March 21, 2014

Vicky and the Vengents



by Dave Gnerre~


he history of record stores releasing vinyl on their own labels is a long and storied one. Devora Brown at Fortune in Detroit, Slim Rose at Times Square in New York City, Ray Dobard at Music City in Berkeley, Charlie Reynolds at Flash Records in Los Angeles — the list goes on. What these entrepreneurs all had in common was a passion for music, combined with a burning desire to market records that they produced themselves.

Following in that tradition, record shop owner Tom Allen of Groovers Physical Music in Riverside, California has released the new single, “Sha Na,” by local Inland Empire band Vicky and the Vengents. Allen opened his shop in April 2012, eventually realizing that putting out a record on his own label made perfectly wonderful sense. The story of how the band connected with Allen is a long and circuitous one.

Singer Vicky Tafoya was born in Orange, California and grew up the youngest of 12 children in nearby Santa Ana. Her earliest influences included Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Dion and the Belmonts and the Flamingos among others. She was also a huge girl group fan. Her mom loved music and encouraged Tafoya’s interest in singing, partly as an attempt to keep her out of harm’s way in the rough barrio. Tafoya admits to being shy as a youngster; her mom believed that singing would bring her out of her shell.


Vicky and the Vengents: (L-R) Travis Robinson, Matt Beld, Vicky Tafoya, Carlos Gonzalez. at Groovers Physical Music in Riverside, CA.

The singer’s first appearance in front of an audience came in the sixth grade, singing Debbie Boone’s “You Light Up My Life.” Her first paying gig was at a banquet during her high school years. “It was very exciting!” says Tafoya. A major influence during this time was Karen Carpenter. “I learned how to hold my notes, just vocal control, listening to her records,” she says with admiration, while describing Carpenter’s voice thus: “Sheer beauty; she taught me how to sing!”

Soon she met people with the Doo Wop Society of Southern California, which formed in 1988. Doo-wop historian Steve Propes told Tafoya’s three-piece group that they sounded “…sweet, like honey,” so he named them the Honeydrips. The group disbanded after a handful of gigs and that gave birth to another all-girl a capella combo, Memory Lane.

After Memory Lane, an opportunity arose with another a capella combo, Kulaid, in which Tafoya sang with four gentlemen who she says were among the best she has ever worked with. When that ran its course, she connected with a doo-wop backing band that was busy throughout Southern California during the late ‘80 and early ‘90s. The result was the Big Beat, named for rock ‘n roll hero Alan Freed. Big Beat remains her best-known group.

Then one night in 2004, Royal Crown Revue singer Eddie Nichols overheard Tafoya singing backstage at the Glass House in Pomona, CA. He invited her up to the roof after the gig to sing with him, giving birth to a new collaboration named the Redondos. With the addition of members Matt Muzzola and Jimmy Gimelli, the group rocked their 2006, self-titled debut CD. The Redondos appeared at the “Viva Las Vegas” festival According to Tafoya, “People just went berserk! The following year, the Redondos got asked to perform there [again], and the place was just crazy!”

Beld and Tafoya at Groovers

Beld and Tafoya at Groovers

Tafoya met up with guitarist Matt Beld in 2008. Her guitarist at the time was rooming with Beld, who had a three-piece band called the Vengents. Beld and Tafoya knew each other, but at a barbecue after a gig they started fooling around with a melody he had written and a song-writing team was born.

“We haven’t stopped since,” she quipped.

CRY NOW SMILE LATER COVERMatt Beld who grew up in Riverside, California, remembers his mom listening to oldies stations like KRTH when he was growing up during the ‘80s and ‘90s. The first contemporary act he really warmed to was the Stray Cats. “Not so much for the rockabilly aspect, but just as leather-jacketed rock and roll,” he said. When asked about his influences, Beld answered, “As far as guitar players go, it was mainly Dick Dale, Chuck Berry, Link Wray, and Johnny Ramone.” 1960s garage band music was another influence.

“I was in a band called Los Infernos from 1994 to 2001,” he said. One night in Denver, they were playing a weeknight club date in front of a small crowd that happened to include Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedys renown. He liked what he heard, telling them to let him know if they ever needed someone to put something out. “A few years later, while we were on tour, our label folded and we called Jello,” recalled Beld. That led to the 2000 release of their Rock And Roll Nightmare album on Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles label.

SHA NA COVER“Then from 2001 through 2010, I was in the Cadillac Tramps and the Adolescents, but those weren’t my bands — I just played in them.” In 2007, he got the Vengents off the ground as a three-piece. When he brought Tafoya to rehearsal one day in 2008, the rest of the band embraced the concept and christened themselves Vicky & the Vengents.

Plans to release a 45 were hatched during the latest Vicky & the Vengents tour. “It’s a loud rock and roll song with guitars, it’s about doo-wop, it’s gotta be on a 7-inch,” declared Beld at the time. He had been employed since April of 2012 at Groovers in Riverside and got to talking to his boss Tom Allen about “Sha Na.” The ensuing discussions involved the nuts and bolts of putting out a single. Allen finally said, “Starting a label would be an excellent way to promote the store and the band. I’d like to put your record out.”

Long time Vicky & the Vengents friend and collaborator Dusty Watson sat in on drums during the session. The band recorded the track live, with Tafoya laying down the vocal final the next day. “I don’t think rock and roll should be sloppy per se,” declared Beld about the speedy recording process, “but it should definitely be quick and dirty.” The first copy of the record went to KROQ DJ and long time Vengents supporter Rodney Bingenheimer, who has been playing it on his Rodney on the ROQ show. The record is also getting airplay in Japan. The band has finished a video, shot at Groovers, that is up on YouTube. Thanks to the support of Tom Allen at Groovers, the band was able to put out a record about which everybody involved can be proud.


“Sha Na” is available as a vinyl 45 or digital download from

One Comment

  1. lindascott

    Great article about the band Matt I am so proud of all your accomplish;ments

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