1960s rock band Coronado turns 55

West Coast Iron Works will perform at McP’s on Saturday, July 23, 2022, 2-6 p.m.

As Mick Jagger sang, “This could be the last time…” But it’s unlikely. The West Coast Iron Works is a band from Coronado that started in 1967 as a band of talented Coronado High School buddies, eager to capture the music of that very exciting time.

Unlike most bands and musicians performing in Coronado today, these young men were learning and playing classic rock from the moment they heard it, from its inception.

They played at all the popular reunions of all classes. They will perform once again this weekend to celebrate their 55th anniversary.

McP’s Irish Pub, home of the Navy SEAL, also hosts great musical performances. The West Coast Iron Works will perform there this Saturday on the expanded outdoor terrace. Photo by Joe Ditler.

The event will take place on Saturday July 23 from 2-6pm at McP’s Irish Pub, outside on the car park stage. “It’s our double nickel anniversary,” said Gary Maltby, the band’s original vocalist. “We hope that everyone and everyone who has ever attended Coronado High School will try to join us on this day. The McPs will be full of memories.

This iconic music is now referred to as “first generation rock ‘n’ roll”. The 60s were a magical time, and The West Coast Iron Works was part of that magic. The young members of the group listened and learned every note of the vinyl recording, at turntable speeds of 45 RPM and 33 1/3 RPM, and witnessed first-hand concerts by the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, etc They studied, listened and absorbed, until the music inhabited them.

Richie Heinz, in red, is bassist and vocalist for the West Coast Iron Works (CHS Class of ’69). He and vocalist Gary Maltby, left, are the original members of the group. Ric Lee has been playing with the band for a decade and more. He’s on drums. Photo by JD.

They sang songs from artists such as The Beatles, Cream, Moody Blues, Donovan, The Yardbirds, Buffalo Springfield, The Rolling Stones and more.

Billy Thompson, also a graduate of Coronado High School, heard the Iron Works perform in the high school gymnasium when he was a kid. He was so impressed that he bought a guitar and practically locked himself in his room for a year, learning to play.

This modern era photo from the West Coast Iron Works features world renowned blues guitarist, Billy Thompson, far right (CHS Class of 1968).

Today he has several albums to his name and performs with the biggest blues bands in the music world, touring the country but always coming back to Coronado to sit with the Iron Works when he can. He recently joined them at the Coronado Yacht Club for a celebration of the Class of ’67. Billy has also performed at the SD Blues Festival and Humphrey’s Concerts By The Bay.

He will open for George Thorogood & The Destroyers at Humphrey’s on September 11th. He will perform at Humphrey’s Backstage on September 8.

“These guys were awfully good,” said Thompson, of Iron Works. “They showed me a lot of things, and to this day it’s really something to play with them, and see how they pay attention to detail when performing those old songs.”

Richie Heinz, singer and bassist. One of his bandmates was heard saying of him, “Every woman wants to be with him, and every man wants to be him.” Indeed, he has been blessed with an abundance of talent, charm and good looks, and remains a crowd favorite at concerts. Heinz is an amazing singer. Photo by JD.

The band’s first job was at the bassist’s sister’s wedding. It was at the officers’ club at Naval Air Station North Island. “We wore corduroy jackets and ties,” recalls brother, Richie Heinz. “We only had ten songs, but we had to play four hours, so we kept replaying our set list.”

The band has been playing ’60s music since the ’60s. They won San Diego’s KGB Radio’s prestigious Battle of the Bands two years in a row, as well as Ozzie’s Original Song Contest. They have performed several times on the hugely popular Regis Philbin Show.

John Chambers is also an original member of the Iron Works. A man of many talents, he hammers ivories and sings with the best of them. Photo by JD.

Over the decades, WCIW members have played or shared the same bill with great artists such as Gary Puckett, Elvin Bishop, the Chambers Brothers, Lydia Pense & Cold Blood, Grace Slick, Journey, Buddy Miles, Freddy King, Albert King, Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Robin Trower, Buddy Guy, Boz Scaggs, the Neville Brothers, Robert Cray, Taj Mahal, Bobby Womack, Junior Walker and the All Stars, Alvin Lee and Love, the Kingsmen, the Ink Spots, the Drifters, the Steve Miller Band, BB King and many more.

Once the band played for a nudist colony, the American Sunbathers Association. The stories and anecdotes of their musical days, beginning and ending here in Coronado, are the stuff of which books and movies are made.

They performed at too many Coronado pool parties to count, Sadie Hawkins dances and created a musical event unique to the Coronado Cays, then the junkyard, junkyard and former pig farm. The event was called “Be There”.

Be There events were created by band member Gary Carter. They involved the band playing on a flatbed truck powered by a portable generator, the music was provided by Iron Works, and the organizers boasted, “All the beer and Rocket Fuel you can drink.” The latter was a concoction brewed in copious amounts of Kool-Aid, red wine, sugar, and 192. Dixie cups of the brew that sold for a dollar.

The only light came from the truck’s headlights, but everywhere you looked there were high school kids dancing to rock ‘n’ roll and drinking rocket fuel, four ounces at a time. It was a crazy, pre-Coronado Bridge era when ferries carrying cars still brought you to and from Coronado.

Drummer Ric Lee, busy with drumsticks. Rhythm guitarist Gary Carter is in the background. Photo by JD.

The Be There concerts were outdoors, where it was foggy, and the sound was a bit muddy. The overpowering smell of the landfill, combined with the smell of smoke from the burning garbage, filled the air. It was, of course, a sign of the times – the 1960s, and everyone grew up dancing to the music of the West Coast Iron Works.

Today, West Coast Iron Works is a 55-year-old time machine that takes listeners back in time, to their youth, to the summer of love.

The 55th celebration will feature Richie Heinz singing and playing bass, Gary Maltby as lead singer. John Chambers will be on keyboards. They are part of the original WCIW group. Joining them are Ric Lee on drums and Dave Gilbert on lead guitar, and they’ve played with the band for the past decade-plus. Other former band members and guest musicians plan to make appearances and sit-ins on Saturday.

Dave Gilbert, right, is no stranger to rock ‘n’ roll. He has been playing lead guitar and singing in harmony with the West Coast Iron Works for many years. Photos by JD.

McP’s Irish Pub has been an iconic Coronado establishment since 1982. “We are delighted to host the 55th anniversary of West Coast Iron Works,” said Ted Taylor, Manager of McP’s. “They are a big part of our youth, growing up here in Coronado, and a great group of musicians.”

Known as “the home of the Navy SEALs”, McP’s has been a popular restaurant, bar and music venue for 40 years. McP’s is located at 1107 Orange Avenue, corner of C and Orange.

For more information call 619-435-5280 or visit www.mcpspub.com.

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