the masters, but I seem to remember him telling me years ago that they were gone. Nothing was ever pressed to vinyl or CD because I left shortly after that, followed by Rob Weedman. By the time Joey and Josh came into the band the recordings were not at all representative of what the band was doing.

  7. Ted July 28, 2008 at 9:41 pm #

    Edit: I meant I wish that I kept up with Joey.

  8. mrowster July 29, 2008 at 7:29 am #

    Ted: would be great to see some of the better Doctors MP3s making it to cyberspace, if only for the few of us who care. Good to hear you’re still doing it too, musically speaking.

    Oh and thanks for that Bottle of Sound link! I’m gonna go check out some of their downloads.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: