State

Gin Blossoms guitarist looking for golf partner in Modesto

If you're a golfer, the guitarist from the Gin Blossoms wants to talk to you.

Jesse Valenzuela, who is performing with the band Thursday at the State Theatre, would like to get in some quality golfing time in Modesto before the show.

"Is there some patron of golf who enjoys guitar?" he said in all seriousness in a phone interview earlier this week. "I'll invite him to the show if he takes me to the finest course in Modesto."

Valenzuela helped co-found the pop-rock band in 1987 in Tempe, Ariz., and performed on the group's biggest hits, including "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You." He also helped write "Til I Hear It From You."

The Gin Blossoms gained fame in the 1990s, switching from college radio to mainstream success after the grunge craze.

The band was put together by high school friends Doug Hopkins (guitar) and Bill Leen (bass), with Valenzuela starting out as lead singer but switching to guitar when Robin Wilson joined.

Their 1992 release on A&M Records, "New Miserable Experience," ended up selling 4 million copies in the United States. In addition to "Jealousy" and "Found Out About You," (written by Hopkins), the hits included "Allison Road" and "Until I Fall Away."

The title came from being "cheeky and young," said Valenzuela, now 47.

"The miserable part was not being able to do what you wanted to all the time, which is what we had

done the years prior," he said. "We now had commitments and responsibilities."

Sadly, Hopkins didn't get to enjoy the album's success. Because of his problems with alcohol, he was fired from the band shortly after the album was finished. In December 1993, he shot and killed himself while his songs were still on the radio.

But the band carried on, and in 1995, its song "Til I Hear It From You" was featured on the soundtrack of the movie "Empire Records," starring Liv Tyler and Renée Zellweger. The following year, the band released "Congratulations I'm Sorry," which produced the hits "Follow You Down" and "As Long As It Matters."

The Gin Blossoms then took a long break before going on tour again in 2002 and releasing the album "Major Lodge Victory" in 2006.

The band continues to draw crowds to concerts. "We're not going to be on the radio like we were in the old days, or it's highly unlikely," Valenzuela said. "We play shows and people know the band and know what to expect."

He said the Gin Blossoms have lasted because of a combination of good luck and good music. "There were some really great songs that captured a moment for people. People still enjoy listening to them."

In addition to Valenzuela, the current lineup features Leen, Wilson, guitarist Scott Johnson and drummer John Richardson.

The band recently got back in the studio to record a new album, "No Chocolate Cake," due out in June or July.

Valenzuela wouldn't say much about the 11 tracks except that the band plans to play some of them, along with older hits, at the Modesto concert.

He was mostly excited to talk about his golfing plans. He said he is definitely packing his clubs and will be disappointed if he can't find a partner.

For more on Modesto area arts, visit www.twitter.com/milleganrenner and watch Bee Scene on video at videos.modbee.com.



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