Sunday, September 21, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Suisun’s Johnny Colla: From Furlander to famous

Johnny Colla, aged 16, in the Yewess Army 1969. (photo courtesy of Johnny Colla) Click to view gallery.

Johnny Colla, aged 16, in the Yewess Army 1969. (photo courtesy of Johnny Colla) Click to view gallery.

By
From page A2 | February 15, 2013 |

Huey Lewis and the News are household names – selling more than 30 million albums worldwide. The first household for Johnny Colla, the band’s saxophonist/rhythm guitarist/singer/songwriter since its inception in 1979, was in Suisun City.

Colla, born in 1952, played clarinet at Crystal Elementary School and learned piano at home. He commandeered older brother Dino’s record collection and also soaked up influences from his uncle, who introduced him to 1940s and 1950s country music, and his cousin, who hipped him to soul.

As a freshman at Armijo High School in 1965, Colla met Robert Koehn and the two became fast friends. Koehn played guitar, Colla obtained a bass, and with two other members they formed The Furlanders, Colla’s first band.

“We were just pulling songs off the radio like the Rolling Stones’ ‘Heart of Stone’ and the Young Rascals’ ‘Good Lovin’,’ ” Colla said. “Robert Koehn, my best friend, running buddy and guitar player extraordinaire, was working on ‘Sleep Walk,’ but I don’t think we ever tackled it.”

All that survives of The Furlanders are pink business cards they had printed.

Cary Schultz, a neighbor of Koehn’s, was in a band called The Curbstones, who were a little older. They wore Beatles boots and Colla still wonders where in Fairfield they obtained them. When The Furlanders and The Curbstones broke up, the Yewess Army was born.

“Cary liked the blues and we were writing original songs and playing pretty heady stuff for sophomores in high school,” Colla said. “Then I discovered Sons of Champlin and eventually I got the idea to add a horn section. I got these two locals, Andres Abarra and Lach Loud, and I’d say that was the beginning of the end for the Yewess Army because Cary didn’t like the direction.”

Besides rock bands, Colla played in school bands and under Armijo High director Ray Lindsey he blossomed. Lindsey gave Colla the chance to switch from clarinet to oboe, which got Colla out of the all-girl clarinet section. He also introduced him to another instrument.

“Ray Lindsey put a sax in my hand for the first time,” Colla said. “He gave me (Sousa’s) ‘The Washington Post’ and I learned it in four days.”

At Vallejo Junior College (now Solano Community College), Colla met musicians from around the county and was enthralled by bands such as Vallejo’s Arm and Hammer. He eventually joined Cottonmouth.

“Cottonmouth had been together for a while and had a wonderfully eclectic song list,” Colla said. “Ricky Lowe (later in Laser Boy and Time Bandits) and I would play lines together. I’d play alto sax and he’d cover the second part with his guitar.”

After Cottonmouth, Colla joined Sound Hole and played with them for four years, but it all came crashing down in 1976.

“Me and keyboard player John Farey were unceremoniously fired at Bozo’s Bus Stop in Fairfield after playing to a packed house. I was crushed because I felt we had something unique,” Colla said.

Fortunately, they both fell upward as they later recorded the album “Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back” with Sly and the Family Stone. Afterward, Colla’s musical career involved playing with numerous groups including Rubicon (whose members later formed Night Ranger), and eventually hooking up with Huey Lewis. The rest, as they say, is history.

Colla realized he’d “made it” when he was driving his green 1968 Camaro and heard “Do You Believe in Love” on KFRC.

“I had to pull over, crank it up, and the hair stood up on my arms,” Colla said.

Now preparing the 30th anniversary box set of the band’s multiplatinum “Sports” album, as well as mixing an a cappella version of his 2012 solo release “I Hear Voices,” Colla is focused on the future, but might be interested in a nostalgic musical trip down memory lane.

“I probably would get together with Cottonmouth again because they had such great tunes,” Colla said. “I loved Ricky Lowe’s and (singer) Bob Gridley’s taste in music. If I was a little more retired, I would jump on that in a second. That would be fun to take a crack at some day.”

Details about Johnny Collas’ musical  journey are on his website, www.johnnycolla.com. Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at getthelowdown@sbcglobal.net.

Tony Wade

Tony Wade

Tony Wade is the slightly older yet infinitely more handsome brother of long-time DR columnist Kelvin Wade
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 14 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • .Sound Hole - Work To Do .February 15, 2013 - 7:40 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92uoM9_ER_Y

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Jody RogersFebruary 15, 2013 - 8:54 am

    Huey Lewis & The News Fans: We would love you to join us on our Official Huey Lewis & The News Facebook page. www.facebook.com/hueylewisandthenews

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Jody RogersFebruary 15, 2013 - 9:00 am

    Tony Wade: Hi, Tony, thank you so much for the fantastic article on Johnny Colla! Very much appreciated! Johnny not only is a wonderful person, as is his beautiful wife, Christel, but he is he is one of the best musicians of our time! -Jody Rogers

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Tony WadeFebruary 15, 2013 - 5:59 pm

    Thanks Jody!It was a pleasure to speak with him earlier this week and meet him last year at Dino's salon.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Walking On A Thin Line (Japan Tour 1992) .February 15, 2013 - 10:18 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLbuWeuanew

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • It's good to be king...I mean a musicianFebruary 15, 2013 - 10:33 am

    Check out the Babes....www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaTQAaJWW54!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Elvis Presley - Money HoneyFebruary 16, 2013 - 7:54 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOZSK4aTjrE

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Joe Satriani - Sleep Walk Live .February 15, 2013 - 5:30 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5c8nanTCPz0

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • "Star Spangled Banner" - 1985 Candlestick Park .February 15, 2013 - 5:50 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azqp5Qxxvnc

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Ken RinearFebruary 16, 2013 - 7:49 am

    I have been a fan of Huey Lewis and the News since I first saw Heart and Soul on MTV. Then came I Want A New Drug and they have been my favorite band ever since. I think they have a chemistry that very few groups have ever had. Blend of Rock and Roll, R&B and just a wonderful reportoire of songs for over 30 years. My wife and I have seen them live 25 times since 1987 and will always see them when they come to the area. I have every album, (with the exception of a few collections), every video on VHS, Laser Disk and DVD that I think they ever produced and some other memorabilia. HLN is the best band I have ever heard and I have written the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame several times about them being elected. That is long overdue. Still rockin' after all these years with no sign of stopping. Keep it up.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • ? Ornstein - Ballade for Sax and Piano .February 16, 2013 - 8:41 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAv4ivhRtHg

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Doing It All For My BabyMarch 02, 2013 - 8:21 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpdZvewjwJs&feature=endscreen&NR=1

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mickie SouthwardMarch 30, 2013 - 12:13 am

    Love this article...this hometown boy brings back the spring of our 'good time' youth! He put Suisun on the map and has always been gracious with his fame; we have been welcomed backstage on a number of occasions! He's been a friend of my family and he will always be a star...not only on stage!!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • woodstockbillJuly 03, 2014 - 1:50 pm

    Another pertinent article of local history. Even though I've known Johnny for a long time starting as Suisun kids at Crystal Elementary, I went the sports route and he went the music route and I recall going to high school dances when he played but I never knew the chronology of it all. Now I do. Thanks Tony for the research.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

County makes recommendations for crude-by-rail

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Hartley House offers look into Vacaville’s past

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: C1 | Gallery

New toilet paper sizes will wipe me out!

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A2

 
Coastal Cleanup helps get rid of trash in area

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Travis teachers bring creativity to Shakespeare

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A3

 
Olympians to participate in swim Lap-a-Thon

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Circle of Friends director to speak in Fairfield

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Be alert to stroke warning signs

By Marilyn Ranson | From Page: C4

Recovery community works for lifelong sobriety

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Musical merry-go-round at Jazz Festival

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Deadline looms for lobster boil tickets

By Glen Faison | From Page: A5

 
2 die after car slams into tree on Nut Tree Road

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A5

Crashes blocks parts of eastbound I-80 in Fairfield

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A5

 
Seven Artisans opens tasting room

By Barry Eberling | From Page: B7 | Gallery

BABA makes big spash

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: B7

 
Old Kmart site sees signs of new life

By Brian Miller and Karl Dumas | From Page: B8 | Gallery

Veterans with PTSD could see discharge upgrades

By Tom Philpott | From Page: B10

 
Airmen with local ties finish basic training

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B10

Fairfield police log: Sept. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: Sept. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

.

US / World

Potential push for Obama to expand military effort

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Teams assess damage as California wildfire burns

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

McInerney, Duka help Impact beat Earthquakes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Old pets, new chances: The case for senior adoption

By Mcclatchy-Tribune News Service | From Page: C4

Jailed, some mentally ill inmates land in lockdown

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Custer youngest winner at 16 in NASCAR series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

Retro-hip barber is growing an ‘empire’ by staying on the cutting edge

By Mcclatchy-Tribune News Service | From Page: C6

 
Tense hunt in trooper ambush case hits 8 days

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Tour ship runs aground by NYC’s Statue of Liberty

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Astronauts getting 3-D printer at space station

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

Chrysler recalling nearly 189,000 SUVs

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Fire captain injured in ice bucket challenge dies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

More than 1K people search for missing UVa student

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Second man arrested trying to enter White House

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Pope chooses a moderate for Chicago archbishop

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Turkish hostages freed, but questions linger

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

Sierra Leone staggers in Ebola isolation effort

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
El-Sissi ready to back anti-IS fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11 | Gallery

NATO chief: Ukraine has cease-fire ‘in name only’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
Kurdish fighters head to Syria to face militants

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

Polly Bergen, versatile actress, singer dies at 84

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
.

Opinion

Stores miss bus on public transit

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Sunset Animal Hospital is the best

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

Sound off for Sept. 21, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

 
Pulse poll: Will the drought end this year?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

New car’s fuel mileage accuracy put to the test

By Glen Faison | From Page: A8

 
Obamacare enrollees actually paying premiums

By Megan Mcardle | From Page: A9

 
Will they ever get the message?

By Rod Keck | From Page: A9

 
.

Living

Today in History: Sept. 21, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Sept. 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

There is no message of hatred of violence in Christianity

By The Rev. Rick L. Stonestreet | From Page: C3

 
St. Paul pastor’s pulpit? A food truck

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3 | Gallery

Horoscopes: Sept. 21, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: C4

 
My child’s father and I worked things out – but now I’m not so sure

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: C4

.

Entertainment

Erdrich wins lifetime achievement literary prize

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

 
Designer Donna Karan memoir expected next year

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST-SELLERS

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

 
Author says Christian novel plagiarized, sex added

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2 | Gallery

Springsteen picture book out in November

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

.

Sports

Williams beats A’s for third time with third team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Cardinals look to shake off distraction vs. 49ers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Cashner, Padres beat Giants 3-2

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Prep boys soccer preview: Indians, Vikings off to fast start

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Patriots big favorites vs. Raiders despite mediocre start

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Schumacher, Hagan win rain-delayed Carolina event

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

College football Top 25

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
No. 1 Florida St survives against No. 22 Clemson

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Sprint car driver killed in Wisconsin

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Vacaville Christian volleyball team falls in playoffs

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B3

Stars Recreation results

By Daily Republic | From Page: B4

 
Estimated 7,000 fans trade in Ray Rice jerseys

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4 | Gallery

Travis Bowl results

By Daily Republic | From Page: B4

 
Mi Jung Hur, Paula Reto share lead in Alabama

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4 | Gallery

This date in sports history for Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Sports on TV for Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B5

Harvick dismisses wins as key to Cup title

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
Gaughan snatches Nationwide win at Kentucky

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

.

Business

Extended warranties a big sell. Are they worth it?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Recalls this week: fire alarm bases, swings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

US tobacco growers brace for tougher competition

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12 | Gallery

 
Marijuana industry battling stoner stereotypes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12 | Gallery

.

Obituaries

George Junior Rhode

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics