Guitarist & Vocalist Admits Original Members Still Enjoy Entertaining Fans, Play Fair Friday
By: Jeff Walker, Entertainment Writer
Formed in 1973, the pop rock band Pablo Cruise hit their peak in the late 70’s and early 80’s reaching the Top 40 five times with their signature hits ‘Whatcha Gonna Do’ and ‘Love Will Find A Way‘ making it as high as number six on the Billboard charts. ‘Don’t Want To Live Without It’, ‘Cool Love’, and ‘I Go To Rio’ would further define their blue-eyed soul and yacht rock persona. Their third album 1977’s ‘A Place In The Sun’ and the follow up release ‘Worlds Away’ in 1978 garnered Pablo Cruise platinum status.
After achieving national success, the band took an extended hiatus in the mid 1980’s, resurfacing for a short while in 1996, and then again in 2004. While three original members perform in the band today, lead singer and guitarist David Jenkins has been a mainstay in Pablo Cruise throughout, spending a few years with the country rock band Southern Pacific beginning in 1987. The remaining original members of Pablo Cruise include Cory Lerios (keyboards) and Steve Price on drums.
Even with the bands downtime, and his stint in Nashville, it is Pablo Cruise that has defined Jenkins’ career. “I’ve always enjoyed being in the band. I think we’ve created good music and songs that have held their own.” At 72 years young, Jenkins is in a good place in his life. “I’m just happy to be healthy and be working. It’s only been the last few years that we’ve learned to fully entertain the crowd. What I mean is we’re having more fun than we’ve had in the past. We kid each other, and try to make if more fun for the audience.”
Like many of his contemporaries Jenkins was inspired by the Fab Four. “Seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan was a pivotal time for me, and many artists that came up during the 1960’s. I had my first guitar by then, so I was already bitten by the music bug. Of course I had played in band in high school. When The Beatles hit America it all changed for a lot of us who were teenagers at the time.”
Jenkins laughs sharing a story about his parents. “I’m not sure they were sold on me being a rock star. I recall one morning when I didn’t want to go to high school, and my father came into my room, and popped me out of bed saying ‘you’re going’. I had this picture of Bob Dylan hanging on the wall, and he literally snatched it off and wadded it up.”
Although the Jenkins family lived in Michigan and Wisconsin early on, it was in Orlando, Florida where David’s journey into a music career began. “I had college age buddy who said his family was moving out to California and asked if I wanted to go, and maybe help drive a car. My folks weren’t enthused about it but they sent me off. We made the trip through Texas and Mexico before ending up in the bay area of San Francisco. I had maybe four dollars to my name.”
It was the mid 1960’s and Jenkins immersed himself into the music scene. “I think we were there two days and my friend says ‘do you want to visit a guitar shop’. To a musician that’s like saying do you want to watch porn. Of course I wanted to see where some of the musicians were buying their tools of the trade.”
In need of money Jenkins took a job at one of the musical instrument stores. “It was owned by a man named Mr. Hart whose son just happened to be Mickey Hart (drummer for the Grateful Dead). The shop owner asked me if I could teach guitar. I said yes, even though I had only been playing for about a year or so. Through that job I met Mickey, and he and I became quick friends, and still are today. But back then we were struggling musicians looking to find our place in the San Fran music scene.” The two would end up rooming together for a short while. Jenkins would help write music for the track ‘Down The Road’ released on Hart’s 1990’s album ‘Over The Edge and Back (Best of Mickey Hart)’.
Rock n’ roll history has proven San Francisco was a hotbed for musicians, and up and coming bands in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. “It’s amazing how much music was going on at that time, and it wasn’t just the Dead or Jefferson Airplane. On the south side of the bay area there were cats like Sly & The Family Stone. I remember seeing them just before they took off, and I’m like I’ve never heard funk played like this before.”
For various reasons Jenkins did return back to Orlando for some time. “I enrolled in college, taught guitar in the afternoons, and was playing clubs until late at night. I would wake up and did the same thing over and over again. Of course when your 20 years old you have a lot of adrenaline.”
With a musical itch to scratch he found his way back to northern California. “I knew music was what I wanted to do with my life and the San Francisco scene was calling me.” He, Lerios, Price, along with Bud Cockrell formed Pablo Cruise in 1973. They had an eclectic style right away. “We were influenced by so much of the music in the bay area, it just made its way into our music. Cory was really the driving force behind us instrumentally, while the rest of us focused on the songs, and just being a band.”
Their self titled debut release (1975) and the follow up ‘Lifeline’ (’76) hardly made a dent in record sales or produced radio worthy singles. But when ‘A Place In The Sun’ rolled out in 1977 with the ‘Whatcha Gonna Do’ as the lead single, Pablo Cruise began to make waves in music industry. “That song definitely put us on the map.”
A Top 10 hit for seven weeks, Jenkins wrote the song about a relationship he was in at the time. “It posed the big question. Do I stay or do I go? It made for great lyrics and gave us our first bona-fide hit, so that was good. I’m not sure I found any answers in my relationship right away, because I was still dealing with it when ‘Love Will Find A Way’ hit the charts a year later.”
After several years of floundering Pablo Cruise was happy to have finally arrived. According to Jenkins it was just the next step on the journey. “We always imagined we’d be successful. When ‘Whatcha Gonna Do’ hit we just thought it was the natural progression for the band.”
By the mid 1980’s Pablo Cruise had run its course. There had been a few member changes by that time and Jenkins says they put the band on hold. Not wanting to sit idle Jenkins joined the country rock group Southern Pacific who had had mild success during the 80’s. “They were already established but looking for a new singer. Even though I had friends in the band I still had to attend a cattle call, essentially auditioning for the band.” Jenkins hung around for a little less than four years with Southern Pacific.
Fast forward to 1996 and Jenkins and Cockrell got back together for what would be a partial reunion of the band. “Cory and Steve were busy with other projects so they couldn’t take part. I’ve been the one constant in the band. Back then I had to license the name to perform as Pablo Cruise. It’s just part of the business side of the music industry. But music is what I do, and I wanted to play our songs again, and there were fans out there who wanted to hear us.”
A fuller reunion came in 2004 with Cockrell sitting out. The three original members have been performing now for the past 15 years. “We’re having so much more fun now. We like to say we’ve forgotten what we didn’t like about each other, so we just get up on stage and have fun every night.” Jenkins couldn’t imagine doing anything else with his life. “It’s a cliché’ but I was born to play rock n’ roll guitar, and to sing.”
When he’s not on tour Jenkins splits his time between California and Tennessee. “I own two homes. One in northern California and the other in Nashville. My wife’s family is from Nashville area, and we bought the family home a while back. So apparently we need two of everything, cars for both homes, guitars, and more. It’s a nice problem to have, but I’d be fine with one home.”
Jenkins is married to singer songwriter Jaime Kyle, an established Nashville music tour de force all on her own, penning hit songs for Faith Hill and Heart. “I may be partial but she’s definitely a talented songwriter. We have a studio for my wife where she works on her own projects.”
After more than four decades in the music industry, including touring and recording Jenkins admits he and the band have gone through many changes. “I guess we’re a little more mature, but that’s easy to say at 72. We manage our time better. We have more fun and appreciate what we’ve added to the musical landscape during the rock n’ roll era. We don’t take anything for granted.”
Several of Jenkins career highlights have been off stage. “I remember we were doing something with Paul Anka back in 1980 in Vegas, and he said do you want to go see Sinatra. Of course we all jumped at the chance to see a legend perform. After the show Paul said do you want to meet Frank? Who wouldn’t want to meet Sinatra. We go to a side door. Paul knocks and Frank answers and invites us in. Frank said he liked our music, and we ended up having a drink with him. How cool is that.”
Another highlight for Jenkins was when he performed with a Nashville superstar. “I’ve always been a big fan of Vince Gill. Not just his music, but he’s one of the best musicians working today. I gave him a song one day, and charted the music for his band. He literally surprised me by calling me onstage during one of his shows to perform the song. I’ve shared the spotlight with many rock n’ rollers, but sharing the stage with Vince was a thrill for me.”
While meeting the Chairman of the Board and performing with Gill were iconic, meeting another industry heavyweight was just as impressive. “I was with David Gest, our publicist and we went to see Aretha Franklin perform. After, I got to meet her. That was an incredible moment for me. All of the artists I grew up listening too or jammed with in San Francisco had a major impact on my life. The reason I played with Southern Pacific is because I truly love country music. If you take all music in, I believe it makes you an all around better performer. I’ve been very fortunate over my life and career.”
Since the bands name is fictional, there has always been a bit of a mystique surrounding what Pablo Cruise meant. Jenkins agrees with the overall assessment. Pablo, represents an honest, real, down to earth individual, and Cruise depicts his fun-loving, easy-going attitude towards life. In essence, that’s what Pablo Cruise music is all about. Honest, real, down-to-earth vocals. Enjoying the best of both worlds. Jenkins adds, “Experiencing Pablo Cruise live is what it is all about. We’re the kind of guys you want to hang out with. We bring the party and good times with us.”
Low country fans can witness David Jenkins and Pablo Cruise when the guys perform their fun loving music on Friday Nov 8th at the Coastal Carolina Fair at the Exchange Park in Ladson. Pablo Cruise is scheduled to play at 8pm at the lakeside amphitheater. “We’re looking forward to playing for fans in Charleston. We know it’s a great city with a long history, so we’re excited about playing there.”
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